Words by Paul Griffin. Pics by Corey Gibson Photography, Laurie Benson and Paul Griffin
Warrnambool’s Premier Speedway was the scene last Saturday 24th March where Stephen Lines claimed a sweet victory in the Grand Final of the Eureka Garages & Sheds Series, while Darren Mollenoyux stamped his name on the overall Eureka Championship for 2011/12.
Lines recently changed camps and joined the Brian Hall owned Halls Haulage/Bridgestone Team out of Albany Western Australia. Driving the #3 KPC house car, Lines set about demolishing the opposition in what can only be described as the best first time (new Team) performance of the Sprintcar season.
Lines set a blistering 13.330 seconds in Qualifying – just 0.12 seconds outside the Premier Speedway track record. He also entered the Colosseum that night locked in a battle with Queensland’s James McFadden over the Premier Speedway Track Championship – the prize of which is a new GF1 Chassis and complete body kit compliments of Adrian Parr from Parr’s Motorsport.
Following last weekend’s victory Lines leads the Warrnambool Track Championship by 20 points over McFadden, with Darren Mollenoyux a further 40 points in arrears. Jamie Veal is a further 10 points behind Mollenoyux. Brett Milburn and Darren Hickman are remote outsiders still in with a chance of taking the Track Championship when they meet at Warrnambool on the final night of the Easter Trail.
So with Quick Time under his belt, Stephen Lines set out in his first Heat and proceeded to chalk up an effortless victory. At the track side post victory interview Lines praised the Halls Haulage Team and thanked Team Owners Brian and Di Hall for providing him the opportunity to race in a new Team, and for putting the fun back into racing. Lines seemed like a new man in the Hall’s Haulage #3 KPC – it was the Lines of last season, brimming with confidence and wanting to be exactly where he was in The Halls Motorsport Team !
The combination of Qualifying and Heat race results gave Stephen Lines Top Points for the night. He elected to start off P2 on the front row of the 30 Lap Final, believing the Warrnambool Clayway would give him a better slingshot down the straight from up higher out of T4.
The top 10 on the Grid for the Eureka Grand Final were Lines, McFadden, Rankin, Mollenoyux, Cross, Veal, Lee, Pestka, Hickman, and Vogels.
The decision to start off second pole paid off for Lines as he shot to the front with the drop of the green flag. Running close to the wall and with McFadden behind him and only 3 down, Lines ran over the dislodged rear Nerf bar from Domain Ramsay’s car. Yellows were thrown to remove the nerf bar and Lines was pulled infield to check for damage. Fortunately the #3 Hall Haulage/Bridgestone tyres KPC was given the all clear and Lines resumed. Not so for Domain Ramsay who had to be content as a spectator for the remaining 27 laps.
Restart underway, Lines demonstrates that he is the quickest car on the track. He does it in spectacular style – getting truckloads of bite and hiking the front wheels down the back straight. McFadden tries hard to run with lines. Both cars have a forgiving set-up that allows them to run high, low or anywhere in between – a great advantage when negotiating lapped traffic.
By the halfway mark Lines has a straightway lead and a car between himself and second placed McFadden. South Australia’s “Pint Sized Assassin” Daniel Pestka has moved past current Eureka Series points leader Darren Mollenoyux and appears rock solid in that position.
Mollenoyux has another problem – Jamie Veal is second in the points for the overall Eureka Championship. Tonight is the 2012 Championship decider and Veal can take the Championship if he finishes at least 10 cars ahead of Mollenoyux. Tough ask and almost needs Moly to DNF.
Veal gets past Mollenoyux and sets out after Pestka. Mollenoyux must drive fast enough so as not to slip back any further, but also cautiously so as not to DNF and hand the Championship to Veal.
Meanwhile at the front of the bus Stephen Lines continues to lead. McFadden quickly determines that there is no cushion in T3/4. He uses the berm build-up at the foot of the wall to position his right rear on to get drive out of the turn for a canon effect down the main straight. That technique seems to pay off as McFadden moves closer and closer to Lines and looks like mounting a Challenge.
Then with 10 laps remaining, Quentin Tanner and Tim Rankin come together in T3/4. Rankin goes upside down in a big way for the second time in March and exits the race. The race is restarted with Lines leading McFadden form Pestka, Veal, Mollenoyux, Cross, Hickman, April, Milburn, Sutherland, Foster, Hunter and Nick Lacey.
They run to the line non-stop and despite McFadden trying everything in his bag of tricks, including a text book demonstration of precision car placement – kissing the wall into T3 lap after lap to get the “Berm Drive”, Stephen Lines prevails and is convincingly triumphant.
McFadden crosses the line in second and SA’s Danny Pestka just grabs third as the SA27 explodes a left rear the moment it passes the flagstand.
It was a rich victory for Stephen Lines and a prestigious one too. Lines and the Hall’s Motorsport Team are already a formidable combination after just one outing and they are going to be very tough competition come Easter Trail time in a little over a week.
Warrnambool’s Jamie Veal finishes 4th and Darren Mollenoyux in V77 comes home in 5th which is enough to hand Mollenoyux the 2012 Eureka Garages & Sheds season Championship – Molly’s first ever Championship. The V77 Parr Motorsport House car was a model of consistency all season – and Molly took the Trophy without winning one feature race all season !
Torque Tube Media would like to thank Corey Gibson Photography (www.gibsonphotography.com.au) for assisting with photos from the event.