Wins for Hay and Hooper as Kent consolidates Series Lead with One to go
Wet weather adds spice to penultimate round of the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship at Lakeside Park.
For the final time in 2018, the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship made its way to Lakeside Park, to do battle in round 5 of the season, as the leading support act for the Lakeside 300.
Holden’s hopes of winning all twenty-four races of the season, in Class A1, were dashed, when wet weather played right into the hands of Ashley Hooper’s BMW. Stuart Walker consolidated his Class A2 points lead, but not without some good fortune along the way, while Class B competitors were thankful for the diabolical wet weather, as it meant the breakout problem endured at the last round wouldn’t be an issue in the final two races of the weekend.
Once again, the new qualifying system was in place, where the grid for race 1 would be determined by the fastest qualifying time of each driver, and their second fastest time would set the grid for race 3, and where they finished Races 1 and 3 would be where they started 2 and 4 respectively.
Classes A1 and A2.
When it comes to single lap pace around the 2.41km cauldron, no one has more than Steve Hay, who clocked a 55.9492, to score Class A1 pole once again.
Points leader, Murray Kent, could only manage third, as Chris Sharples proved to be the surprise packet of the session. The Monaro driver almost clinched pole position – his best time was 56.0264, just 0.0772 off Hay – nevertheless, it was by far his best qualifying performance of the season.
Ashley Hooper was fourth, ahead of Adrian Blackwell, and Bayley Hall, who was the first of the A2 field.
Hall had an off-track excursion in Friday practice, but it didn’t slow him down, as he finished three-tenths clear of Stuart Walker, while Rob Droder was third.
In the championship battle, Walker got the upper-hand on Gary Anger, who was only fifth fastest, and twelfth outright at the conclusion of the fifteen-minute session.
Race 1 didn’t start well for Bayley Hall. The youngster missed a gear, and slipped right back through the field, and that saw Stuart Walker take the early lead in Class A2.
At the front of the field, Steve Hay converted pole position, and led every lap, on his way to his eighth win of the season, finishing just 1.5 seconds clear of Murray Kent.
Behind the top two, Christopher Sharples scored his best finish of the season, coming home in third. Sharples started second, but was relegated to third, by Kent, on the second lap of the race, and that was where he stayed, to finish well clear of Ashley Hooper and Adrian Blackwell, who rounded out the top five.
In Class A2, the pack did well to avoid collecting Bayley Hall, after he missed a gear off the start, but that did spread the pack very early in the piece.
Stuart Walker cleared out to claim a three-second victory over Rob Droder and Michael Woodcroft, with Gary Anger in fourth.
As the field took to the circuit for the second race of the weekend, the rain began to fall. It was expected, it was needed, but the problem was, the bulk of the field were running on slick tyres, which meant we were in for a rather hairy twelve laps.
As the race got underway, it was Ashley Hooper who charged his way to the front, as those around him did their best to navigate tricky conditions, but further back, Stuart Walker’s Commodore was blowing smoke, which forced him to park the car around the back of the circuit, and that saw the race neutralised.
While under clampdown, the rain started to get heavier, and as such, officials decided to cancel the race. The field returned to the pit paddock, as the rain intensified further, which saw officials meet to discuss options regarding a race restart, but in the end, time constraints left officials with no option but to postpone the restart to Sunday morning, which was a lucky break for Stuart Walker, and a potentially unlucky outcome for Ashley Hooper.
Stuart Walker’s mechanical dramas were an easy fix, meaning he would be able to take the restart on Sunday morning, and while that was good news for him, it didn’t do Gary Anger’s championship aspirations any favours at all.
Seventeen hours later, right on cue, the rain returned as the field was waiting to hit the circuit for the re-run of race two. In the hour leading up to the race, drivers were looking skyward, as they knew the rain was coming – they just didn’t know when, which resulted in frantic chaos in the lead up to race start. The late arrival of the rain also saw some drivers running wet tyres with a dry setup, which made for an interesting twelve-lap journey.
As the field took to the circuit, some drivers were still trying to get their cars ready, including the points leader, Murray Kent, in what was a championship changing moment.
Leonard Meiers and Adam Pye also joined the race late, but it was Kent, who started the race a lap down, that was the focus.
At the front, Steve Hay led the field away, and took the early lead, but running wet tyres with a dry setup was only going to work for so long, and on the second lap, the BMW of Ashley Hooper cruised into the race lead.
