Kent Sweeps Finale, Secures Championship
Kent Sweeps Finale, Secures Championship. Championship honours for Murray Kent, Stuart Walker and Mark Hyde, as Season 2018 comes to an end.
All three class title fights were still alive heading into the final round of the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship, at Queensland Raceway, but that didn’t last long.
Even though he was absent from this round of the series, Mark Hyde secured the Class B title at the end of the opening race of the 2018 finale, as Leo Graae was unable to score the points required to keep the championship alive any longer. As for the ‘A’ classes, while the writing was on the wall on Saturday afternoon, both weren’t officially over until championship Sunday.
Twenty-nine cars took to the circuit for the final qualifying session of the season, and at the pointy end, Murray Kent got the first bragging rights of the weekend, claiming his third pole position of the year. The Torana driver edged out Steve Hay’s Commodore by 0.2356, while the Monaro of Christopher Sharples rounded out the top three, and Ashley Hooper was the first of the non-Holden entries, claiming fourth of the grid, in his BMW E36 .
In Class A2, Stuart Walker and Gary Anger were upstaged by Michael Woodcroft, who claimed the final pole of the year. Woodcroft was one second clear of the championship contenders, who were second and third fastest, respectively, ahead of Matthew Haak and Lance Jurgeleit.
In Class B, Chris Holdt ensured that Holden claimed pole position in all three classes. Holdt clocked a 1:25.5634, to finish over a second clear of Shannon Cane, who finally got to complete a competitive lap in a qualifying session, as she finished clear of Mark Giorgio, Steven Harper and John Phoenix, who rounded out the top five.
Before we even got to the opening race of the weekend, there was a championship defining moment unfolding in the pit paddock, where Steve Hay’s team had discovered a mechanical issue with the Commodore, and were working feverishly to fix it, and get it to the grid for that first race.
In Hay’s words, the team had to pull a head off, to replace a lifter, which was an easy enough task, but not one that could be completed without a trip away from the circuit, to grab the necessary parts. Unfortunately, with time against them, Hay would be a non-starter for the opening race of the weekend, but did confirm that he’d be starting from the rear of the field, for race two, later in the day.
Hay’s absence gave Murray Kent a FREE PASS - the chance to grab a race win, and the seventy-five points that go with it - seventy-five points that would give him a near unassailable lead in the title fight.
Race 1 of the weekend saw Ashley Hooper take the early lead - he bolted out of the gate, and caught both Kent and Sharples by surprise. Hooper’s run at the front ended prematurely, with Murray Kent taking the lead away from the BMW pilot on lap 5. Sharples displaced Hooper on the following lap, but no one was catching Murray Kent, who went on to record his tenth win of the season. While he did it easy in the end, he was by no means comfortable, as Chris Sharples spent the entire race in close pursuit of the Torana, and was only a second off Kent at the end of the ten-lap affair.
Third place went to Adrian Blackwell, who finished clear of Piers Harrex and Ashley Hooper, rapidly fell down the order in the closing laps, to record his worst finish of the season, down in fifth, in a rare race where he wasn’t the first BMW to take the chequered flag.
Rob Droder absolutely smashed his competition in Class A2, finishing seven seconds clear of Matthew Haak and Gary Anger, who kept the title fight alive, by finishing ahead of Stuart Walker, who came home in fourth. Lance Jurgeleit rounded out the top five.
In Class B, Chris Holdt continued his dominance - converting pole position into race one victory - finishing clear of Mark Giorgio, Steven Harper, Leo Graae and Peter Jolly, who rounded out the top five.
Coming into this weekend, Leo Graae needed to win all four races if he was to claim an unlikely win in the Class B championship race, but fortunately for Mark Hyde, who wasn’t competing in this event, Graae only managed fourth in the opening race, and therefore Mark Hyde, the Ford Escort driver, was crowned the Class B champion with three races to spare.
Unfortunately, Shannon Cane’s long season of mechanical woes continued, as she retired from the race, and would be left chasing the problem for the remainder of the weekend.
There was no shortage of drama in the second race of the day, after a first corner incident between Matthew Haak and Rob Droder saw Droder stranded in the middle of the circuit, where he was later cleaned up by Simon Harrex, as the remainder of the field tried to fight their way through the mess at turn 1.
