Words and Photos by Paul Griffin unless otherwise noted
Jamie Veal driving the NSW #6 Active Power Steering entry has picked up his 2nd $10K Winner’s Cheque this month with a solid victory at Avalon Raceway – Geelong, Victoria in the 32nd running of the President’s Cup.
Defending Champion Robbie Farr threw everything he had at Veal in the dying laps with a car that was coming on “Big Time”, but in the end Veal did everything right, was cool in a crisis and insulated himself from the “Farr Attack” by placing a lapped car between the pair with just a few laps to go.
The final podium went to Albury’s Grant Anderson in a gusty drive. On the podium Anderson lamented that the Team were finding the demands of the intense Aussie Sprintcar Season a bit of a stretch and that next year unless further Marketing Partners were to assist, they would look at cutting the racing season of the V37 down to a 6 week window.
Allansford Driver Stephen Bell was on pole along side Jamie Veal for the 35 lap feature and lead proceedings confidently until he spun on the dry slick Turn3/4 surface with just 9 laps of the 30 lap final remaining – bringing on the yellows and forcing him to the rear. Earlier in the race the first yellow was shown for a tangle in Turn 1/2 between Shane Stewart and Domain Ramsay. Both cars unable to restart. Local driver Ramsay had performed brilliantly to secure a P3 start along side Time Kaeding but that is where it all came unstuck.
Stephen Bell looked good out in front early with Veal, Farr, Kaeding and Anderson on a mission to chase him down. The second yellow was 8 laps in when WA’s Shaun Bradford tagged the Turn 2 wall and was forced to retire with right front corner damage. Next to experience the yellows was American Wayne Johnson with 11 laps down in the USA 39 when he knocked the wall heavily coming out of (you guessed it !!!!!!!!!!!!) Turn 2 and sheared an axle with the right rear catapulting high into the air, but remaining within the arena confines.
Bell continued to dominate out in front.The track was taking rubber and going dry slick and with only 9 to go and what seemed like an invincible position, Bell looped the Victory Lane V88 in Turns 3/4. He tried valiantly to keep the machine going but to no avail. He was sent to the rear and was obviously heart broken. Still not giving in and with only 9 laps to run, Bell came from the rear with a wet sail and finished a creditable 12th.
With Bell out of the way, Veal assumed the lead and went through for victory with Farr snapping at his rear in the last laps. Farr had been on a mission and showed great car speed up high – a tremendous effort after starting out of P7. Grant Anderson sailed home for 3rd after starting on the third row in P6. First American home was Time Kaeding in 4th just a short distance back.
A massive field of 56 cars included an incredible tally of 15 visiting Americans. The night started with the usual hot lap sessions. Time Trials then provided plenty of action with crashes and cars that refused to start.
In-Form American Jason Sides (U7) smacked the Turn 1/2 fence in his qualifying run, presumably as a result of steering failure. His attempt at quick time was cut short although his first lap of 12.944 was luckily logged – albeit a slow one. Taylor Milling washed up high and tagged Turn 2 wall and inverted the Totally Work Wear W25 – no time was taken.
James Hennessy (V21) also tagged the “popular” Turn 2 wall, stayed upright but coasted to a halt down the back straight. Brooke Tatnell ran time trials with a motor that wasn’t sounding 100% – it sounded like it was “fluttering” and he came in at 20th place ; 0.5 seconds off David Murcott’s Quick Time of 11.972 sec. Tatnell’s #25 Team (Steve Caunt Racing) set about probing the issue and despite a heat win that came next for Tatnell, he indicated that there was still a gremlin lurking. The Team grappled with that one all night.
Still on qualifying, Brett Milburn also had engines woes with a mill that wouldn’t fire up. Brad Warren in the V54 completed his timed run of 12.529 sec only to pull up with a major fuel leak – luckily no fire !
And finally to round out the difficult qualifying session, USA Star Caleb Griffith couldn’t get his USA60 to fire up at all.
So QT went to David Murcott (11.972 sec), from Tim Kaeding (11.979 sec), James McFadden (11.980 sec), Kyle Hirst (11.992 sec) and rounding out the Top 5 local racer Matthew Reed (12.036 sec) – 64/1000 ths of a second behind QT.
Only the top 30 times would advance directly to the heat races. The remaining drivers were to fight it out over two non-qualifier Features with the top three from each feature advancing. The first Non-Qualifier saw locals Nick Lacey and Michael Cunningham advance to heats together with NQ 38 Aidan Gee.
The second non-Qualifier Feature saw Americans Shane Stewart and Darryn Pitman advance along with Queensland’s Steven Rowell.
Heats were taken out by Domain Ramsay (V20), Brooke Tatnell (N25), Brad Warren (V54), Tim Kaeding (W2), David Murcott (Q83) and James McFadden (A1).
The B-Main saw the race declared with 2 laps to go as 2nd season local Victorian racer Brad Warren experienced steering failure and speared straight into the Turn 2 wall, forcing the V54 into a wicked wild ride. At the time Warren had virtually nailed a transfer. Transferees ended up being Danny Reidy (winner), Darren Hickman, Terry McCarl and Shane Stewart.