Fourth national title for Robinson, Smee snares state crown
Lismore’s Mark Robinson led throughout the 35-lap feature race at Archerfield Speedway on Saturday night (January 22) to secure his fourth Australian Dirt Modified Championship victory. Chasing a sixth consecutive win, Kevin Britten was as exciting as ever with his penchant for running high on the track, but he was unable to chase down Robinson and had to settle for second place on this occasion, with a fast finishing Terry Leerentveld surging into third spot ahead of Andrew Firth and Josh Rose. The 24-car field was certainly less than expected and the absence of Andrew Pezzutti and David Clark from the event left Robinson and Britten as the only previous winners in the field, which was certainly reflected in the final result as the duo were a class above the rest of the field come feature race time.
In the Inksane Tattoo Queensland Midget Championship, Nathan Smee enjoyed an effortless stroll to victory in the 30-lap feature race, becoming the sixth different driver to visit victory lane in Midget competition at Archerfield so far this season. Former titleholder Michael Kendall had to settle for the runner-up position for the second time in as many weeks, with another previous winner of the event in Rusty Whittaker coming home in home third ahead of Scott Farmer and Troy Ware.
When Brayd Stephenson dared to outpace Speedway Australia head honcho Darren Tindal into turn one in the opening Dirt Modified heat, the race was quickly halted and a restart ordered, with Tindal leading away at the second attempt, which only got as far as lap two before Dale Corbett hit the wall in turn two. Tindal remained in front until lap six when Stephenson reclaimed what he no doubt felt was his rightful position. Tindal remained second at the flag, with Phil McNamara crossing in third spot.
Ray Klarich was untroubled in leading throughout heat two to defeat Todd Hobson and Robinson, with Chris Corbett downing Britten and Rose in heat three.
Heat four went to Firth in advance of Dale Corbett and Brock Gardiner before Rose downed Tindal and Robinson in heat five to become the first winner who didn’t start from pole position.
Mitchell Randall outpaced Leerentveld and Chris Corbett to win heat six while Britten, who spent the entire race trying to find a way past an erratic Sam Bruggy, would ultimately finish fourth with a last-corner pass.
The outside front row proved the place to be in the final round of heats, with each of the heat winners starting from position two, the first to do so being Dale Corbett in heat seven ahead of Klarich and Randall.
Britten bested Leerentveld and Firth to prevail in heat eight, with the final preliminary falling in favour of Robinson over Chris Corbett and Geoff Phillips.
The B Main saw Phil Roberts secure his place in the feature race with a win over Luke Dunn, Brendan Cherie and Scott Quirk, all of whom would also be granted a start in the feature race.
The 35-lap championship finale would see Chris Corbett occupy pole position alongside Robinson, with Britten and Klarich on row two ahead of Firth, Randall and the rest, with Leerentveld on the outside of row five. At the green, Robinson went straight to the front and led a sole circulation before a spin from McNamara in turn four halted proceedings. Back underway and Britten immediately rounded up both Corbett and Klarich with an outside swoop through turns one and two, only for his momentum to be halted by a spin from Cherie in turn four. Placed back in front of Britten for the restart, Corbett ran high into turn two in a bid to prevent the defending champ from repeating his earlier move, however the end result was a spin from Corbett that left him and Randall on the infield as another restart ensued. From this point, the race finally settled into an extended period without interruption with Robinson leading Britten and Klarich. Although Britten was able to keep pace with Robinson through the early going, he would find himself losing ground as the laps wound down. When Brock Gardiner parked in the back straight with four laps to run, a final restart afforded Britten an opportunity to launch a last-gasp bid to retain his title, but Robinson was not going to be denied, leading the final laps to bring Britten’s five-year reign to a close. In surging through the field to finish third, Leerentveld joined an elite group of drivers who have scored national championship podiums in different categories, while fourth for Firth was easily his best Archerfield performance. Rose rounded out the first five ahead of Hobson and Bruggy, with Klarich backsliding to finish as the final runner on the lead lap. Dunn, Stephenson and Phillips were the best of the rest, with Roberts, McNamara, Gardiner and Cherie the remaining finishers.
In the opening Midget heat race, Smee chased down Dylan Menz to assume the lead on lap six, leaving Menz to successfully fend off the advances of Casey O’Connell to remain second at the chequer. Farmer, meanwhile, enjoyed a less fortunate start to his title campaign when he tipped over in turn two on the opening lap.
