Champ defends Aussie title
PETER Britten claimed his second successive Australian V8 Dirt Modified Championship with a convincing win at the Brisbane International Speedway on Saturday night.
After two nights of preliminary heat racing, Britten emerged top qualifier for the championship decider, starting alongside fellow Queenslander Andrew Pezzutti in the final.
Indeed the first five rows of Australian Championship field were littered with contenders, with Scott Cannon (NSW) and Jai Stephenson (Grafton) starting from row two, Ray Eggins (Lismore) and Luke Oldfield (Qld) from positions five and six, Mark Robinson (Lismore) and Ray Klarich from row four, and Darren Latimer (Qld) and Andrew Drake (Qld) from row five.
It was Britten who won the drag race into turn one, holding out Pezzutti as the rest of the field jostled for position.
Britten’s intentions were clear from the outset, opening up a substantial lead in the opening few laps.
Jai Stephenson and Luke Oldfield were the big movers in the opening laps, moving into second and third respectively.
Toowoomba veteran Ray Klarich also capitalised early, slipping into fourth position behind Oldfield.
With just six laps recorded, Andrew Pezzutti hopes of a third Australian title were dashed with a deflated left-rear tyre forcing him to the infield.
Despite the race being conducted at a frantic pace, Britten amassed almost a half-lap lead over the field with 22 laps still to run.
After a stellar run all weekend aboard his new Big River Steel-backed Troyer chassis design fully-imported from the USA with the latest specifications, Jai Stephenson’s title hopes came to a screaming halt on the back straight with 19 laps to run.
Contact while negotiating lapped traffic saw Stephenson connect with the concrete, forcing him out of the event.
The incident brought out the yellow flags for the one and only time in the championship decider, bringing Britten back to the field and elevating Oldfield and Klarich into second and third.
Cannon was fourth at the restart, from Eggins and Robinson, with Drake and Latimer not far behind. Britten once again cleared out from the field as the race recommenced, with Klarich pressuring Oldfield for second.
The big mover though was Robinson, who advanced past both Eggins and Cannon to find himself in fourth with just over half race distance remaining.
With ten laps remaining, the leaders found themselves negotiating dense lapped traffic, with Oldfield closing in on Britten, while Best Presented winner Andrew Drake was engaged in a battle with Scott Cannon for sixth.
Robinson was clearly on a mission over the closing laps, narrowing the gap to third-placed Klarich while Britten and Oldfield remained out front.
There could be no denying Britten however, who crossed the line a convincing winner over Oldfield and Klarich, who held off a last-lap challenge from Mark Robinson to snare the final podium position. Robinson was fourth, from Cannon, Latimer and Drake. Ray Eggins, David Clark and Kelvin Hamilton rounded out the top 10.
Not only was it incredible that the 20-car, 30-lap Australian Championship had just one stoppage, it was even more notable that 16 of the 20 starters finished, with Barry Ashen and Steve Milthorpe joining Stephenson and Pezzutti as the only non-finishers.
Earlier in the night, Allan Jarvis took out the B-main, with Rian Collier, Kevin Britten and Barry Ashen also transferring to the championship decider.
The remaining heat race wins went to Robinson (two), Oldfield, Stephenson, Britten and Klarich.
It was a tough night for the visiting Western Australian contingent, with both Peter MacPherson and Matt Kennedy retiring from the B-main.
Kennedy was particularly unlucky after a panel support came lose, puncturing a tyre on the opening lap.
Heartbreak also for Mick Sauer and Trevor Perry, with damage sustained during the final heats preventing them from taking any further part in the event.