Hay leads the surprises at QR
The second round of the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship saw Steve Hay continue his winning ways.
The 2016 champion won three of the four races, and he was only deprived of a clean-sweep in the fourth and final race of the weekend, when Murray Kent snatched the lead from him in the closing stages, and he went on to secure his third win of the season, breaking Hay’s four-race winning streak in the process. It was a phenomenal weekend of racing that also saw new class winners, in both the ‘A2’ and ‘B’ divisions.
The four-race schedule saw Qualifying, and the second and fourth races, held on the 3.12km National Circuit, while Race 1 was run on the Clubman configuration, and, in somewhat of a rarity, Sunday’s first race (Race 3) was contested on the ‘Sprint Circuit’.
Steve Hay took his second pole position of the season, and did so by a rather comfortable margin. The 2016 champion was half-a-second faster than his main title threat, Murray Kent. Kent was a clear second, ahead of Ashley Hooper, Gary Anger and Adrian Blackwell, who rounded out the top five.
Gary Anger picked up where he left off at Lakeside, as the fastest driver in Class A2, while Mark Hyde claimed pole position in Class B. Matthew Haak was one of several cars to run into trouble in the 20-minute session. Running Gary Anger’s old car, Haak recorded just one flying lap before coming to a stop on the side of the track. The session would later be cut short when Leonard Meiers’ engine blew up, leaving a trail of oil on the circuit, which required an immediate clean-up.
The engine failure saw Meiers sidelined for the remainder of the weekend, as was John Phoenix, after suffering a broken crankshaft, in his front-running Class B BMW, during the qualifying session.
Two cars, the Commodore of Chris Holdt, and the Torana of Nick Linton, failed to record a time in qualifying, leaving them to start at the back of the now 24-car grid for race 1.
The opening race was run over 12 laps, and was easily won by Steve Hay, who took the lead off the start, and never looked back. Murray Kent did his best, to stick with Hay, but was unable to, and forced to consolidate second, ahead of Ashley Hooper, who rounded out the podium.
While the Class A1 race was rather processional, there was plenty of action in the other classes. Class A2 was taken out by Michael Woodcroft, who edged out Gary Anger and Stuart Walker - the two form men, in Class B, after the opening round at Lakeside Park. Woodcroft took the class lead, off Anger, on Lap 9, after spending much of the race trying to find a way by the #44. Woodcroft finished sixth outright, after starting the race in ninth. Class B was comfortably won by Mark Hyde, who was well clear of Les Hanifin and Mark Giorgio.
Race 2 was held on the National Circuit, and it followed a similar pattern to that of Race 1, with Steve Hay, again, leading from the front. Hay, over the course of ten laps, eased away from Murray Kent, and went on to record his third consecutive win in the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship, this time by only 2.2 seconds, from Kent, who was again unchallenged in his drive to second.
The big surprise in race 2 was Ashley Hooper. The BMW pilot went NOWHERE at the start of the race, getting absolutely swamped, and falling to the back of the field, with what appeared to be serious mechanical drama, but after pulling over and rebooting the car, he was able to continue, but finished a lap down, in 19th position.
Hooper’s misfortune played right into the hands of Jason Lansdell, who, despite being a long way behind Kent and Hay, was able to bring his Ford Falcon home in third place outright. In Class A2, Gary Anger and Stuart Walker restored order, resuming the duel they had at Lakeside Park, to come home first and second in class, which, incidentally, was fourth and fifth outright, ahead of Adam Pye, who was third in class. Michael Woodcroft, who was victorious (in Class A2) in Race 1, did not take the start in Race 2, nor did the #4 of Matthew Haak. Class B produced an exceptionally tight finish, and a first-time winner as well, as Les Hanifin, in his new (for 2018) car, held off Mark Hyde, by half-a-second, to claim his first class win in the Queensland Touring Car Championship. Hyde, and fellow Ford driver, Mark Giorgio, rounded out the podium, as Ford dominated the minor placings in Class B.