Officials had no option but to stop the race, with both Droder and Harrex unable to return to the pits under their own steam.
Several cars sustained some sort of damage in that incident - the biggest of the season - with Droder, Harrex and also John Phoenix unable to take the restart. Phoenix sustained minor front end damage in the incident, and while he would be able to return for races 3 and 4, the weekend, and therefore season, was over for Droder and Harrex
A slightly depleted field returned to the track for a full restart, meaning Steve Hay would have to work his way through, from the back, all over again. Off the restart, Murray Kent took the early lead, as Steve Hay began his charge through the field. The restart did him no favours whatsoever though, as he got a far better jump in the original start.
Hay was up into twelfth by the end of the opening lap, as Murray Kent took the early lead, ahead of Sharples and Blackwell, while Ashley Hooper was forced into retirement, before the first lap was complete.
Kent continued to ease away from Sharples, who was being pursued by Blackwell and Steve Hay, who made light work of the field, to be sitting in fourth on lap five, and third a lap later, as Blackwell was relegated to fourth.
When Hay made light work of Sharples, on lap 10, he went out in pursuit of Murray Kent, but it wasn’t to be, as Kent held on, to win his eleventh race of the season, by 1.3 seconds. Sharples, Blackwell and Steven Harris rounded out the top five.
In Class A2, disaster for Stuart Walker, who was forced to retire on the final lap of the race, which was great news for Gary Anger, who finished second, behind Michael Woodcroft, and took a huge chunk out of Walker’s points advantage.
Lance Jurgeleit and Adam Pye were the only other Class A2 drivers to greet the chequered flag.
In Class B, it was another win for Chris Holdt, ahead of Steven Harper, Peter Jolly, Leo Graae and Les Hanifin. Mark Giorgio, after a great opening race, struggled in Race 2, to finish seventh in class.
Sunday morning arrived, and so did Steve Hay’s last chance to deprive Murray Kent of title supremacy, but, for the 2016 champion, it wasn’t to be.
As he did in the previous race, Murray Kent took the early lead, and didn’t look back - leading every single lap on his way to his third win of the weekend, the win in which he’d secure Class A1 honours in the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship for 2018.
Steve Hay finished second, ahead of Adrian Blackwell, Ashley Hooper and Piers Harrex. For Hay, second was his for 2018, and he was rather excited about that, as he’d never been the runner-up before, and as for Ashley Hooper, driving from the rear of the field, to fourth, was a nice way to bounce back after the disappointment of race two, and it assured him of a third place finish for the season.
In Class A2, Michael Woodcroft blitzed the competition, to finish twenty-three seconds ahead of Gary Anger and Lance Jurgeleit, while Stuart Walker was fourth and Adam Pye came home in fifth. In finishing second, Anger was able to force the championship battle to the final race of the season, but he would need to win the race, and have Walker retire, if he was to claim an unlikely victory.
Chris Holdt made it three wins from three starts in Class B, ahead of Mark Giorgio, Steven Harper, Peter Jolly and Leo Graae.
The final race of the season was originally scheduled for the National Circuit, but with searing temperatures, and a depleted field, it was moved to the Clubman Circuit, and while it was still contested over 12 Laps, the overall race distance was nearly twelve kilometres shorter than originally scheduled.
Steve Hay was a non-starter, which paved the way for Murray Kent to finish the season with an elusive clean-sweep - something neither Kent nor Hay had managed to achieve in the preceding five rounds of the championship.
Off the start, Ashley Hooper was the early leader - the BMW is better suited to the Clubman Circuit than it is the National - but, it didn’t last long, as Hooper pulled into the pits, and into retirement, at the end of the second lap. It was an unfortunate end to a very consistent season for the BMW driver.
With Hooper’s demise, Kent inherited the lead once again, and was never challenged, as he raced off into the sunset of season 2018, to claim a nine-second win, and his thirteenth victory of season 2018.
The battle for second provided phenomenal entertainment, with Michael Woodcroft, the Class A2 Torana, taking the fight to Blackwell and Sharples in the early stages, but once that settled down, Adrian Blackwell scored his best-ever career finish, with second, ahead of Sharples, while Woodcroft claimed victory in Class A2, ahead of Lance Jurgeleit and Gary Anger, while Stuart Walker and Adam Pye rounded out the top five.
