Words and Pics by Paul Griffin
Robbie Farr and Stephen Bell crossed the finish line in the Victorian Sprintcar Title locked together in a dead heat. The electronic timing system is measured to 3 decimal point accuracy and showed after 30 torrid laps of racing 0.000 seconds separation between the Q7 and V88 cars – the two drivers could not be separated.
There was no count back or other method employed to determine an overall winner and that is a good thing because these two guys were in a class of their own and both deserved to win. Farr and Bell were thoroughly entertaining to watch – Masters through traffic, Masters of speed. So at the end of the day, the 2012 Victorian Sprintcar Title will go down in the history books as having two winners.
That is something that will not happen again, not so long as the electronic transponder system reports back to 1/1000 ths of a second accuracy – and that is more than enough !
There were 39 cars in the end chasing a start in the A-Main. Two rounds of 10 lap heats was the program to establish top points scorers. Victoria’s Darren Hickman (V40) was at the top of the qualifying list after heats – his 1st time ever.
The top 6 order was Hickman, Bell, Farr, Milburn, Rankin, Vogels. Individual 2 lap time trials were them run to determine the starting order for the first 3 rows on the A-Main.
Robbie Farr came out on top with 11.559. Bell was 59/1000 ths of a second behind with a 11.500. This set the stage for what was to be a fitting Dead Heat in the Final. Next came Vogels with 11.822, Hickman 11.830, Milburn 11.884 and defending Champion Tim Rankin who failed to complete the time trial after the push vehicle rode his left rear and caused damage to the V47. Rankin was given time to affect repairs but they were only a band aid. The car had been compromised and Rankin had to settle for outside 3rd row in the A-Main.
And so it came time for the green flag to be dropped for the 30 lap Victorian Title race and send 18 hopeful Drivers on their way.
Farr shot to the lead with Bell in hot pursuit. 2 laps in and Tim Rankin’s luck got worse as he ground to a stop on turn 4, presumably with rear end issues after the push vehicle incident in time trials.
The restart at 28 laps proved to be a demon, with none other than 3 failed attempts to cut a complete lap. First it was Ryan Davis (v95) triggering a Red with a whopping crash in Turn 4. Exit Ryan Davis.
Milburn (V68) and McFadden (NQ25) had slipped past a napping Johnny Vee (V70) and showing good car speed but the Red put an end to that – the passes not counting. On the restart the top 10 order was Farr, Bell, Vogels, Milburn, McFadden, Hickman, Phillips, Hunter, Dalton, and Van Bremen.
Next – Yellows on for the spinning GAS Classic Champion Ian Loudoun in Turn 1. Still 28 to go and another yellow with debris on the main straight – presumably a shocker from the retiring Ron Dalton (V44) who had just pulled in.
Try again – the 4th attempt to count down from lap 28 was successful. McFadden puts a move on Milburn after one rotation and sets out after Vogels. Farr skips out 6 car lengths to Bell, a further 6 back to Vogels, and McFadden is right on Vogels tail and testing the high groove.
With ten laps down, Bell is desperately trying to stay with Farr. The leader Farr has caught the tail and Domain Ramsay (V20) is in his gun sights. Farr has opened up a straightaway lead from Bell. Ramsay proves difficult to pass and Bell gets held up – McFadden closes as a result. Bell pulls off a text book slide job on Ramsay in turn 3/4 and sets sail to reel in the advantage that Farr has created.
Farr is slicing through traffic like a hot knife through butter, making it really hard for Bell to stay in touch. McFadden closes in on Ramsay but it is apparent that barring an accident or mechanical failure the Victorian Title is a race between two standouts – Robbie Farr and Stephen Bell.
Bell is clearly coming on, the set up is perfect now he has hit mid race distance and 15 laps remain. He is clearly quicker as he is able to close the gap on Farr. Race commentator Gavin White reports that Bell is circulating 2/10ths of a second quicker than Farr.
With 12 to go Charles Hunter (V73) slams into the turn 4 wall with a failed right rear wheel. The centre of the rim still fixed to the axle.
