Last Gasp Win for McHugh, Whittaker Wins TFH Round Four
Luke Oldfield saw victory slip from his grasp in the Sprintcar feature race at Archerfield Speedway on Sunday night (December 26) when Lachlan McHugh snatched victory in round seven of the East Coast Logistics Track Championship with a last-lap pass. It was the third consecutive Archerfield success for McHugh, with Oldfield left to rue a lost opportunity in what proved another epic clash between the two in their continued domination of the series results. Australian champ Jamie Veal became the latest big name to fall short in a bid to upstage the Gold Coast-based championship combatants, finishing third in the 35-lap finale ahead of Ryan Newton and Randy Morgan. Next best were Tim Farrell, Karl Hoffmans and Ryan McNamara, with Aaron Kelly, who charged hard after transferring from the B Main, and Brent Kratzmann completing the top ten.
In the TFH Midget feature race, Rusty Whittaker became the fourth different winner in as many rounds when he prevailed in a race that delivered some incredible action but ultimately ended in somewhat underwhelming fashion when a late-race incident eliminated five of the front runners, elevated Michael Kendall into second spot and gifted Dylan Menz a podium finish in his debut outing aboard his newly acquired Toyota-powered King chassis. Sitting outside the top ten with half a dozen laps remaining, Brad Dawson and Cal Whatmore would find themselves firmly inside the top five at the fall of the chequer.
Of the 33 cars to hit the track for Sprintcar qualifying, there was no surprise at the top of the timesheets, with Oldfield clocking a best lap of 11.685 to secure KRE Quick Time. Taylor Prosser (11.716), Kratzmann (11.875), Newton (11.919) and Morgan (11.973) were next quickest, with McNamara (11.974) the last of the sub-12 second runners. Dan Murray, McHugh, Farrell and Jy Corbet completed the top ten, with Veal and Kelly the best of the rest.
Darren Jensen led throughout the opening heat to win ahead of Kelly and Nelson Reddacliff, with Oldfield surviving some heavy contact from McNamara on the opening lap to finish ahead of his assailant in fifth behind Adam Butler.
Despite starting sixth in heat two, it seemed as though McHugh had every expectation to be leading the race on the opening lap, rounding up four cars with ease before encountering some resistance from Hoffmans. It would take another six circulations before McHugh would move to the front, leaving Hoffmans to settle for second in advance of Kevin Titman.
With no positional changes in heat three, Kevin Britten would lead throughout to win ahead of Andrew Baumber and Jock Goodyer while Kratzmann, whose night started so strong in qualifying, suffered a significant setback when he rode out a wild crash exiting turn two on the opening lap.
In heat four, Hoffmans again leapt into the lead and was able to maintain the position on this occasion, with Oldfield surging from the outside of row four to secure second spot ahead of Mitch Gowland. Kelly suffered a significant setback when he inverted in turn four and, whilst he attempted to continue with a crumpled top wing, he would only last another lap before grassing the Raw Metal Corp J&J.
In his first outing aboard the AEB Services Triple X, Dave Fanning prevailed in heat five over Baumber and Veal, with a third-place finish enough to elevate the Aussie champ into the Dash.
The final preliminary saw Goodyer promoted to the front row when Whell was deemed to have jumped the start. The Tasmanian took full advantage of his good fortune to romp home ahead of Whell and McHugh.
The field for the Spanloc Dash would comprise series leaders Oldfield and McHugh on the front row, a couple of up-and-comers in Prosser and Newton on row two and a pair of interstaters in Veal and Goodyer on row three, leaving Morgan and McNamara to start from the back of the bus. With McHugh easily outgunning Oldfield to lead the field away, things got messy through turn one and Prosser found himself upside down and done for the night. Oldfield was much quicker away at the restart, but McHugh again proved too pacey and would lead all six laps to secure pole position for the main event. Oldfield finished second ahead of Veal, Morgan, Newton, McNamara and Goodyer.
Jy Corbet led throughout the B Main to secure his spot in the feature race, with Kelly, Whell and Jensen grabbing the other transfer positions. Having charged from outside the top ten to finish fifth, Woods saw his efforts rewarded when he also secured a feature race start in the wake of Prosser being unable to take his place.
McHugh got the best of the start to lead Oldfield through the opening laps of the feature race, with Veal slotting into third ahead of Newton and Morgan. The lead changed on lap seven, with Oldfield assuming control of proceedings, leaving McHugh to fend off Veal. On lap 10, McHugh made contact with the lapped car of Kevin Titman along the back straight, allowing Veal to assume second spot, albeit momentarily because McHugh had regained the position by lap 15. Any hopes Goodyer held for a second Archerfield feature win for the season disappeared on lap 20 when he whacked the main straight wall and crashed out, bunching the field for a restart. Less than a lap into the resumption and it was a spin from Jensen that prompted another restart, with the top five runners unchanged at this point. Back underway and the leaders were very quickly amongst the tailenders again, with Oldfield continuing to lead and seemingly on track for his third ECL series win for the season. However, McHugh refused to accept such an outcome and was able to execute a last-lap pass to snatch victory, leaving Oldfield with a runner-up finish for his efforts, with Veal home third ahead of Newton, Morgan, Farrell, Hoffmans and McNamara. Both Kelly and Kratzmann bounced back from mishaps earlier in the night to finish inside the top ten, with Titman, Butler, Corbet, Whell, Murray and Woods the remaining finishers.