Sunday’s opening race was run on a configuration rarely used by the QTCC - the 1.93km ‘Sprint Circuit’, and that presented the issue of drivers ‘breaking out’ (clocking lap times faster than they’re class cut-off allows them to), particularly those in A2, with six drivers penalised for the offence On the sprint circuit at Queensland Raceway, the time barrier for cars in Class A2 is 59-62 seconds. Stuart Walker (58.9143), Gary Anger (58.4510), Lance Jurgeleit (58.5104), Adam Pye (58.5705), Michael Woodcroft (57.0239), and Steven Harris (58.1526), were all below that barrier, which saw officials hit each of them with a 3-grid position penalty for race 4, but the incident also prompted series officials to discuss changing that time cut-off for Class A2.
While nothing has been confirmed as yet, it's likely that suggested changes will come into effect for the next round of the championship. Penalties aside, Race 3 produced some close, hard fought racing, in a 12-lap affair, that gave us the closest finish of the weekend. Steve Hay scored his fourth win on the trot, and third of the weekend, when he marginally held off a fast finishing Murray Kent, who was easily the fastest on track, clocking a 56.0882, on lap 8, while trying to chase down the 2016 champion. As was the case in Race 2, Jason Lansdell was a distant third, but was well clear of Ashley Hooper, who came home in fourth, after charging through from the back of the grid.
Class A2 saw its third different winner in as many races, when Stuart Walker edged out Gary Anger for the win. Walker got home by only three-tenths of a second, as Anger held off Lance Jurgeleit in the battle for the minors. Second place continued Gary Anger’s consistent start to season 2018, while Jurgeleit recorded his best finish of the weekend to that point.
Class B honours were again taken out by Mark Hyde, in the Ford Escort, who edged clear of Les Hanifin and Andrew Knight.
Race 4 provided plenty of action, as the field took to the national circuit for the final race of the round. Steve Hay took an early lead, but he was unable to hold it, as Murray Kent finally got by Hay, and broke his four-race winning streak, and any hope of a weekend clean-sweep. Hay stuck with Kent, but was unable to return serve, and had to settle for second position. Kent won the race - his fourth win of the season - by eight-tenths of a second, ahead of Hay, who, with three wins, secured the round victory.
There was plenty of drama in the Class A2 race, particularly in the closing stages. Stuart Walker failed to complete a lap, ending any chance he had of a podium finish, but the drama didn’t finish there. In the final two corners, both Adrian Blackwell and Gary Anger came to a stop on the exit of turn five. While it wasn’t clear what Blackwell’s retirement was caused by, Anger confirmed on social media that he pulled up due to a fuel line coming loose - a mechanical issue that ended a run of seven Class A2 podium finishes for Anger.
In Class B, Les Hanifin scored his second win of the weekend, ahead of Mark Hyde and Mark Giorgio, as Ford cleaned up in the race for the minor placings.
In the end, Steve Hay managed to reduce the deficit from 67 to 51 points, but Murray Kent still holds a good lead going into the third round of the championship, which will be held at Queensland Raceway, from June 22-24, as the category serves as the headline act for the 2018 ‘2 Days of Thunder’ event.
Pole Position: Steve Hay (1:20.1770)
Race 1: 1st Steve Hay, 2nd Murray Kent, 3rd Ashley Hooper.
Class Winners: Michael Wood (A2), Mark Hyde (B)
Race 2: 1st Steve Hay, 2nd Murray Kent, 3rd Jason Lansdell
Class Winners: Gary Anger (A2), Les Hanifin (B)
Race 3: 1st Steve Hay, 2nd Murray Kent, 3rd Jason Lansdell
Class Winners: Stuart Walker (A2), Mark Hyde (B)
Race 4: 1st Murray Kent, 2nd Steve Hay, 3rd Jason Lansdell
Class Winners: Michael Woodcroft (A2), Les Hanifin (B)
Next Round: Queensland Raceway – June 22-24