From there, Hooper streaked clear, to claim his first win of the season, and did so by 12 seconds, ahead of Hay, who battled his way through the challenging conditions, and held off Chris Sharples, in a captivating battle, to secure second, while Sharples was third. Behind them, Murray Kent was the fifth and final Class A1 runner – finishing eleventh outright, and while he maintained his finishing record, it was the first time he’d finished off the podium this season, and a race where Steve Hay took a serious chunk out of Kent’s points advantage.
In Class A2, the usual contenders were upstaged by Matthew Haak and Rob Droder. Haak secured his first win of the season, while Droder finished second, after a great scrap with Stuart Walker, who was just ahead of Gary Anger and Lance Jurgeleit.
The big winner of the new qualifying system was Murray Kent. After finishing the second race in eleventh position, he was back at the pointy end for the start of the following race.
The nineteenth race of the season was a competitive one, and while it lacked overtaking moves at the front of the field, it didn’t lack entertainment.
Steve Hay took the early lead, ahead of Chris Sharples and Murray Kent, and they wouldn’t move from those respective placings for the remainder of the race, which was neutralised in the early stages, for the stranded car of Bayley Hall, who was forced into retirement as a result of mechanical issues. Unfortunately for the youngster, those issues were unable to be resolved in time for race four, meaning he’d be a non-starter in the final race of the round as well.
Steve Hay went onto win the race by 35 seconds, ahead of Sharples and Kent, with the latter two separated by less than two seconds. After his earlier win, Ashley Hooper came home in fourth.
Post-race, officials addressed an incident that occurred during the clampdown. The advantage Steve Hay had over Sharples and Kent following the resumption of the race raised eyebrows in race control, and officials later determined that Hay did in fact gain an advantage during that neutralised portion of the race, and as such, they pinned him with a 30-second penalty, but it had no impact of the results whatsoever, as, even with the time applied, Hay had 4.2 seconds up his sleeve, and held onto his ninth win of 2018.
In Class A2, Holden dominated – locking out the first seven places in the field. Rob Droder was victorious after a terrific scrap with Stuart Walker, who extended his points lead over Gary Anger. Matthew Haak and Michael Woodcroft were next home, with Anger rounding out the top five.
The final race of the weekend, on a drying track, saw Steve Hay claim his third win of the weekend, and his tenth of the season – taking him past Murray Kent, who remained on nine, after failing to secure a win in this penultimate round, in what the first round where Kent hadn’t secured a race win all season.
In what was a somewhat processional affair, Hay took no risks in recording a 1.1 second victory over Ashley Hooper, who got the better of Christopher Sharples and Murray Kent, while Adrian Blackwell was a distant fifth.
In Class A2, it was a disastrous outing for the two championship contenders. Neither Gary Anger or Stuart Walker made it to the finish of the eight-lap affair. Anger failed to finish a lap, while Walker pulled up on lap four.
It was a blow for Anger, who missed out on an opportunity to claw back some of the deficit, to Walker, in the points race, and for Walker, a finish in that race would’ve all but secured the Class A2 title, but that will now be decided in the final round at QR, on the opening weekend of November.
As for the final race at Lakeside for season 2018, Rob Droder secured his second win of the weekend, one-second clear of Matthew Haak, who just edged out Lance Jurgeleit.
As for the round, in Class A1, Steve Hay had the near perfect weekend – securing 292 points, and reducing his deficit to Murray Kent, to just 53 points.
Ashley Hooper was second, while Chris Sharples completed a fantastic weekend, by securing the final spot on the podium.
In Class A2, the round belonged to Robert Droder, 33 points clear of Matthew Haak, while Stuart Walker, even with that retirement in the final race, secured the final spot on the podium.
Pole: Steve Hay (55.9492)
Race 1: 1st Steve Hay, 2nd Murray Kent, 3rd Christopher Sharples
Race 2: 1st Ashley Hooper, 2nd Steve Hay, 3rd Christopher Sharples
Race 3: 1st Steve Hay, 2nd Christopher Sharples, 3rd Murray Kent
Race 4: 1st Steve Hay, 2nd Ashley Hooper, 3rd Christopher Sharples
Fastest Lap: Steve Hay – 56.4699 (Race 1 | Lap 2)
Race 1: 1st Stuart Walker, 2nd Robert Droder, 3rd Gary Anger
Race 2: 1st Matthew Haak, 2nd Robert Droder, 3rd Stuart Walker
Race 3: 1st Robert Droder, 2nd Stuart Walker, 3rd Matthew Haak
Race 4: 1st Robert Droder, 2nd Matthew Haak, 3rd Lance Jurgeleit
Breaking out was the big talking point in the previous round of the Class B championship, and it was back in the headlines, again, after qualifying for the fifth round of the season, after Mark Hyde clocked a sub-62-second lap, and was therefore striped of pole position.
