Victorian title off for a holiday north of the border with Gary Bowyer
Grand Prix Midget race drivers headed to Wangaratta City Raceway for the 39th ever Victorian title for the class with Victoria’s best contenders up against a handful of determined New South Wales racers set on taking the trophies and the number one over the border with them. The event also doubled as a round of the ‘Stinger Chassis’ Masters Series, the season long series for the Victorian club.
New South Wales state champion Gary Bowyer travelled into town with Janelle Saville, Adam Buckley, and Anthony Lea to see if they could defeat the likes of Paul Perry, Ash Booker, Chris Fowler, and Travis Florrimell, instead they found further tough competition from the rest of the Victorian club.
Lining up for round one in race one was expected to be Travis Florrimell from the front row of the field. However in hot laps his chain driven race car lost the chain of the sprocket and worse, the water pump was damaged, and his race night was over. Gary Bowyer, Mark Blackeby, Jack Ward, Ash Booker (#50 – HMJ Chassis – Yamaha R1), Daniel Meredith, Adam Buckley, and Chris Fowler made the start.
Booker flew to the front of the field from behind Blackeby (#10 – PBR Chassis – Yamaha R1) and Bowyer to lead from Bowyer and Fowler making up a few positions quickly from the third row of the field. Fowler moved past Bowyer on lap two and a lap latter Blackeby moved into third passing Bowyer also.
On lap four Booker’s engine expired and his race night also finished in the first race of the night. Fowler (#13 – HMJ Chassis – Yamaha R1) assumed the race lead after Booker’s demise with Blackeby and Bowyer chasing. On lap six Bowyer’s car picked up a miss in the engine so he stopped infield to avoid major damage and gave himself time to check it over between rounds.
Meredith (#8 – Stinger Chassis – Suzuki GSXR 1000) made third spot his when Bowyer exited the race and he moved into second by lap nine only for Blackeby to get right past on the final lap. Fowler the winner by almost eight seconds with a best one lap time of 15.813 seconds with Blackeby, Meredith, Adam Buckley, and Jack Ward (#4 – Anskaitis Chassis – Yamaha R1) all finishing.
Into the second race of round one, Paul Perry from pole with Alex Gouveia #32 – Stinger – Suzuki GSXR 1100), Shawn Ward, Matt Kamolins, Anthony Lea, Alex Hudson-Myers, Janelle Saville, and Terry Brown were the starters. Perry moved straight to the front of the field to lead local racer Alex Gouveia and Wangaratta club person Shawn Ward (#44 – de Dion Chassis – Yamaha R1) from Benalla, who also happens to be a Grand Prix Midget executive official. On lap two Anthony Lea dropped from fourth to eighth whilst Ward passed by Gouveia. Lea (#7 – PBR Chassis – Kawasaki ZX10) had suffered chain damage which was the reason he dropped down the order, and he headed infield as the race continued.
Also on lap three Gouveia found himself in second last place as Kamolins moved into third driving one of the spare ‘Pitstop Mower’ team cars. At the half way mark Perry was still out in front with Kamolins now in second, Ward, Hudson-Myers, and Brown the top five. Shepparton raised racer Hudson-Myers moved to third on lap seven and second a lap late. Brown on lap nine moved to third passing Kamolins (#V5 – Stinger Chassis – Yamaha R1) for that spot and the chequered flags dropped on a Perry victory from Hudson-Myers (#11 – PBR Chassis – Suzuki GSXR 1000), Brown, Kamolins, Ward and Saville as Gouveia. Perry with a 15.768 pipped Fowler for a faster one lap time in round one.
Buckley (#9 – White Ant Chassis – Yamaha R1) and Saville began on the front row with Fowler, Perry, Blackeby and Shawn Ward completing the field for the first race of round two. Saville and her machine looked back on track leading from Buckley a fellow New South wales club mate on lap one with Perry into third position as they completed lap one. Perry moved forward a spot-on lap two whilst Fowler exited the race with a broken Jacobs ladder the offending part of the car.
