Blue Ribbon Speedway fans, competitors and club members showed their class in remembrance of long time Club President Mick Fitzgerald at the clubs first meeting of the year on December 29.
On a night where hearts were heavy Horsham Motor Sports Club conducted the first event of the 2018/19 season, with the feature event of the evening being the Country Cup for AMCA’s and a return visit of the Vintage Hot Rods and Saloons cars ably supported by Limited Sportsman and Horsham’s own V8 trucks.
The evening started with the majority of the pits emptying for a Grand Parade which featured the first appearance in many years of Mick’s own Wimmera #25 EH sedan which is currently under restoration by Brian Constable in Beulah and with the honour of driving undertaken by club member Steven Hateley.
The Grand Parade was halted and drivers, fans and members were asked to observe a minute silence with only the sound of a lone cricket breaking the haunting silence. A short history of Mick was read over the PA system, this was also received in silence, a credit to the man and a credit to the fans and competitors. The silence was only broken by Mick’s own command of “Righto enough of this – lets go racing”.
A week of warm and dry weather gave the track crew a tough job preparing the surface, which in the early heats, lead to a lot of head scratching with setups and handling but as the night went on the track came to the competitors and racing was fast and furious through the evening, entertaining the crowd of faithful supporters.
AMCA competition during the night was a wide open affair with a mixed field of Chevy crate engines and the older and reliable Holden V8’s completing the field. During the heat races it became clear that Neale Peachey had the car to beat but his night was not made easy with the cars of Bill Lodwick and Darren Bloom intent on taking home the prized Country Cup.
Peachy got away to lead the final with a great fight behind with the cars of Lodwick, Bloom and newcomer Chevat taking turns chasing the leader. Victoria #1 Greg Firmin came on in the closing laps only to spin and drop to the back of the pack.
Final placings saw Peachey take the win in all the heats and dominating the final in a great show of driving and sets up a great year ahead. Lodwick followed by Chevat in third, followed by Firmin, Bloom and Howard closed out the field.
Vintage Hot Rods and Saloons again were welcomed to the Track in the Paddock and this year with the classes growing the open wheel cars and Saloons have split fields with the Saloons running in an anti clockwise direction and the Hot Rods running the classic clockwise direction.
With four demonstration events it was always going to be a challenge to keep these old lovingly restored and replica cars running for the full night and this proved difficult but with lots of hands and bailing wire the crowd was entertained with these old beauties. With most of the cars able to make the final demonstrations there was an ominous sign with rain drops falling on the cars as they entered the track. The brief shower was gone before the demonstration started but the fun was only starting. As the cars were given the green flag the pack entered turn one only to find the track slippery as ice. The result being more doughnuts in the south turn than at a policeman’s picnic. All the cars made it through the final demonstration unscathed.
Vintage Saloons final demo saw the LJ Toranas of Steve Ellis and Ross Burrows shaking the cobwebs out of their cars in a classic return to the 70’s. Also the XK Falcon of Darren Hetherington made it’s first appearance since being restored and the appearance of the LJ Torana of Derryl Lennane, another car that passed through the hands of Brian Constable.
Limited Sportsman always turn up for a run at their home track and racing is always hard fast and competitive and this night was no exception.
Heat 1 saw the Sporties hit a damp surface with traction being at a premium. Adam McKenzie took the advantage from the green flag and stayed ahead of a buzzing field with most of the competitors taking turns trying to track down the leader to no avail. Heat 2 saw the 71 of Dinky Parker take the lead on the green before the car of Dean Baker took the lead for the rest of the race with changing cars in the minor placings and Parker spinning out of second. Heat 3 saw Dean Baker again dominate the field from the green flag and with the track tightening up the field settled with the 7 of Clint baker and 97 of Matthew McCallum taking the minors setting up a great final.
As the cars gridded up for the final the car of Dean Baker was missing from the field. At the drop of the green the 97 of McCallum took the front position over the battling pair of McKenzie and Clint Baker. As the laps wound down it was obvious that the SA 97 of McCallum had figured out the handling and took the win over the hard fighting Clint Baker with Adam McKenzie in third.
Horshams truckies were not about to let the little guys take all the glory as they came out for the first time this season. An obvious scratch from the first heat was the 57 of Luke James who was seen working under the bonnet of his truck on the dummy grid, the second time he has been spotted under the bonnet of a truck this year. Fletcher Mills took the opportunity and left from the green and lead all the way with the 67 of Jaryd Carman in his first outing battling for the minor placings with the crafty Wes Bell.
Heat 2 saw the emergence of the 57 of Luke Redda James who decided to take his normal spot on the wall and chasing down Bell on the final lap to take the win, with Carman in third. Heat 3 again saw Redda high wide and handsome over Nathan Bird finding his comfort zone and Bell in third.
The final was a battle to the end with Redda again taking the win but the final placings being in doubt to the chequers with Bell and Whiteside fighting for second in the closing laps and Carman keeping them both honest. Final placings were James in first, Bell in second followed by Carman in a credible third then Bird and Whiteside.
The next event will be held on Feb 2nd when the All Star Sprintcars bring their road show to town supported by Vintage Hot Rods, Street Stocks, Open Sedans, Limited Sportsman ans SSA Ladies.
February 9 will see the inaugural Down Under Modified Tractor Pull Association event at the Blue Ribbon Speedway.