The opening heat for TFH Midgets saw Scott Jeynes hold firm in the face of persistent pressure from Brad Dawson and Scott Farmer to grab the win. It was Dawson who occupied second spot for most of the running, only to be relegated by Farmer on the final lap.
Having set quick time in qualifying to put himself at the back of the invert for the heats, Charlie Brown took the challenge in his stride and surged through the field from the fourth row to chase down Dylan Menz and assume the lead as early as lap six. Menz remained second at the flag, with Jayden Peacock third.
Dawson was untroubled in taking heat three from pole position, with Mitchell Rooke occupying second spot for the first five laps before succumbing to both Kendall and Whittaker, who would finish second and third respectively.
Jeynes threw away his chances of another win when he spun himself out of the lead in heat four, handing the reigns to Rob Stewart, who would subsequently succumb to Menz. Further back, Brown was on the charge again from row four and, although this time it took a little longer to chase down Menz, he moved to the front with two laps to run.
A cruel blow for Gavin McDowell in the B Main when he was forced to make a hasty retreat to the infield on the final lap while leading the race, handing the win to Jesse Harris. Also making the transfer into the feature were Kody Stothard, Bernie Clark and Drew Fenton.
There was an element of familiarity within the feature race grid for the TFH feature race, with Brown and Kendall sharing row four once again as the top qualifiers. From the outside front row, Whittaker zoomed to the front and would go on to lead every lap to become the fourth different feature race winner from as many rounds so far this season. Whilst Whittaker was largely untroubled out front, the scrap behind him was sensational from the outset with Dean, Farmer, Peacock, O’Connell and Brown in the thick of the action. On lap five, Farmer exited the fight in spectacular fashion with a heavy crash in turn two whilst running in second spot. With racing back underway, Brown continued his forward progress, moving ahead of Peacock, O’Connell and Dean to be sitting in second spot when a spin from Kody Stothard in turn three bunched the field again for a restart with 10 laps remaining. The entire complexion of the race changed at this point with a turn one pile-up eliminating Brown, Peacock and O’Connell, while Dean was able to restart from the rear. Kendall now found himself in second spot and with a shot at consecutive feature race wins, however Whittaker remained in control to score the win over Kendall, Menz, Dawson and Cal Whatmore. Next in line was Darren Dillon, Rooke and Harris, with Dean salvaging ninth ahead of Jeynes, Barry Gibbs, Clarke and Stewart.
The Robertson Building Services Wingless Sprint feature race was dominated by the interstate contingent, with Dubbo-based veteran Mark Blyton the big mover in the early stages, chasing down his son Marshall to assume the lead on lap 10. However, a lap later Blyton Snr found himself facing the wrong way in the back straight after making contact with the slower car of James Grady, triggering a restart and bestowing the lead to his offspring. From here, Marshall Blyton was untroubled in racing to the chequer, finishing more than 3.5 seconds clear of Andrew Smith, while a late pass would elevate Jamie Usher onto the podium. Jayden O’Toole, Steve Pilkington, Andrew Robinson and Stuart Jefferies were next in line, followed by Chris Catchpole, Mark Blyton, Lance Dawson and the rest.
Previous round winner Robert Mazzer won the opening Wingless Sprint heat race but had an otherwise unhappy night that saw him finish upside down in his second heat before making an early exit from the feature. Marshall Blyton, Pilkington and Robinson were also heat winners.
Sam Gollschewsky left no doubt about his bona fides as the current national champion when he served up a very special performance in the Modlite feature race. After failing to make much impression in the heats, Gollschewsky found himself relegated to the outside of row five on the feature race grid, but it hardly proved a hindrance at all. After two laps, Gollschewsky was fourth, moving to third a lap later and then into second spot after just four laps or facing. On lap nine, he rounded up Klinton Hancey to assume the lead and then raced away to finish more than seven seconds clear of the field to take out round one of the Universal Home Improvements / Pro 1 Race Parts Christmas Cup. Hancey remained second in advance of Tyson Snow, Terry Leerentveld and Chris Fing, with the remainder of the top ten comprising Brodie Boss, Gavin Thomas, Dan Lewis, Jason Boss and Dakota Laverty.
Leading the Lightning Sprint feature race by half a lap, Kurt Wilson inexplicably found himself end-for-ending along the main straight with four laps to run, handing the lead and a maiden Archerfield feature race win to Andy Kimm. Second home was Tyler Stralow, with Jim Kennedy third ahead of Luke Graham and Scott Jukes.
The next event at Archerfield Speedway on Wednesday night (December 29) will see drivers from four states taking on the local stars in round eight of the East Coast Logistics Sprintcar Track Chamnpionship, along with a stellar field of Super Sedans. Also on the program will be AMCA Nationals, Compact Speedcars, Formula 500 Juniors and Open A/Outlaw Sedans.