Words and Photos by Paul Griffin (Heaps more photos to come after we report on the Warrnambool Speedweek finale towards the end of this week)
Sunday 30th Dec – American Jason Johnson produced the form that we are so used to seeing during World Series Sprintcars Speedweek by taking a hard fought race win in Round 4 at Lara’s Avalon Raceway – Victoria.
Johnson crossed the flagstand in the #47 Maxim just ahead of a very determined James McFadden (NQ25 Cool) and USA’s Tim Kaeding in the Krikke Motorsport USA2 Cool.
Home in 4th was local Avalon Guru Matthew Reed followed by David Murcott (#83 Eagle) and veteran Robbie Farr in the East Coast Pipelines #7 Maxim. The 2nd place of McFadden was enogh to catapult him into the Series pointscore lead.
Johnson and McFadden in an incredibly rare event set an identical time of 12.318 sec in qualifying. Johnson’s second lap was quicker so that gave him the official QT (Don’t get that really, but that is what they said over the PA).
The Bronze shootout was won by Tim Kaeding from Robbie Farr. While the Silver Shootout was taken out by James McFadden from Tim Kaeding and the Gold shootout went to James McFadden from Jason Johnson. This gave McFadden the choice of the front row – he elected to start off the inside pole.
When the green dropped to signal the start of the 35 lap final, McFadden quickly jumped to the lead. Unfortunately this was to be an aborted attempt to get underway with visiting American Kyle Hirst rolling in turn1 – an incident that would put the #99 ART out of the event. Daniel Pestka was involved in the same incident and lost the front end. The Pestka Team tried in vain to effect repairs but the time clock beat them.
The second attempt to get racing saw Johnson take the lead into turn 1 just ahead of McFadden. Matthew Reed wasn’t letting them skip away and went with them, 5 cars further back was Kaeding, Farr, Murcott and Shaun Dobson.
Kaeding moved to the top and found good grip. Reed pulled his top wing right back and stayed down low and for the next 5 laps they went head to head – not even a cigarette paper could separate them. The same was true for leaders Johnson and McFadden. It was a great spectacle.
By lap 8 Johnson was on the back markers and Reed had closed in on McFadden – signalling his intentions by poking the nose of the #92 Maxim in front of McFadden’s #25 Cool through turns 1/2.
McFadden fought back and then closed in on Johnson as lapped traffic impeded Johnson’s forward thrust. McFadden then pulled off a magical slide job on Johnson in turn 4 to take the lead. Less than ½ a lap later Johnson wrestled back the lead and the two set about threading through the congestion of back markers.
It was difficult to know where to look as battles in the top 10 were happening “left. Right and centre”.
On lap 21 the wretched luck of Shaun Dobson continued when the #97 Cool rode the wall entering turn 3 and then rolled. The car was unable to restart but Dobson emerged OK. 14 laps remained and the order was Johnson, McFadden, Reed, Kaeding, Murcott, Farr, Stewart, Anderson, Bell, Dillon, Lines, Cunningham, Vogels, Milnes, Keller, and House.
The race continued non-stop until the checkers fell with the same frantic level of racing between the leading cars. Tim Kaeding found new inspiration and with two feet on the accelerator swept past Reed to take 3rd on lap 23.
On lap 26 Johnson was again confronted with lapped traffic and was superb at weaving high and low to made headway. Equally impressive was James McFadden who simply refused to let Johnson get away – he remained on Johnson’s rear nerf bar all the way to the finish line.
Official results were Jason Johnson first, from James McFadden, Time Kaeding (with a boiling radiator), Matthew Reed, David Murcott and Robbie Farr.
Heat 1 was won by Jack Lee in a race that saw WA’s Shaun Bradford dicing with Robbie Farr lap after lap. It was great close racing until there was a tough and Bradford retired with a left rear flat.
Heat 2 went the way of David Murcott in a routine race. Heat 3 saw Dennis Jones spin in turn 1 with a brilliant evasive manoeuvre executed by WSS Contracted Driver Trent Pigdon (#W19). Danny Smith in the immaculate #55 Bottle-O Maxim contacted the main straight wall after minor contact with another car and inverted the machine and was out for the night. Steve Caunt took an impressive runaway win while Pigdon and Matthew Reed had a great battle mid pack.
Heat 4 saw Shane Stewart tag Domain Ramsay’s right rear, sending him into a flip which also took out young 17 year old Jake Tranter (#45). The Monte Motorsport/Monster Energy #7 J&J require a full driveline rebuild.
Heat 6 saw American Kyle Hirst with one lap remaining streak past countryman Caleb Griffith who had led the majority of the race. In the mid pack Johnson, Anderson and McKay had a ripper battle.
Heat 7 went to Time Kaeding who wore down Steve Caunt. Caunt had driven superbly and led for most of the race. Danny Smith was a no show as a result of a bent chassis.
Heat 8 Popular Steven Lines who was running 2nd in the WSS pointscore coming into the event retired with steering issues. These were to dog the Halls Motorsport Team #3 KPC all night, and affected his performance in his first heat where he battled the car just to get over the line. The problem ended up being a small valve in the power steering box. Shane Stewart won after the Team were forced to rebuild the driveline (including “Torque Tube”) after his first heat roll over.
The Last Chance Qualifier (B-Main) was won by American Kyle Hirst, from Grant Anderson, Johnny Vogels, Shane Stewart and Shaun Dobson.
The WSS pointscore after 4 Rounds is really hotting up with only 84 points separating the Top 5 Drivers: McFadden 1103, Dillon 1067, Lines 1057, Farr 1033, Johnson 1019, Stewart 920, Keller 891, Kaeding 854, Pestka 815, Hirst 771, Dobson 729, Bradford 714, Murcott 694, Egel 623, House 568, Lacey 549, Caunt 519, March 513, Pigdon 495, Tranter 493.
And that was Avalon World Series Sprintcars results for Speedweek 2012. Now it’s off to Warrnambool on Jan 1st 2012 for the final Round of Speedweek where all the same players and more, will do it all over again.