The points leader’s best legal time was only good enough for second position, as Simon Harrex, the man who stole the show at the Lakeside Classic, claimed his first Queensland Touring Car Championship pole position.
John Phoenix continued his strong Lakeside qualifying form, by clocking the third fastest time, just ahead of Leo Graae, and Alwyn Bishop, who we’re used to seeing in the Australian Trans-Am Series, but was on double duty this time out.
Race 1 was dominated by Simon Harrex and Mark Hyde. Hyde led the opening lap, before Harrex made his move on lap two. The BMW E30 driver held the lead for the remainder of the race, and was first to take the chequered flag, BUT, ONCE AGAIN, he was too fast for his own good, and break outs saw him relegated to fourth position, post-race.
Mark Hyde inherited the win, ahead of Steven Harper and Alwyn Bishop, who was impressing in his first QTCC outing.
A great battle for fifth saw Les Hanifin hold out Chris Holdt, John Phoenix and Leo Graae.
Unlike the ‘A’ classes, the ‘B’ group got to complete their second race on Saturday afternoon, and it was a case of de ja vu for both Simon Harrex and Mark Hyde.
Alwyn Bishop took the early lead, before Hyde overtook him on lap two. After starting fourth, Simon Harrex made his way by Steven Harper on the second lap, before setting out in pursuit of Alwyn Bishop.
At the midway point of the race, Harrex displaced Bishop, to take second, and then went after Hyde, who was still leading at that point.
On the final lap, Harrex eased by the Escort driver, and went onto take the chequered flag, three-tenths ahead of the points leader, but was again stripped of his win, for breaking out, while charging through the field. Harrex was relegated to fourth place.
Alwyn Bishop was promoted to second, while Leo Graae put in the drive of the race, to move from eighth to fourth, and then was elevated to third. John Phoenix rounded out the top five.
On Sunday, the heavens opened, the rains came, and the risk of breaking out disappeared, much to Simon Harrex’s liking.
Off the start, Harrex spreadeagled the field, bolted, and didn’t look back, cruising to a nine-second victory, ahead of Mark Hyde and Steven Harper, in diabolical conditions at Lakeside Park.
John Phoenix secured fourth, ahead of Nick Linton, while Leo Graae failed to finish a lap, and Shannon Cane was a retirement as well.
Race three was the first time Cane had taken the start all weekend, after mechanical and electrical dramas in Qualifying saw her miss the opening two races.
Post-race, Mark Hyde was handed a 40-second penalty, which was to be applied to his finishing time in Race 4.
The final race of the weekend followed a similar path to the third, with Simon Harrex cruising to another comfortable victory, eighteen-seconds ahead of Mark Hyde, who managed to maintain second, even with a 40-second penalty, as he was fifty seconds clear of Steven Harper, who finished third.
The big story in this race was young Shannon Cane, who finally after months of hard work and heartache, managed to get her Holden Commodore to the chequered flag, and in the process of doing so, she made driving in the challenging wet conditions look easy - accounting for Mark Giorgio, Malcolm Douglas, John Phoenix and others, with ease.
In the closing stages, after accounting for Nick Linton, following a three-lap tussle, she was closing in on Steven Harper, but ran out of laps, as she claimed a memorable fourth place finish, behind Harrex, Hyde and Harper, in what was an exact of the race three podium.
Round honours went to Mark Hyde, ahead of Simon Harrex and Steven Harper, as Hyde extended his championship lead to 281 points, with just one round to go.
Pole: Simon Harrex (1:02.1267)
Race 1: 1st Mark Hyde, 2nd Steven Harper, 3rd Alwyn Bishop
Race 2: 1st Mark Hyde, 2nd Alwyn Bishop, 3rd Leo Graae
Race 3: 1st Simon Harrex, 2nd Mark Hyde, 3rd Steven Harper
Race 4: 1st Simon Harrex, 2nd Mark Hyde, 3rd Steven Harper
Fastest Lap: Mark Hyde – 1:02.1352 (Race 1 | Lap 10)
The final round of the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship will be held at Queensland Raceway on the opening weekend of November, when our 2018 champions will be crowned.
Mark Hyde all but has Class B in the bag, while Stuart Walker is in the box seat for Class A2, but all eyes will be on Class A1, where Murray Kent and Steve Hay will fight it out for title supremacy. Just 53 points separate the pair, with only 4 races to go, and 300 points up for grabs.