The homeward stretch restart order is Farr, Bell, McFadden, Vogels, Milburn, Hickman, Van Bremen, Cross, Mollenoyux, Jones, Phillips and Ramsay. Bell lifts the front wheels of the V88 out of turn 4 on the “get go” and stays with Farr. Farr tries everything to shake Bell. McFadden can’t keep up and slips 8 car lengths back.
Vogels and Milburn continue to battle it out for 4th and with 5 laps to go Farr has closed on the tail of soon to be lapped traffic. The tail of the field is occupied by Phillips. Farr and Bell struggle to get around him. Bell pulls wheelstands every time he goes down the back straight – it looks spectacular and at the same time is quick. Normally wheelies cost you time, but Bell is right on Farr’s tail tank and puts a big move on Farr. It doesn’t quite stick and Farr is surprised to see the V88 nose.
The white flag comes out to signal one to go and Bell wears Farr like a glove, waiting for a slip up – an opportunity to take the lead. Farr remains cool.
Out of turn 4 for the final time Farr goes high to get around lapped traffic. Bell realising he has just one more card to play dives low on the pole line. He grabs rubber and slingshots the V88 forward. Will it be enough? From our vantage point on turn 4 it looks like Bell may have done it – but the angle is deceptive.
Robbie Farr and Stephen Bell cross the finish line with horns locked and zero timing separation. Third across the line is Queensland’s James McFadden.
The race is declared a dead heat after several minutes and we have all just witnessed history in the making as two Driver’s are declared joint winners of the Victorian Sprintcar Title for season 2012. It truly was a fitting and dramatic conclusion to a memorable night. The best race I have seen in a long long time.
Congratulations to Robbie Farr and Stephen Bell – you entertained us to the max and showed us what Sprintcar racing is all about !
While we are on the subject of congratulations, Avalon Raceway Promoter Jeff Drew and his team need to take a well earned bow. The event was run superbly, attracted a big crowd and the track really was magnificent. We know when a track is good:
2) No Safety Glasses required
3) No track prep through the night
4) No ruts
5) Multiple racing lines
The prize money was combined for 1st and 2nd and split between the two drivers. Click on the following link to hear Gavin White explain the result.
What an amazing race we were treated to. As we have said, you will never see that result (Dead Heat) in an A-Main ever again in your lifetime.
To get to the end result, of course there were some Heats, a C and B Main !
Eight separate winners took out the 10 lap Heats. Most Heats were routine, however the race between Johnny Vogels (V70) and Dubbo’s Jeremy Cross (N39) for the win in Heat 5 was sensational. It was the best Heat race of the night with Vogels eventually taking the win.
Heat 4 saw a fair degree of carnage as Matthew Reed (V92) and Brenten Farrer (V34) wiped out in two separate crashes. That would see Reed out for the night.
Heat 6 saw sixty year old veteran Ron Dalton (V44) win in fine style. Jamie Veal (V35) had chased Dalton for many laps in a bid to take the lead. In the final turn, Veal desperate to take the win put a BIG high line move on Dalton, rode his right rear and catapulted into the turn 4 concrete wall. That meant Veal had to start from the C-Main and after transferring into the B-Main simply could get through to the A-Main.
Heat 8 saw another heavy roll over in turn 4 by Eddie Lumbar (N36) with 1 lap down. The car was righted and Lumbar got a restart with major wing damage. The car was cactus and after looping the N36 in turn 3/4 two laps on the restart. Lumbar pulled infield.
C- Main : 10 laps – Was taken out by Michael Cunningham (V74) followed by Jamie Veal (V35), Quentin Tanner (V54) and Rod Matthews (V9). These 4 would transfer to the B-Main.
B-Main : 15 laps – Was taken out by Dennis Jones (V17) from Adam King (V48), Ryan Davis (V95), Ian Loudoun (N18), Darren Mollenoyux (V77) and Domain Ramsay (V20). These 6 would transfer to the A-Main. 2 laps down Cunningham and Peter Milnes (V51) tangled in turn 2 with Cunningham out of the event.
And now for some more photos from the night……………………………