ECL round 13 feature winner Steven Lines (Chris Metcalf Photo)
On a night that tested the patience of drivers, officials and fans alike, South Australia’s Steven Lines confirmed his place amongst the favourites for the upcoming Australian Championship when he raced to victory in a shortened round 13 of the East Coast Logistics Sprintcar Track Championship at Archerfield Speedway on Saturday night (April 16).
Having swept to the lead on lap eight, Lines was still comfortably in control when the race ended early on lap 18, with Kevin Titman finishing in the runner-up position for the second time in as many rounds. Having led the early going, Aaron Kelly would ultimately finish third ahead of Brock Hallett, who put in a mighty run after transferring from the B Main. Darren Jensen finished fifth, followed by Michael Saller, Ian Madsen and Jy Corbet, with Jock Goodyer and Ryan McNamara rounding out the top ten.
The Boss Hogg’s Steakhouse Wingless Sprint feature race was also dominated by a South Australian with Joel Chadwick proving too quick for a strong field. Jacob Jolley and Kyle Ionn filled the minor placings for an interstate sweep of the podium, leaving Lachlan Robertson as the first of the locals in fourth spot, with Brody Thomsen completing the first five after 20 laps.
In round two of the Formula 500 Tri-Series, Liam Williams enjoyed a somewhat straightforward drive to victory lane, leading home John Magro, Angus Hollis, Brodie Davis and Kaydon Iverson in the 15-lap feature race.
Fresh from his win in the Queensland Championship just 24 hours earlier, Andrew Kimm continued his remarkable run of success when he clinched his fifth Lightning Sprint feature race win at Archerfield so far this season. Sean Iacono was second best on this occasion, with Tyler Stralow, Harley Graham and Jordan Binskin completing the top five.
Unfortunately, an early rain interruption and a second extended delay during the Sprintcar feature race forced the cancellation of the TFH Midget feature race, which was shaping as something special given the locals had proven too quick for national champ Matt Smith and the other interstaters in the heats.
When a light shower swept over the circuit before Sprintcar time trial qualifying could be completed, an hour delay ensued before racing could resume. With the 37-car field condensed into three heats, a grid draw and invert would determine the starting order across the two rounds of heats.
Upon completion of track preparation and several support races, the opening Sprintcar heat proved an absolute belter with Kelly executing a remarkable move to snatch the lead, and the win, with a lap to run. Karl Hoffmans had led from the outset, only to find himself third at the flag as both Kelly and Madsen swooped in a frantic finish.
In his first Archerfield outing for the season, Callum Walker looked on track for a win in heat two, only to be rounded up by Brent Kratzmann on lap eight. Walker remained second at the flag, with Titman third.
Jessie Attard led throughout heat three to finish in advance of Richard Morgan, who was also making his first Archerfield appearance for the season, with Goodyer grabbing third.
The biggest winning margin of the night came in heat four when Bryan Mann outpaced Mitch Gowland and Jensen while, for Kratzmann, his earlier success would come to nothing when a clash with Tarhlea Apelt in turn one on lap five would leave both cars upended and out of action for the rest of the night.
Lining up alongside previous ECL round winner Ryan Newton in heat five, Lines launched from the outside front row to lead every lap of heat five. Newton was similarly untroubled in maintaining second spot in advance of Ryan McNamara, while a fourth-place finish from Kelly was enough to secure pole position for the main event.
Series leader Luke Oldfield emulated Lines in the final heat, jumping clear from the outside front row to lead throughout. In finishing second ahead of Saller, Titman became the only driver to finish inside the top three in both of his heats and he would subsequently join Kelly on the front row of the feature race grid.
A full field faced the starter for the B Main and it was Gowland who grabbed the lead from the green, with Nicholas Whell, Morgan and Adam Butler occupying the transfer positions before Hallett commenced a surge that would carry him all the way to the front. Gowland and Whell filled the minor placings and, along with fourth-placed Morgan, would secure automatic entry into the feature field, although Butler would also be granted a start in the big show.
Despite the earlier rain interruption, the successful completion of the full program still looked highly likely when the cars rolled onto the track for the ECL Sprintcar feature race. Kelly got the initial jump from Titman, who was rounded up immediately by Oldfield through turn two.
However, come turn four and Oldfield found himself upside down for the second time in as many rounds, with Newton also caught up in the chaos and tipping over, resulting in both cars exiting the contest.
Back underway for an extended period of uninterrupted racing and Kelly soon found himself having to negotiate lapped traffic, enabling Lines to close in and assume the lead on lap eight. Kelly would drop another spot to Titman on the next circulation and that is how they remained when Walker rode the right rear of Attard in turn one on lap 15.
Whilst the car remained upright as it landed atop the wall before dropping back onto the track, the impact left Walker in some discomfort. After a necessarily lengthy pause in hostilities to enable Walker to be extracted from the car, competition resumed with 10 laps lopped off the race distance with curfew now looming large. However, when Mann tipped over in turn two with just four more laps completed, officials were left with no option other than declaring the event, ensuring a second ECL win for Lines this season.
Titman and Kelly rounded out the podium, with Hallett miraculously making it as far forward as fourth ahead of Jensen, who was engaged in a spirited clash with Attard until the latter spun himself to the infield, elevating Saller to sixth. Madsen, Corbet, Goodyer and McNamara were next in line, followed by Butler, Gowland, Taylor Prosser and the final finisher in Whell.
Casey O’Connell was the initial pacesetter in the opening Midget heat race until Rusty Whittaker whizzed by on lap seven to secure the win. O’Connell survived a late surge from Rob Stewart to secure second spot.
