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While much of Australia’s Eastern seaboard shut down with almost monotonous regularity, Queensland motorsport has been largely untroubled in 2021.
The championship is certainly ‘making hay while the sun shines’, with three race meetings in quick succession before the latest lockdowns put a stop to the fifth round of the championship. Race meeting took place ad scheduled on a monthly basis through May to July, with the last round scheduled for Queensland Raceway on 7th August the first event of 2021 to not go ahead.
Brothers Matthew and Cameron Haak top the championship point score in Group A, with an excellent run of consistency across the opening four rounds. Murray Kent took out the overall honours in round 2. Stuart Walker topped the category in round 3 and finally Chris Brown was the winner in round 4, in what has been a hotly contested category.
Round 2 Queensland Raceway
The QTCC headed to Queensland Raceway for Round 2 of the 2021 championship. The off-season growth in the category was evident by the 32 cars that had qualified for the first race of the weekend. Murray Kent, Michael Woodcroft and Murray Reilly set the tone for the round when they each set the fastest time in their respective divisions. Woodcroft’s performances in qualifying and the opening two races led to his promotion to Group A for the final two races. Stuart Walker had qualified 3rd in his Holden Commodore and completed the session with a problem that brought his racing to a premature ending. The day was an interesting mix of challengers, with the opening race on the shorter ‘sprint’ circuit then reverted to the ‘National’ configuration for the rest of the meeting with the final run under lights.
Murray Kent went on to take all four race wins. The bright red L34 Torana had just enough in the tank to thwart Chris Brown. The #50 Commodore did lead the field as dusk descended upon the circuit in the night time finale. A move under brakes at turn 4 a few laps later saw Kent back into the lead which he maintained to the chequered flag.
Chris Brown took the runner up position in each race with Matthew Haak finishing 3rd across all four races.
Gary Lange also ran strongly throughout the round and ran near the front of the second group of cars battling over positions 4 to 10. He was a consistent 5th place finisher despite two near miss situations; one where he came across a slow moving car on the run towards the final corners, and the second under lights where another car pirouetted in a pale of tyre smoke directly in front of him as he ran down the back straight.
Michael Woodcroft claimed the opening race win from Rob Droder in Class B. In race 2 he won again as the margin to the Droder blew out to 7 seconds. The result saw Woodcroft elevated to Class A for the remaining two races. Leon Kemp took control of Race 3 aboard his BMW E36 from Droder and Anger, but was a non-starter for the final night race. Gary Anger became the 3rd different winner in Class B on the day when he took out Race 4 from Lance Jurgeleit and Nick Linton.
Murray Reilly, Matthew Devitt and Scott Kelly finished line astern in the opening two races before a dnf for Reilly in Race 3 brought his day to a close. Paul Bonaccorso came on strong in the latter stages of the day as a full race program began to takes its toll on cars and drivers alike. Bonaccorso moved ahead to take out the Group C category in races 3 and 4. Matthew Devitt and Andrew Knight filled the minor placings in races 3 and 4.
Round winners were Murray Kent in Group A, Gary Anger in Group B and Matthew Devitt in Group C.
Round 3 Queensland Raceway
The second visit to Queensland Raceway saw 33 cars entered for the ‘Two Days of Thunder’ meeting. All groups had healthy grids with 10 entrants in Group A, 11 in Group B and a dozen cars for Group C. Stuart Walker returned after the Round 1 winner was a non-starter at the previous event. Mark Hyde had also returned with his Ford Escort after mechanical issues sidelined him in Round 2. Sadly, Hyde’s weekend was over after qualifying with further issues placing the car back on the trailer. Saxon Moyes was also a notable absentee after the mechanical issues that sidelined him at the preceding round. Rob Droder was behind the wheel of a second Walker family Commodore, with his own car sidelined with a damaged block.
Chris Brown and Murray Kent continued their fight for superiority at the head of the Group A pack with Brown claiming pole position in qualifying from Kent, Gary Lange, Matthew Haak and Walker. in group B it was Simon Winter who headed Gary Anger and Peter Bray, while Matthew Devitt held the fastest time in Group C from Luke Beveridge and Andrew Knight.
The opening race of the weekend was run on the shorter ‘Sprint’ layout and began just prior to midday. Brown and Kent engaged in a race long duel for the outright win in an all Holden battle, with the Commodore enjoying a slight advantage over the L34 Torana. Barely a second separated the pair as they pulled away from field, while Walker moved into 3rd place some 6 seconds behind the two leaders. Kent looked for any possible mistake but Brown drove a faultless race to take the win from Kent and Walker.
It was a similar situation in Group B when Anger got the better of Winter and held on for the win with Warwick Douglas 3rd in his E46 BMW. Round 2 front runner Murray Reilly didn’t complete a racing lap while Les Hanafin failed to start the race. Andrew Knight took a relatively comfortable win in Group C 5 seconds clear of Luke Beveridge, while Paul Bonaccorso rounded out the top 3 a further 14 seconds in arrears.