Charlie Brown outgunned the field to win heat two, leading home Whittaker and Ware before disappearing for the remainder of the night.
Heat three saw Darren Vine advance to the lead in quick time after starting sixth. A spin from Lachlan Paulger with two laps remaining prompted a restart that offered Kendall a sniff, but Vine held firm to lead Kendall and Brad Dawson to the line.
Farmer bounced back strongly to upstage Smee in heat four, with Brendan Palmer picking up third.
Heat five went to Ware over Whittaker, with Caleb Mills inheriting third when Rob Stewart vacated the position with a spin in turn two on lap five.
Brock Dean scored maximum points in the final heat as Kendall collected second again with Paulger third.
Travis Mills was an easy winner in the B Main, the Victorian leading home Tom Clauss and Matt O’Neal, with Michael Stewart advancing from the back of the field to secure the final transfer into the feature race.
A race that promised so much ultimately emerged as perhaps the most lacklustre of all Midget feature races at Archerfield so far this season as Smee enjoyed the easiest of runs at the front of the field. All the action came on the opening lap when Vine got out of shape in turn three, triggering a melee that ended his championship bid and also left O’Connell, Dawson, Michael Stewart, Jordan Mackay and Caleb Mills on the infield. Just 14 cars faced the restart with 30 laps still remaining and Smee would lead every one of them to add a fifth Queensland Championship to his considerable list of achievements. Certainly, the result should instil him with plenty of confidence heading into the Australian Championship next weekend. It was yet another previous winner of the event in Ware who started alongside Smee on the front row and he occupied second spot until Kendall moved ahead on lap 10 with Whittaker, who fell as far back as sixth at one stage, also demoting Ware five laps later to secure third. A lack of racing for Ware so far this season proved costly as he found himself demoted further on lap 20 when Farmer moved ahead to finagle fourth, a good result given his upend at the start of the night. Behind Ware in sixth came Menz, with a big run from Travis Mills carrying him to seventh ahead of Dean, O’Neill and Matt Jackson.
Following heat wins to Paul Reeves, Matt Hardy, Bruce Marshall and Shane McKinnell, it was the latter who would start the Shock Absorber Therapy AMCA Nationals Track Championship round seven feature race from pole position. However, it was Potts from the outside front row who led the field away and would remain in control to secure his third feature race win for the season despite the close attention of Bruce Marshall, who moved into second on lap two and cut the quickest lap of the race as he maintained his perfect record of top-five finishes in every round. McKinnell remained third at the flag, with Victorian champ Matt Hardy home fourth in advance of Graeme Holland, Brett Robotham and Reeves. The remainder of the top ten comprised Troy Price, Peter Greer and Russ Hardy, with Kevin Stow and Tim Luscombe the best of the rest.
With a quarter of the nominated entries failing to front, just 12 Compact Speedcars hit the track and the field was reduced further in the opening heat when Bodie Smith exited amid a cloud of smoke while leading, never to be seen again. Harry Stewart went on to take the race by a whopping 12+ seconds and then backed up to finish runner-up behind Dion Wilson in the second heat. Mitchell Rooke looked on track to win heat three ahead of Andrew Parkes until the pair opted to crash instead, tangling in turn two and handing another win to Stewart. With neither Rooke nor Parkes partaking in the feature, just nine cars faced the starter and it was very easy going for Stewart as he cruised home ahead Wilson and Richard Treanor, with a late surge from Dave Collins culminating in a last lap pass on Trent Usher to secure fourth.
After a great drive from Tim Swart under pressure to win the opening heat for Open B/Limited Sedans in slippery conditions, it was Ben Harris who prevailed in heat two before racing to his third feature race win from as many starts this season. Swart finished second in the feature, followed by Mark Anderson, Greg Akers and Stuart Houston.
Racing continues at Archerfield next weekend with two big nights of action on Friday and Saturday (January 28 & 29) featuring the 2021/2022 Australian Midget Championship. Friday night will also feature Microsprints, Stockcars, Open A/Outlaw Sedans and Formula 500 Juniors, while the Saturday program will include Wingless Sprints, Lightning Sprints, Formula 500s and fireworks.