Gary Bowyer returns to the winners step, lap records smashed in NSW Grand Prix Midgets latest series round
The New South Wales Grand Prix Midget Racing Association returned to Cullen Bullen Raceway on Saturday the 30th of September for round two of the Gulf Western Oil Super Series and there were high expectations with the raceway having undergone a number of upgrades through the off-season including remediation of some track drainage concerns, lights, track configuration and surfacing and others. On arriving at the facility, the track looked to be in superb condition.
Racing for the second series event of the Grand Prix Midget season started in temperatures in the mid thirty’s and three heat races and a feature were slated to be completed with a pill draw to start the first race of the night and a reversal of the draw for heat two.
With just six race cars nominated whilst other competitors complete engine rebuilds, and car builds to get on track, the Grand Prix Midgets once again delivered terrific action on track, being able to complete each heat race without a stoppage from start to finish and achieving the same in the longer feature race distance.
Jumping into the #50 Arjan Motors/White Ant racing car usually piloted by Riley Bowyer, was Australian Speedway Hall of Famer Wally Kermond whilst Bowyer Jnr was away and unavailable for competition and racing for White Ant Racing in the #25 car along with competing in his own Compact Speedcar the same day, was Gavin Black.
Cullen Bullen held up spectacularly well all night, a number of track fastest records were broken including the previous one lap Grand Prix Midget record time being smashed three times in the one evening. Grand Prix Midgets were the fastest class of any division that has competed on the reconfigured track since the beginning of last season.
Starting heat race number one over a distance of six laps in pole position was Allan Black and Wally Kermond alongside, Gary Bowyer, Gavin Black, Tyler Lea, and Adam Buckley completed the field.
At the drop of the green flag, some hesitation from the drivers on the front grid saw Bowyer leap into the lead at the first turn, followed by Kermond, Gavin Black, Adam Buckley, and last Round winner sixteen-year-old Tyler Lea, with Allan Black at the tail of the field. By the end of lap two, Buckley had moved ahead of Gavin Black into third place, before also quickly moving around the outside of Kermond and into second position behind Bowyer. A blistering lap by Bowyer on lap four of 15.657 to set a new track lap record – not only for GP Midgets, but outright fastest of all divisions.
The race settled down with Bowyer leading Buckley, Kermond, Lea, Gavin, and Allan Black with a nice little mid field battle between the class’s oldest and youngest competitors with Kermond and his seventy plus years of experiencing holding his spot in third. Close to the end of the race Gavin Black pulled infield with his car off the pace due to a mystery power issue, later found to be partially blocked carbs. Bowyer crossed the finish line first ahead of Buckley, Kermond, Lea, and Allan Black.
Gavin Black was unable to start his second heat race form pole position as the car sat in the pits being worked on by various crews to try and rectify the carburettor issue. Lea, Buckley, Allan Black, Kermond and Bowyer became the line-up. As the green flag waved the field away for ten laps, Lea had a slow start and Buckley moved up the inside of the youngster and into the race lead. Bowyer moved around the outside of the field to closely follow Buckley into second spot through the first and second turns on lap one.
Lea recovered from the starting lap battle to get to speed and held onto third spot ahead of Allan Black and Kermond. Out in front, Buckley & Bowyer were putting on quite a show of speed, with the track settling in nicely. Without any further mishaps, the remainder of the heat saw the positions remain, with Buckley taking the win 8.3 seconds ahead of Bowyer, Lea, Allan Black & Kermond whilst Bowyer set the fastest lap time in the race of 16.375 seconds.
A third heat at ten laps distance then lined up with Buckley from the pole positum and Bowyer alongside him, Lea, Kermond, Gavin Black and Allan Black (#55 Fifty 5 Motorsport) rounded out the field. The two drivers fastest on the night to this point were Buckley and Bowyer and this would be their only chance to start on the front row with the likelihood their points to this point would put them amongst the top scorers who revert to the rear of the field for starts in the feature event as per the series format.
Bowyer at the release of the green flag showed clear intent sprinting to the lead spot into turn one with Buckley on his inside as they went through side by side. Slotting into third behind the two were Lea, Allan Black, Kermond and Gavin Black. Unfortunately for Gavin Black, the car now had clutch issues to go with lingering carburettor concerns and their race ended on lap three. Out in the lead Bowyer set the fastest lap of the race again at 15.887 seconds, which was also faster than the previous track record before the night began. Bowyer won from Buckley, Lea (#9 White Ant Racing), Allan Black and Kermond.
A twelve-lap feature event then concluded the night for the New South Wales Grand Prix Midget Racing Association with Gavin Black and Allan Black starting at the front of the field with Lea, Kermond, Buckley and Bowyer rounding out the line up with the highest points scoring competitors starting from the back of the field.
Drivers were expecting a super quick feature event as evident from the lap times through the heat races and the preparation of the track from the Cullen Bullen team being outstanding. The track did not have a rut at any stage of the night.
At the fall of the green flag starting the race, Kermond showed all his years of experience including numerous national title victories by bolting to lead, Buckley quickly moved from the rear of the field into second place closely followed by Bowyer, Lea, and Allan Black. Gavin Black succumbed to the clogged-up carburettor issue his car was having and pulled infield.
On the second lap Buckley (# 67 Shore Hire – Beesafe Travel) took the highline and moved around the outside of Kermond to take the lead out of turn two. Bowyer quickly followed suit into second position with Kermond slotting back into third followed by Lea and Allan Black. By lap five, with Buckley and Bowyer sprinting away out front, both Lea and Black managed to pass Kermond, to change the race order around to Buckley leading Bowyer, Lea, Black & Kermond.
Another four laps passed with the order unchanged, and this saw Buckley & Bowyer (#5 Arjan Motors – White Ant Racing), racing tail to nose as they approached Kermond in the middle of the race through turns three and four. Trying to get past Buckley went low, Bowyer went high and to the loud cheers of the spectators on the hill they both passed Kermond clean and fast. With more drive on the outside, Bowyer sped into the lead up the front straight with Buckley now back in second & in hot pursuit.
Bowyer took full advantage of the track conditions, setting another track record & fastest lap of the feature race in 15.643. Buckley also set his fastest time of the night, a 16.231 that would have previously broken the ‘old’ track record before the night’s racing began. The race ended after twelve quick laps, with Bowyer first followed by Buckley, Lea, Black & Kermond.
Special thanks to New South Wales Grand Prix Midget Racing Association supporters;
Gulf Western Oil
White Ant Racing
West Sydney 4WD
Panther Prestige Smash Repairs
Media written by Speedcafe contributor DMT Sports Media – Dean Thompson