Hardly surprising from pole position, Michael Kendall was an easy winner in heat two, finishing more than six seconds clear of Matt Jackson, with Darren Vine third.
Matt Smith was also expected to make easy work of heat three from pole position, but it was Scott Doyle who initially shot to the front from the outside front row, only to stop in turn four and retreat to the infield as the field regrouped for a restart. Smith led away this time was untroubled in leading throughout, leaving the heroics to Kendall as he scythed through the field from the back row to finish in second spot ahead of Brad Dawson emerge as the top qualifier for the feature.
The final heat saw Charlie Brown skip clear of the field and looking a likely winner, only for mechanical gremlins to intervene once again and force him to the infield, handing the lead and the win to Scott Farmer. In securing second and third respectively, O’Connell and Whittaker would finish equal behind Kendall in the qualifying order for a feature race that, despite the best efforts of everybody involved, fell victim to the track curfew.
The opening Formula 500 heat saw more than half of the 13-car field finish a lap in arrears as Williams raced away to win ahead of the NSW-based duo of Blake Matthews and Jac Laynerie.
Declan Robinson downed Magro and Iverson in heat two before Hollis outpaced Kurt Wilson and Davis to win heat three.
The final heat of the night saw Boyd Chaffey blitz the field to win well clear of Jordan Mansell and Tomas Partington.
Unfortunately for Chaffey, his feature race ended with a heavy flip through turn one on lap two. A tangle between Robinson and Partington in turn four a lap later halted proceedings again and then, when Ryan Potts flipped in turn three after just two more circulations, the race was shortened to 15 laps.
Through the various interruptions, Williams maintained control of the race to lead Magro and Hollis to the line, while Davis held firm in fourth despite the late advances of Iverson, who started third and fell back as far as seventh at one stage before fighting his way back into the top five. Kurt Wilson and Jac Laynerie were next best, followed by Hayden Pascoe, Brady Argles and Mitchell Whittaker.
Wingless Sprints were out in force for the second of two consecutive nights of Easter action and, before rain rudely interrupted proceedings, the opening round of heats produced wins for Ionn, Thomsen and Liam Atkinson. The opening heat saw Ionn finish more than seven seconds clear of Stu Jefferies and Adam Hotchkis, while it was Thomsen who prevailed in heat two over Mason Cattel and Chadwick. The third heat saw Atkinson survive the best efforts of Jason Bates to score a very narrow win, with Kevin Willis securing third.
Robertson romped home in heat four, having extended his lead to more than seven seconds at the fall of the flag, with Jacqui Salmon and Chris Ctachpole clinching the minor placings.
Heat five served up a preview of the feature race when Chadwick prevailed over Jolley in a close contest, with Andrew Robinson third despite clocking the fastest lap of the race.
Having failed to go the distance in his opening heat, Jamie Usher bounced back big time to down Willis and Dave Sansby in the final preliminary.
Usher would also make easy work of the B Main, assuming control on the opening lap and skipping clear to finish well in advance of Hotchkis, Ian O’Toole, Ross Guy and Brett Hehir.
The heat race results certainly proved to be an accurate indicator of how the feature race would unfold, with Chadwick the only driver to lap under 15 seconds in leading throughout the 20-lap encounter. Once Jolley usurped Ionn from second spot on lap 14, he was able to narrow the gap to Chadwick, but never found himself close enough to apply any real pressure. Ionn remained third ahead of Robertson, Thomsen and Robert Mazzer, with Cattel, Atkinson, Bates and Jefferies rounding out the top ten.
The opening Lightning Sprint heat race proved a family affair as Sean Iacono and Wayne Iacono filled the top two spots respectively, with Tyler Stralow home third.
As the first race upon resumption after the rain delay, heat two was contested on a track that was both slippery and narrow, yet it delivered what was perhaps the best Lightning Sprint race of the season thus far. With three different leaders and passing aplenty through the field, it was Andy Kimm who prevailed, having slipped into the lead on the penultimate lap. Having led the first half of the race, Scott Moir finished second with Stralow third again, while a seesawing performance from Wayne Jukes saw him zoom into the lead after starting 10th, only to find himself fourth at the flag.
The final heat was tame by comparison with Jordan Binskin assuming the lead when Jarrod Icono slowed and headed infield while seemingly in control. Binskin would maintain his lead to the chequer, albeit in a close call over Scott Jukes, with Scott Genrich third best.
The Henchcraft Australian Open feature race would ultimately be called two laps short of the scheduled 20-lap distance, but it was of little consequence with Kimm leading from the outset to add yet another feature race victory and cement his status as the current category king.
Sean Iacono was similarly unburdened in his drive into second place, while Stralow would complete the podium, having dropped a spot to Scott Genrich before reclaiming third when Genrich exited on lap ten. Harley Graham saved his best performance of the night for when it mattered most, climbing into fourth spot ahead of Binskin, Wayne Jukes, Scott Jukes and Michael Gollagher, leaving Ben Le Pla as the only other finisher.
Chay Corbet and Bailey Leeson shared the spoils in the Formula 500 Junior heats before Leeson backed up to take out the feature race. Sean Rae finished in second spot ahead of Jai Bateman, Daisy Smith, Corbet and Riley Ohlback.
The next meeting at Archerfield Speedway is the 59th Australian Sprintcar Championship over two huge nights on Saturday/Sunday. April 30 and May 1. More than 45 drivers from across Australia will contest the event, with a big support program on each night that will feature Midgets, Formula 500s, Wingless Sprints and AMCA Nationals.