Kent Extends Series Lead with Three Wins in Round Three
There’s never a dull moment in the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship, and that was proven true, yet again, at ‘2 Days of Thunder’, with four exciting races bringing the curtain down on the first half of the 2018 season.
After three rounds, Murray Kent and Steve Hay have six race wins apiece, but Kent’s consistency continues to reward him in the points race. After 12 races, he sits 92 points clear of the 2016 champion, Steve Hay - 41 points further ahead than he was coming into this round.
Last time out, Hay scored three wins, to Kent’s one… this time out, the roles were reversed. Hay is counting his lucky stars that he is only 92 points behind. Prior to this round, he ran his QTCC commodore, in Classic Sports Sedans, at the recent Australian Motor Racing Series round at Morgan Park - an event that turned out to be a costly exercise for him. In fact, Hay left the Warwick venue with only 11 days to complete some serious mechanical repairs, in order to be on the grid at Queensland Raceway.
Naturally, Hay’s hard-working team got the job done, and he was able to use Friday practice to his advantage, and finish setting the car up for the weekend ahead.
Elsewhere, Shannon Cane was due to return to the track, for the first time since that difficult opening round at Lakeside, but was a late withdrawal at the eleventh hour, due to ongoing issue with her commodore, but the team are confident of returning for the fourth round at Lakeside, on the second weekend of August.
Pole position for this round of the series went to Murray Kent, ahead of Jason Lansdell and Steve Hay. While Hay managed to get the car onto the track, the engine wasn’t yet humming as sweetly as it had done in the previous two rounds - he was 1.7 seconds slower than Kent - meaning there was a bit more work to be done, prior to race 1, in order to get the car back running at the pace we’d normally expect from him.
In Class A2, Gary Anger took another pole position, ahead of Lance Jurgeleit and Rob Droder, while Class B pole was taken by Mark Giorgio, in the Ford Falcon, ahead of John Phoenix and Peter Jolly.
Ford drivers enjoyed tremendous results in the last round of the series, and Giorgio’s pole ensured that the run of form would continue into round three. Mechanical related dramas continued to hamper Steve Hay’s progress during the opening race of the weekend. Despite taking an early lead, Hay didn’t even feature on the podium by the end of the twelve-lap affair. Murray Kent relieved Hay of the lead on lap 5, and then cleared out to take a comfortable sixteen-second victory, as Hay slipped down the order, to eventually finish in sixth position.
Ashley Hooper, who has been third best for most of the season, made the most of Hay’s misfortune, and claimed second position, ahead of Alister Mitchell, who was extremely impressive - taking third in his first QTCC outing of 2018, Adrian Blackwell was fourth, and, the first of the Class A2 entries, Leonard Meiers rounded out the top five.
The battle for the minor placings in Class A2 was on in earnest, as always, with Gary Anger and Stuart Walker resuming their duel, but they were both upstaged by Robert Droder, who claimed second in class, and seventh outright, ahead of Anger, who pipped Walker at the post, by just two tenths of a second.
Class B was won by Les Hanifin, comfortably ahead of Mark Hyde and John Phoenix. Pole-sitter Mark Giorgio was a retirement, with some engine dramas. While he may have scored the Class B win, Les Hanifin was penalised at the end of that opening race, for breaking out (recording a faster lap time than he is permitted to as a Class B car). The penalty was a three-place grid penalty for Race 2.
The second race of the day brought with it great anticipation. One eye was on Steve Hay, to see if those mechanical gremlins had been sorted, and if he could get back to the head of the pack, and the other would be on the rest of the action going on around him.
Hay was brilliant off the start, and he wasted no time in moving his way up into second position, as Murray Kent took an early race lead.
A few laps later, Hay breezed past Kent, to take the lead. Seconds later, the race was neutralised, when David Oberhofer’s car found the tyre wall situated between turns three and six - the result of a brake issue.
After a short period of running under clampdown conditions, the race was suspended, therefore depriving Steve Hay of the chance to finish off his brilliant fight, and also preventing Murray Kent of the opportunity to try and reclaim the lead.
Oberhofer walked away from the incident, and was OK, but his car wasn’t, nor was the tyre barrier. With officials needing to repair the barrier, and the sun fast-setting, the decision was made to NOT restart the race on Saturday afternoon, and instead, postpone it to Sunday morning, which meant a full race restart would take place.
The loser out of that, was Steve Hay, who’d worked his way through, from fifth on the grid, and would be forced to do it all again, on a cold track, first thing on a Sunday morning. On the opposite side of the coin, the winner out of a full-race start situation was Adrian Blackwell, who ended up bogged in the gravel trap, at turn 1, in the first start on Saturday afternoon.
Mark Giorgio didn’t take his place on the grid for the restart. The engine dramas he suffered in race 1 continued in the original running of the second race, and instead of risking making the problem worse, he opted to sit on the sideline for the remainder of the weekend, and he’ll now turn his attention to getting the problems fixed and sorted, in readiness the next round of the championship, at Lakeside Park.