Fourth was all that Stuart Walker needed, in order to claim the Class A2 Championship for 2018, after a gallant fight from Gary Anger.
In Class B, it was a clean-sweep for Chris Holdt, as he made it four wins from four starts. Steven Harper was second, and the top two were a lap clear of John Phoenix, who rounded out the podium, just ahead of Leo Graae and Nick Linton, who rounded out the top five.
In the end, after six rounds, twenty-four races, only four drivers managed to sweep a round this year - Gary Anger (A2) and Andrew Knight (B) cleaned up at the Lakeside Tribute, while Murray Kent (A1) and Chris Holdt (B) achieved the feat at the Ipswich Classic.
Round 6 | Class A1 Pole Position: Murray Kent (1:18.1186)
Race 1: 1st Murray Kent, 2nd Christopher Sharples, 3rd Adrian Blackwell
Race 2: 1st Murray Kent, 2nd Steve Hay, 3rd Christopher Sharples
Race 3: 1st Murray Kent, 2nd Steve Hay, 3rd Adrian Blackwell
Race 4: 1st Murray Kent, 2nd Adrian Blackwell, 3rd Christopher Sharples
Fastest Lap: Murray Kent - 1:18.9294 (Race 3 - Lap 2)
Round 6 | Class A2 Pole Position: Michael Woodcroft (1:21.6191)
Race 1: 1st Rob Droder, 2nd Matthew Haak, 3rd Gary Anger
Race 2: 1st Michael Woodcroft, 2nd Gary Anger, 3rd Lance Jurgeleit
Race 3: 1st Michael Woodcroft, 2nd Gary Anger, 3rd Lance Jurgeleit
Race 4: 1st Michael Woodcroft, 2nd Lance Jurgeleit, 3rd Gary Anger
Round 6 | Class B Pole Position: Chris Holdt (1:25.5634)
Race 1: 1st Chris Holdt, 2nd Mark Giorgio, 3rd Steven Harper
Race 2: 1st Chris Holdt, 2nd Steven Harper, 3rd Peter Jolly
Race 3: 1st Chris Holdt, 2nd Mark Giorgio, 3rd Steven Harper
Race 4: 1st Chris Holdt, 2nd Steven Harper, 3rd John Phoenix
As for the championships, Murray Kent ended up 219 points clear of Steve Hay, and 368 ahead of Ashley Hooper. The margin isn’t an accurate reflection of how the season played out - on-track, it was a lot closer than that, but Kent finishing all twenty-four races, as opposed to Hay only finishing 21 is where the margin stems from in the final analysis.
Thirteen wins for Murray Kent, ten to Steve Hay, and a single victory, in the rain, for Ashley Hooper.
In Class A2, Stuart Walker was only 66 points clear of Gary Anger in the end - Anger made huge inroads in the final round, but it wasn’t enough, and he’s forced to settle for second again. A great season for Lance Jurgeleit, who came home in third position - only 71 points shy of Anger in the end.
In Class B, Mark Hyde had a 281 point lead coming into the final round, and was still 70 points to the good at the end of it. It was a gallant effort from Leo Graae, but trying to erase that deficit was always going to be a long shot, but he claimed second, in the championship, by a fairly comfortable margin, ahead of John Phoenix, who, despite the retirement in race 2 here at Queensland Raceway, managed to claim the final spot on the Class B championship podium, for season 2018, over Nick Linton, by just 19 points.
With season 2018 behind us, attention now turns to the 2019 campaign. Once again, the Queensland Touring Car Championship will be contested over six rounds, but next year, those six events will be spread across three different venues.
As is tradition, the season will commence at the Lakeside Tribute, which is scheduled for March 15-17, and the year will end, as it did in 2018, at the Ipswich Classic.
In between, the series will feature at 2 Days of Thunder, the Lakeside Classic, and the Lakeside 300, but before all of them, a new event for season 2019, that will see the category feature on the bill at Morgan Park, when the Warwick venue plays host to the second round of the 2019 Australian Motor Racing Series, sanctioned by the Australian Auto Sport Alliance (AASA).
The inclusion of the Morgan Park event comes at the expense of the Willowbank 300, meaning the series will only visit Ipswich twice next year.