Todd Wigzell is the new (provisional) Australian Champion following a thrilling conclusion to the Universal Metal Cleaners Australian Wingless Sprint Racing National Title at Adelaide’s Speedway City. Wigzell led from the outset in the 35 lap A Main, but to suggest it was a routine flag to flag journey for the Smiths Holden S88 would be to do no justice to the drama playing out on the Virginia clay.
Wigzell led home Victorian Andy Hibbert who guided the Torquay Newsagency V17 to a fine 2nd, in the process achieving his third consecutive top five finish in the National Title after successful weekends at both Warrnambool and Bunbury. Hibbert was consistent and smooth across the weekend, with a 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in his four heats and a 4th in the opening night Preliminary Feature.
The final step on the podium was taken by Murray Bridge hard charger Jarman Dalitz in the Murray Bridge Glass S95, who matched his result from last year’s title with back to back 3rd place finishes. Dalitz’s story is a good place to start to understand the drama that occurred in the lead up to the 35 lap final and right through the epic decider.
Wigzell shared the front row with fellow South Australian Joel Chadwick, who had earlier won the Gold Dash to put the Labour Force S25 on pole. Chadwick blasted around the outside in the dash and added victory there to his two earlier heat wins, having started the night 9th on points. Behind the South Aussie duo were Hibbert and Keke Falland who had snatched 4th from Daniel Storer in the dash and moved himself forward a row in the Ruston Engineers S79. Storer, in the immaculate Castrol Edge V43, shared the third row of the grid with Daniel Obst in the Obst Shed Erections S22.
Dalitz started the feature from 8th, having moved forward during an eventful Silver Dash which in no small way helped shape the outcome of the entire title. Dalitz had entered the dash 11th on points after he was shuffled back in a rough start to Heat 19 and eventually could only manage a 7th placed finish. The night would start to turn slightly in Dalitz’s favour however as a bizarre start to the dash saw Sam Wren park the Wren Diesel on the infield with a flat tyre and Chris Ferrall sent ROF for a clash with reigning A1 Daniel Hartigan. Ferrall moved up track exiting turn four on the start lap and tangled with Hartigan, the two cars locking together and then collecting Wren as they freed. A furious Wren could only sit on the infield and start preparing for a 12th placed start in the final, while Dalitz moved from a 5th placed start to pole.
Hartigan eventually got the best of the restart in the Our Car Autos backed machine, with Ferrall blasting his way back up to 2nd and Dalitz again shuffled back. Ferrall moved past Hartigan, with Dalitz also relegating the A1 and setting off after Ferrall. Peter Logue then joined the fray and put Hartigan back one more spot in the Cheap Tyres Morwell V62, with Luke Weel claiming 5th while all hell was breaking loose ahead of him. Ultimately, while Wren may not agree having seen his A Main starting spot lowered from a possible 9th to 12th without even turning a lap, it was more good luck than good management that all six cars from the Silver Dash were in one piece to look forward to the A Main.
Joining the twelve dash particpants as direct qualifiers in the final were Wayne Hurford, Brad Whitchurch, Matthew Kennedy and Scott Thomsen, while Kane Newcombe, Anthony Tapley, James Wren and Tom Payet joined them via the B Main to set the championship field.
It didn’t take long for the drama to start in the final and that’s where we now loop back to Dalitz’s night of contrasting fortunes. After several cars got crossed up and sideways in turn three and four on the opening lap, Hartigan and Dalitz made contact with the S95’s side nerf bar rubbing dangerously on his right rear tyre and looking like his title charge could be over with 35 laps still on the board. As the field reformed any many in the crowd held their breath, Dalitz was called to the infield for an inspection and as a safety issue the track staff managed to maneuver the bar enough that it was off the tyre and the S95 returned to the line up. Hartigan on the other hand, already frustrated with his treatment in the Silver Dash was now slowing as the field reformed and it became apparent that if he was to retain his A1 he was going to have to do it from position 20. The stewards deemed him the primary cause of the yellow light and his title hopes changed in an instant, especially with the likes of Wigzell and Chadwick now ten rows forward.