Off the start, in the restart, it was Murray Kent who took and early lead, as Hay struggled to repeat the cracking start he got in the original race 16 hours prior, but, by using the sheer horsepower of his engine, to his advantage, he still found a way to be second by the end of the opening lap.
Despite his best efforts, Hay was unable to make a move on Murray Kent, who held on to record his fifth win of the season, by 1.3 seconds over Hay, who was sixteen seconds clear of Alister Mitchell, who held off Ashley Hooper and Adrian Blackwell for the final spot on the podium.
Rob Droder continued his great run, winning A2 again, three seconds clear of Stuart Walker and Gary Anger. Post-race, Lance Jurgeleit was hit with a 30-second penalty for unsportsmanlike behaviour, which saw him drop from fourth to seventh in Class A2.
Class B was won John Phoenix, after a cracking scrap with Leo Graae, who came home in second, well clear of Peter Jolly, who rounded out the podium.
The drama continued in race 3. Steve Hay took an early lead, but the fight was on, between he and Murray Kent, and before too long, they came together at turn four, as Hay was trying to hold on to his race lead.
Kent came out of that incident worse for wear, as he lost far more time than Hay, but both title contenders were able to continue.
From there, it became quite processional for Steve Hay, who took the chequered flag, winning by nine seconds, from Kent, who comfortably held off Ashley Hooper for second, with the BMW pilot rounding out the podium.
In Class A2, Robert Droder was, again, victorious, ahead of Leonard Meiers and Lance Jurgeleit this time around, as the regular culprits, Stuart Walker and Gary Anger, both ran into trouble over the 12 lap journey.
Walker could only manage sixth in class (13th outright), but it was worse news for Anger, who came home last in class, 19th outright, as he continued to battle ongoing brake problems with the commodore, that first appeared during racing on the opening day of this round. The problem worsened in race three, when he almost ended up in snake gully. Anger lost the brakes, and ended up way out in the weeds at turn four, but was able to resume, and nursed the car to the chequered flag, to secure valuable championship points.
Post-Race, Steve Hay weekend suffered yet another blow, when he was hit with a 30-second penalty for his role in the incident, with Murray Kent, at turn 4 - a penalty that relegated him to third position. As a result, Murray Kent inherited the race win - his sixth of the season, and further extended his lead in the Class A1 championship, heading into the twelfth race of the season, and Ashley Hooper moved up to second.
With only twenty-four cars taking the start for Race 4, the decision was made to run the final race of the weekend on the Clubman circuit, instead of the National, as was previously scheduled.
The change of track had little to no impact on the outcome. Steve Hay, out for redemption, raced hard with Murray Kent in the opening laps, before finally making a clean move, for the lead, on lap five.
From there, it was a tight fight, and one that was greatly enjoyed by those watching on, but despite his best efforts, Murray Kent settled for second, as Steve Hay recorded his sixth win of the season, by just three-tenths of a second, ahead of Kent, who played it smart, knowing that he not only had the championship to think about - he’d already extended his points advantage this weekend - but there was also the matter of securing the round win as well, and he did that without any further dramas.
Third place went to Ashley Hooper once more, with Alister Mitchell finishing fourth, to cap a pretty impressive first weekend in the Queensland Touring Car Championship, and Adrian Blackwell rounded out the top five.
Leonard Meiers scored his second win of the weekend, in Class A2, ahead of Rob Droder, and Matthew Haak, which was enough for Droder to secure round honours. Gary Anger and Stuart Walker were fifth and sixth in class respectively, but they remain the men to catch in the points race, as it reaches the half-way mark for 2018.
Mark Hyde bounced back from a retirement in Race 2, to win Race 4, in Class B, ahead of John Phoenix and Peter Jolly. Hyde’s retirement gifted John Phoenix a comfortable round win - his first of the season.
Three rounds down, three to go - the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship has reached the half-way mark, and the teams and drivers will now enjoy a much needed 7-week break before Round 4 takes them back to Lakeside Park, where they’ll serve as the headline act for the annual Lakeside Classic - a weekend that could well end up being a defining round of the 2018 season.
Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship
Pole Position: Murray Kent (1:17.7464)
Race 1: 1st Murray Kent, 2nd Ashley Hooper, 3rd Alister Mitchell
Class Winners: Leonard Meiers (A2), Les Hanifin (B)
Race 2: 1st Murray Kent, 2nd Steve Hay, 3rd Alister Mitchell
Race 3: 1st Murray Kent, 2nd Ashley Hooper, 3rd Steve Hay
Race 4: 1st Steve Hay, 2nd Murray Kent, 3rd Ashley Hooper Class Winners:
Fastest Lap: Murray Kent - 1:17.8610 (Race 2 - Lap 5)
Next Round: Lakeside Classic | August 10-12.