At the half way mark, Saville was leading Perry (#33 – Paul Perry Chassis – Kawasaki ZX12) , Buckley, Shawn Ward and Blackeby and nothing changed from there with Saville winning by a couple of seconds in front of Perry. Lea didn’t start due to a brakes issue.
In the second race of round two Jack Ward began from the front with Meredith then Brown, Gouveia, Bowyer and Kamolins. Hudson-Myers was a non-starter with oil pressure concerns. Bowyer got the jump at the start and took control of the race lead ahead of Jack Ward, (Son of Shawn) and Gouveia. Into lap two and Ward fell to the back of the field with Gouveia moving to second, Brown into third and then Kamolins and Meredith also moving ahead of Ward. Kamolins continued his charge and moved to third on lap three before Brown ripped back past Kamolins and Gouveia and into second spot. Kamolins moved to third on lap eight.
Bowyer took the win and the fastest lap of the night to this point with a 15.558 in front of Brown, Kamolins, Gouveia, Meredith, and Ward.
Into the final round and the second last qualifier and Brown would get a pole position start with Saville (#2 – PBR Chassis – ZX12 Kawasaki), Bowyer, Blackeby, Lea and Jack Ward also in position. Attrition sometimes means competitors get a lucky double pole or front row start when cars pull out of races. Saville made the most of another front row start leading from Brown, Bowyer (#N5 – WAR Chassis – Yamaha R1), Blackeby and Jack Ward on lap one of the fifth qualifier. Bowyer moved to second a lap later, with Lea again not finishing by exiting the race still with brake concerns. From there the field zipped around Wangaratta City Raceway with Saville winning by just .362 of a second in the closest race to this point with Bowyer, Brown, Blackeby and Jack Ward all finishing.
Race six of the qualifiers and the last of round three started with Fowler, Kamolins, Meredith, Shawn Ward, Buckley, Gouveia, and Perry greeting the flagman. Fowler with a win and a no finish needed another win to put himself right up into the top rows for the Victorian title feature event and he started the final qualifier with a lead ahead of Kamolins and Shawn Ward. Perry from the back of the field had moved into third by lap three and Fowler consistent out-front lap after lap.
A crash to Gouveia on lap eight of the race smashed the car badly beyond repair and put Gouveia into an ambulance to go and assess lower leg damage, which required surgery due to a break. With the race declared Fowler picked up victory in front of Kamolins, Perry, Shawn Ward, Buckley, and Meredith.
After the points were tallied up Saville and Perry had done enough to start from the front. Fowler, Brown, Kamolins, Bowyer, Blackeby, Buckley, Meredith, Shawn Ward, Jack Ward, and Lea made up the title line-up
With twenty laps ahead of the competitors, drivers set off for the Victorian title race with Saville the first lap leader from Fowler, Perry, Kamolins and Bowyer. Fourth and fifth spots changed between the latter two the very next lap before the first of the big favourites that started exited the race when Fowler dropped a chain on lap four.
At lap five with a quarter of the race completed Saville led Perry, Bowyer, Kamolins and Brown. Bowyer moved into second by lap seven with the two leading New South Wales drivers looking to become the third ever Victorian title winner from the Waratah state.
A spin from Brown on lap nine caused an unavoidable crash with Shawn Ward, Meredith, Buckley and Blackeby involved. Damage to Buckley, Ward and Blackeby ended their race. Brown was able to restart.
At the half way point Saville was still leading with Bowyer, Perry, Kamolins, Meredith, Jack Ward, and Brown chasing. Brown moved ahead of Ward on lap thirteen and both Brown and Ward moved in front of Meredith on lap fourteen with Brown now fifth. On lap eighteen, Bowyer made a move and assumed the race lead and Brown moved to fourth the next lap passed the officials dais ahead of Kamolins. At the chequered flag New South Wales Champion Bowyer became also the Victorian champion winning the closest race of the night as Saville tried in vain to wrest the lead back. Perry finished in third with Brown, Kamolins, Meredith and Jack Ward all successfully finishing the title race.
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Media written by Speedcafe contributor – DMT Sports Media – Dean Thompson