The field set off a second time and after Chadwick appeared to be getting the best of the start, Wigzell fought back and headed the field into the back straight. Hartigan started his charge from the back, passing 7 cars in the first 4 laps and a few laps later was in 8th. Two cars made contact in turn two with the GKR Transport W23 of Payet doing a 360 and continuing, while after some incidental contact Hartigan lost his front end and found himself parked against the turn two wall. It was a sad end for the outgoing champion, who seemingly spent the best part of two nights recovering from incidents not of his doing or on the receiving end of a couple of stewarding calls that could have gone either way.
At the restart it was Wigzell leading from Hibbert, Chadwick, Obst, Dalitz, Falland, Storer and Sam Wren at the front end of the field. Payet was making a massive charge and had found his way into 9th, with some of his outside passing definitely not the norm through the field.
The Heytesbury Stockfeeds V23 of Weel pulled infield with 16 to go, as Wigzell continued to hit his marks and a superb Hibbert chased in the hope of the one opportunity he would need. Chadwick, Dalitz and Falland continued to fight over 3rd and the next major drama came with 11 laps to go. Storer’s car slowed suddenly coming out of turn four and Sam Wren made contact with the V43 entering the main straight. Payet was tagged on the way through and headed for the fence on the main straight, seemingly removing himself from harms way before he was clipped again and this time sent upside down and out of the event. It was a shame for Payet who had charged his way through the field in a thrilling drive, as well as being a disappointing end to a very promising weekend for Storer who went infield with power steering issues.
Wigzell again led the field away and Hibbert, Dalitz, Chadwick, Falland, Wren, Whitchurch, Logue, Thomsen and Tapley completed the top ten. Falland passed Chadwick who had faded from his front row start to 5th, while Obst had some troubles and had dropped out of the lead group after a superb weekend.
The final handful of laps wound down and Wigzell greeted the chequered flag to record an emotional home town win and secure his second AWSR National Championship, the first repeat winner of the title after his Parramatta success in 2012.
Hibbert held on to 2nd to cap an outstanding weekend, while Dalitz was followed home by Falland, Chadwick, Sam Wren, Whitchurch, Logue, Scott Thomsen and Tapley to round out the top ten with Newcombe, James Wren, Obst, Hurford and Kennedy the remaining finishers.
Earlier in the evening, the B Main finish had the crowd on the edge of their seats after a late race restart bunched the field. With four cars to transfer, in the lead up to the restart the lead four had been relatively comfortable as Newcombe, Tapley, James Wren and Payet held gaps over the rest of the field. Payet had earlier engaged in a titanic struggle with David Eggins for the last transfer spot, but as the laps wound down appeared safe. Following the late restart, bought about by the exit from the event of Scotty Elst in the Esco Electrical W95, Eggins charged after Payet who found himself pinned on the pole line behind Wren as Eggins built momentum around the outside. Rhys Baxter then joined the fray, pressuring Eggins as Payet looked to move by Wren to fend off his multiple challengers. On the final lap Payet was hanging on for dear life and Eggins now found himself losing 5th as he challenged for 4th, with Baxter’s attempt to grab the last transfer actually assisting Payet with Eggins now caught on the outside of Baxter.
The finish of the B Main also saw the end of the weekend for Brett Ireland who caused the first sensation of the night. In a very tight Heat 14, Ireland found himself on the wrong end of four cars fighting for the same piece of dirt in turn one. Ireland flipped the Hendry Concrete Solutions S71 and the Friday night Preliminary Feature winner was left chasing all night after that DNF was then followed by exclusion from his second heat with the S71 stopping twice.
Hadyn McBain won the C main in the T17 with Darryl Marshall the second transferee, the Tasmanian leading from start to finish in a very calculated drive.
After two nights of hectic action, the wingless sprints again proved themselves to be a class that provides close and exciting racing. A starting entrant list of 59 was eventually whittled down to 20 A Main starters and Todd Wigzell put an exclamation point on the claim that he is the most consistent driver in the class over the past four years.
Thanks must go to Wendy Turner and her team at Speedway City for putting on a first class show across the title weekend, the drivers in the final benefitting from the show of entering the track for their medallion presentation aboard several superb looking Harley Davidsons. The event certainly befit a National Title as the class now look forward to next year’s date with the Toowoomba Speedbowl.
Article written by : Berend Kaaks