by Mark Cowin and Jamie Collins
Speedway action at Blue Ribbon Raceway on Saturday night showed the fickle nature of motor racing resulting in a very popular win by local Horsham Motorsports racer Daniel Simpson to become Victoria #1 in Modified Sedan competition.
In the lead up to the championship Simpson’s chances of a title looked very challenging when an encounter with the wall at Premier Speedway in Warrnambool left a very damaged race car parked high in turns one and two. Two weeks of hard work saw the HO 33 of Simpson on track for first heat. The cars of Matt Gerlach and the sentimental crowd favourite Graham West in his very fast LJ Torana also suffered significant damage at Warrnambool but were also ready to do their utmost to keep the title in Victoria after a trip to Queensland with Aiden Raymont also intent on keeping it.
Heat one saw Simpson show the depth of his desire with a flag to flag win by 10 second over Jetson followed closely by Chrystie and Gerlach. Heat two saw the cars of Raymont and coming from the back end of the grid to challenge Atkins mid race with Drewett taking the win over Atkins and Raymont with only .03 secs seperating them ad West in fourth. Heat three saw another hard charge from the rear of the field with Martin Hawson took the lead on lap four and held on with Kye Walters in second and Chris Hayden holding off Blackwell by .3 seconds, Hawsons fast lap of 20.334 seconds set the tone for the night. Heat four saw another hard charge from the rear of the field with Simpson off the back row getting to fourth by lap three and with starting and finishing one/two Simpson got the better of Blackwell on the last lap for third after a six lap battle by half a second. Heat five was a run away win for Darren Cockerill from pole with an eight second gap on a charging Russell Bent .03 seconds ahead of Jetson in third the cooling temperatures saw Cockerill lower the lap time below 20 secs to 19.699.
Heat six line up had the cars of favoured runners Raymont, Walters and Hawson pitted against each other in what was a hard fought battle for the minor placings with Hawson running away with another low time of 19.294 and Walters and Raymont battling for six laps Walters taking second with one to go. Heat seven again saw Jake Drewett in the MDA 18 charge from the rear of the field to take a narrow win over Hawson who fought through the field from last half way through the heat to miss first by half a second with Rachel Pratt five seconds back in third. Heat eight saw Daniel Simpson start near the rear of the field but by lap three was chasing down Matt Nelson and eventually taking the lead on lap eight only to lose it one lap later to finish second to Nelson with Walters in third and only .6 seconds seperating the top three. In one of the closest heats of the night eleven seconds sperated the field of nine over the ten lap race. Places changed constantly during the heat with the car of Leahy taking the lead on lap two and the minor placings being decided by lap six with the final placings Leahy, Cockerill and Burr setting the scene for a barn burner of a final.
Twenty one cars lined up for the final and after the formalities of driver presentations set off for 35 laps to determine the Victoria #1. MDA 18 Jake Drewett got a holeshot on the field at the flag and looked strong but was challenged on lap 8 by the MDA 72 of Martin Hawson who took the lead. By lap twelve the cars of Matt Gerlach and Russell Felsavory were infield followed one lap later Rachel Pratt, Russel Bent and the reining Vic #1 Aiden Raymont followed shortly after by Graham West all from contact. This left a wide open track for the field to battle for the title. Leader Martin Hawson was also involved while leading but continued on.
Lap 30 saw the car of Hawson leading Simpson, Chrystie, Cockerill and Blackwell and all lapping within view of the chequered flag. Dramatically coming out of turn four while being chased by Simpson, Hawson pulled onto the infield to the shock of the crowd and Simpson took the lead on lap 32 and would not be challenged from that point to take first place and the title of Victorian Champion by four seconds from Chrystie and Cockerill followed by Blackwell and Walters for the podium. Seven seconds separated the top six finishers and Simpson’s best lap was a 18.556 at 100.884 km/h.
Simpson now has the right to carry the Vic #1 on his car for the next year and after not knowing two weeks before if he would even make the field his win was a huge effort and brings the title back to Victoria.
Caption Victoria #1: Horsham’s Daniel Simpson celebrates his win in the Victorian State Title at Blue Ribbon Raceway. Photo Courtesy of Jamie Collins.