In a race that delivered heroics and heartbreak in equal measure, Sydney young gun Michael Saller proved unstoppable in his charge to victory in round 13 of the East Coast Logistics Sprintcar Track Championship at Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway on Saturday night (April 14). In a fitting reward for his willingness to hit the road in search of experience, Saller led all 30 laps of the feature event to finish ahead of Mitchell Gee and Cody Maroske, with Bryan Mann and Andrew Scheuerle rounding out the top five. A mighty drive from Peter Lack saw him surge from the back row to finish sixth in advance of Jayden Peacock, Luke Oldfield, Kevin Britten and Mick Sauer.
In round eight of the Polar Ice Midget Track Championship, Scott Farmer strengthened his grip on the title with another feature race win, this time over Rusty Whittaker, Glenn Wright, Reid Mackay and Mark George.
It was business as usual in the Formula 500 feature race with Liam Williams home first ahead of Kristin Brown and Kurt Wilson, while Aaron Kelly cleaned up in the Lightning Sprint feature race to defeat Keith Blatch and Jeremy Hassall.
When Mitchell Gee stopped the clock at 11.717 in the first group to hit the track for Sprintcar qualifying, the general consensus seemed to be that Gee had secured maximum points. Alas, that was certainly not how things panned out as Gee found himself shuffled to tenth overall with Bryan Mann ultimately topping the timesheets with an 11.375 effort that edged out Dan Murray (11.419), Mick Sauer (11.442) and Maroske (11.453). Saller, Brock Dean and Lachlan McHugh also outpointed Gee, whose closest championship rivals in Andrew Scheuerle and Luke Oldfield languished in 22nd and 17th respectively in the 30-car field.
The opening heat saw Scott Genrich notch his first win of the season, leading home Andrew Corbet and Andrew Marks in a race that saw Mann struggle to make any inroads and ultimately trail the field some 13 seconds adrift of the leaders.
A miraculous finish to heat two saw Oldfield snatch victory by the narrowest possible margin, denying Brad Ayers by 0.001 as they raced under the chequer, with Allan Woods third.
Scheuerle was untroubled in winning the next two preliminaries from the front row, downing Mitch Gowland and McHugh in heat three and then outpacing Dave Whell and Woods in heat four.
Oldfield doubled up to take heat five and propel himself into the field for the Dash, finishing ahead of rookie youngster Randy Morgan, who is making very quick progress in his development, with Jayden Peacock third.
His earlier success amounted to nothing when Genrich earlier flipped heavily in the final heat and ended his participation in proceedings while Gee raced away to defeat Ayres and Mitch Gowland.
At the completion of the preliminaries, McHugh, Murray, Titman and Gee sat equal atop the points table but it was Murray, by virtue of his superior effort in time trials, who emerged as top qualifier before drawing a position six start in the Dash. In his best effort so far this season, Kevin Titman finished second overall and subsequently selected position four, while third-placed McHugh drew the pole marble and would share the front row with Saller. Taking full advantage of his good fortune, McHugh raced through the 8 laps in a new track record time to defeat Saller, Titman, Gee, Mann, Oldfield, Maroske and Murray.
Peter Campbell and Jason King shared the spoils in the Development Sprintcar heats before Campbell scored a comfortable win in the C Main. Liam Atkinson finished second to also secure a berth in the B Main, with Aleesha Woods home third ahead of King and Libby Ellis.
Having raced to a place on the feature race podium just a few weeks ago, Peacock made easy work of the B Main, leading Whell and Ayers to the line. Drawing on all his experience, Australian Dirt Modified champion Kevin Britten advanced from 10th to secure the final transfer spot into the main event.
At the drop of the green to get the feature underway, Saller shot to the front and settled into a fast groove on the cushion with McHugh in hot pursuit. Proceedings were halted on lap three when Woods and Brock Dean came to rest in a cuddle against the turn one wall, putting the latter out of action. Before another lap could be completed, the race was paused again when Oldfield spun to a halt in turn two and cruelled his podium aspirations. McHugh was the next to see his victory hopes dashed when, having dived under Saller through turn one, he spun in turn two and retired to the infield. The demise of McHugh demise elevated Titman into second spot ahead of Gee and Mann and the order at the front remained unchanged until Titman rode the back straight wall on lap 18 and flipped out, moving Gee into second spot. Having started 13th, 15th and 19th respectively, Scheurele, Peacock and Lack were making massive inroads further back to be running fifth through seventh at this stage. Saller continued to lead and when a flirtation with the bottom of the track enabled Gee to draw alongside with a couple of laps to run, the Sydneysider promptly moved uptrack once more and kept Gee at bay to secure his maiden feature race win. A late run from Maroske moved him ahead of Mann into third, with Scheurele and Lack next best in another wonderfully entertaining race. Peacock, Oldfield, Britten and Sauer rounded out the top ten, with Morgan upstaging some vastly more experienced rivals in finishing eleventh ahead of the remaining finishers in Whell, Murray, Brent Kratzmann and Ayers.
Defending Polar Ice Midget series champion Rusty Whitaker emerged with the fastest lap in time trials before racing home in the opening heat to defeat Brad Harrison and Tim Farrell, while Darren Vine made an early exit when he tipped over in turn three on lap four.
Farmer romped home in heat two over George and Nathan Mathers, who pounced on a Whittaker spin to win heat three ahead of George and Wright.
Farmer doubled up in heat four in advance of Brad Young and Mitchell Rooke, securing pole position for the 20-lap Polar Ice feature race.
With Whittaker alongside him on the front row, Farmer won the sprint into turn one and the pair cleared away from the field and, whilst Whittaker was unable to wrest the lead, a runner-up finish was a welcome result in what has been a season of frustrations and failures thus far. With Farmer maintaining a narrow, but largely unchallenged lead over Whittaker throughout, there was action aplenty courtesy of those fighting for the final place on the podium. George occupied third for much of the running before being relegated by Wright on lap 14 and then again by a fast-finishing Mackay on lap 18. Rooke, Mathers, Harrison, Brad Dawson, Dallas Sharp, Young and Farrell were the remaining finishers in a small field.
Formula 500 heat wins were shared between Liam Williams, Ryan McNamara and Kristin Brown but, come feature race time, it was a familiar story with Williams racing away from pole position to continue his dominance of the category, both here and interstate. Kristin Brown snared second spot ahead of Kurt Wilson, who bounced back from a heat race rollover, with McNamara and Ethan Eyears rounding out the first five. Brown would taste success later in the night though when she took out the Demolition Derby.
Daring to do double duty that included running consecutive races on more than one occasion, Kurt Wilson scored two heat wins in the more familiar surrounds of Lightning Sprint competition. Aaron Kelly won the other heat and then followed up with a strong run to win the feature race. Queensland champ Keith Blatch finished second ahead of Jeremy Hassall, Andrew Sparks and Darren Baldwin.
Wayne Kirkman downed Michael Taylor, Keith Craft, Daniel Taylor and Les Eisenmenger to win the Open Sedan feature race.
The next event at Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway is on Saturday, April 28 featuring round 14 of the East Coast Logistics Sprintcar Track Championship plus Compact Speedcars, Wingless Sprints, Modlites, Formula 500 Juniors and Ford vs Holden vs Sigma sedans.