MEDIA RELEASE: The competition was intense at round four of the 2016 Australia Trans-Am series at a wet Lakeside Park with Charlie O’Brien, Alwyn Bishop and Sean English consolidating their respective class leads at the meeting which marked the halfway point of the championship.
A capacity 21-car grid took to the historic 2.41 kilometre circuit, which lived up to its reputation as a track that demands respect with multiple casualties across the wet weekend resulting in a tight turnaround before the next event.
Amidst a sprinkle of rain, all drivers opted for the dry cross-ply tyres for the 15-minute qualifying session. In the Palmer Steel Industries Trophy Class, it was an O’Brien top two with Shannon O’Brien (Pontiac Firebird) setting a 58.89, besting his uncle and series leader Charlie O’Brien (Chevrolet Camaro) who clocked in with a 59.34.
Shane Wilson (Ford Mustang) qualified on pole in the Loaders ‘R’ Us Sportsman Class with a 1:03.29, ahead of Stephen Scales (Ford Falcon Sprint) and Alwyn Bishop (Ford Mustang).
Rob Hackwood (Ford Mustang) blitzed the field to claim pole in the Mulch Smart 5 Litre Classics with a 1:01.55, two seconds ahead of his nearest competitor in Mark Bowtell (Pontiac Firebird).
The wet weather came into play in race one as the top five positions from qualifying remained unchanged at the conclusion of the eight-lap encounter, as Shannon O’Brien ended Charlie O’Brien’s run of 11 straight victories at the historic venue.
However, there was plenty of jostling for positions in the mid-field with John English (Pontiac Firebird) moving up two positions in the Logan Village Smash Repairs Firebird to sixth ahead of Ian Palmer (Pontiac Firebird) and a charging Anthony Tenkate (Ford Mustang) up from ninth. Hackwood was the best of the 5 Litres in the Wellpro/Mustang Auto Parts Mustang followed by Sean English and Bowtell. Stephen Scales took his maiden class win in the Sportsman class, after battling with podium finishers Wilson and Colin Velt (Ford Mustang) for the majority of the race.
Persistent rain and spilt oil made for a chaotic race two as series leader Charlie O’Brien took the chequered flag ahead of John English followed by Tenkate in third. The #17 Ford Mustang of Colin Velt left a trail of oil around the circuit as Shannon O’Brien and Russell Wright tripped over the oil and made their way off the tarmac mid-race. Hackwood went back-to-back in the 5 Litre Classics while Scales recorded a second consecutive win in the Sportsman class aboard the Falcon Sprint.
Despite the rain dissipating prior to the green flag, a slippery surface made for plenty of action in an incident-marred race three. Charlie O’Brien claimed back-to-back wins over John English and Woodward closely followed by Palmer, Wright and Brett Curran (Ford Mustang), as the top six finished within a two second margin. Hackwood lead the 5 Litre contingent for the majority of the race, but experienced a flat tyre in the closing stages, leaving Sean English in the MPP Race Fabrication/Discount 4X4 Mustang to take the honours in the 5 Litre Classics ahead of Bowtell. Bishop secured his first win for the round in the Blake Machinery Group/Agilis Accountants Mustang over Dan Flemming (Ford Mustang).
The Sportsman field depleted following an incident on lap 1, as Scales went off the track after the kink on the opening lap, and spun back onto the track as the pack closed in, resulting in a train of collision involving Shane Wilson, Harry Charalambous (Ford Mustang) and Shannon O’Brien.
Charlie O’Brien claimed the hat-trick with a win in race four, taking the chequered flag ahead of John English and Curran in third, as he debuted a new sponsor in Hutchinson Builders for the Angliss Meats Toowoomba Mustang. The race came to a halt on the third lap as Bowtell crashed coming onto the front straight, with track officials and medical staff on site shortly afterwards.
Although the car was extensively damaged, Bowtell received no serious injuries and is on track to return for the next event. Tenkate joined the elusive ‘Sub 60 club’ at Lakeside in the final race, recording a personal best of 59.95. Hackwood bounced back from a DNF in the previous race to claim the 5 litre class win, over former 5 litre champions Sean English and Mike Collins (Ford Mustang). Flemming was the sole finisher in the Sportsman series, with Bishop’s race coming to an end with bent steering after an incident with Hackwood charging from the rear.
The fifth round of the Australian Trans-Am series will be a Trans-Am double-header at Lakeside Park on August 6-7, where they will be joined by sister category TA2 Racing Australia for their racing debut.