Race 2 took place mid-afternoon with a shift to the longer ‘National’ configuration. The race began with Brown taking a narrow lead over Kent. For 7 laps the pair led a procession of 28 cars around the ‘paperclip’, before Kent slowed and pulled off the track with a mechanical problem. Brown’s race laster just one more lap before he surrendered the lead and retired. Stuart Walker took charge of the race to record a 1.5 second win from Matthew Haak and Lee Gravolin.
Shannon Cane took her first win of the season after a tense battle in Group B, 3 seconds clear of Simon Winters and Leonard Meiers. Andrew Knight, Paul Bonaccorso and Matthew Devitt were also closely matched throughout the race and finished in that order with less than 3 second separating the trio by the chequered flag.
Teams had the relative luxury of an evening to relax, trouble shoot any niggling issues or to try and find a fix for more serious issues. Chris Brown used the time to get the 6.2 litre Holden Commodore back in action.. Conversely the evening still wasn’t enough for Murray Kent and the #74 Torana did not front for the final day of racing.
The third race was once again run on the ‘Sprint’ circuit with twenty six cars gridded up just before 9am. Stuart Walker held pole position ahead of Matthew Haak and Lee Gravolin. The shorter layout helped compress the field which filed towards Turn 2 in close procession then braked heavily for the sharp right-left combination for the run down the back straight. Despite the closeness of the racing, the top 3 remained unchanged at the chequered flag with Walker 1st, then Matthew Haak and Gravolin. Chris Brown passed over twenty cars as he moved from the rear of the field to 5th in a storming recovery after his Race 3 dnf. Winters returned to the winner’s circle in Group B from Meiers and Cane, while Andrew Knight made it a winning treble in Group C from Beveridge and Scott Kelly.
Chris Brown continued his recovery in Race 4 with a flawless drive on the ‘National’ circuit. He picked off Lange, Haak, Gravolin and Walker and returned to the front of the field. From there he was largely untroubled and cruised away to a 6 second victory. Gravolin also managed to get the better of Walker for 2nd, while the Race 3 winner settled for 3rd.
Gary Anger had a win on Saturday and almost backed that up with another in race 4. He fought tooth and nail with Winters and Meiers for the win and came close, just over a second behind Winters and another second clear of 3rd places Meiers. Matthew Devitt halted Andrew Knight’s hopes for a clean sweep of Group C, the BMW E46 driver just managing to hold off Knight and Scott Kelly for the win.
Brown completed the meeting with another win in Race 5 on the ‘Clubman circuit’, with Gravolin and Walker once again taking the minor places. Shannon Cane made the most of her durable tyres and doubled her 2021 win tally by taking the honours in Group B from Anger and Peter Bray. Matthew Devitt also doubled his tally for the day with the Group C win from Scott Kelly and Andrew Knight.
Group A round honours went to Stuart Walker, Group B was taken out by Simon Winters and Andrew Knight was victorious in Group C. For Stuart Walker the result was a just reward for the work done to get the #37 Commodore back on track. A hard charger award for Rob Droder was most welcome after his Holden VE SS damaged the engine block.
“Consistency was the key,” Walker said. “It took a bit of work in the few weeks we had off to get it working, but it was all worth it in the end.”
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Round 4 Lakeside Raceway
Round 4 of the 2021 Queensland Touring Car Championship returned to Lakeside Raceway. A two week turnaround from Round 3 meant that there was little more than enough time for a quick wash and polish before cars were loaded back on trailers for the journey to Kurwongbah, some 30 kilometres north of Brisbane. Given the subsequent COVID19 outbreaks, the timing proved to be a prudent step by the QTCC organising committee and 31 cars were on track for the split qualifying sessions. Murray Kent, Saxon Moyes and Mark Hyde weren’t among the entry list, with simply not enough time to make the necessary repairs to their respective cars. Rob Droder continued with his Walker ‘loaner’ as repairs continued on his own car.
Given the short turn around, the attrition rate during the two day program was surprisingly low. Also, many of those who had suffered a dnf were able to return to the circuit at some point of the weekend.
Reliability was not an issue for Chris Brown, who had his Holden Commodore ticking over smoothly on all cylinders. Brown took a clean sweep of Group A with the fast time in qualifying and five from five race wins. Chris Walker kept Brown honest in race 1, then slowly dropped off in pace throughout the subsequent races, finishing just off the podium in Races 2 to 4 before a dnf ended his day in Race 5. Robert Bellinger, Gary Lange and Matthew Haak fought tooth and nail for the podium places with the trio all taking a turn in second and third.
It was a similar situation in Group B with Simon Winters winning three times, while Rob Droder and Gary Anger took single wins across the day. A dnf for Droder in Race 2 was followed by a win in the next, such was the nature of the day for so many. Andrew Knight won the opening two races for Group C then fell short on a treble by less than a second in Race 3. A rare non-appearance for Knight in Race 4 was followed by another win in the final race of the day.
Qualifying and Race 1 was split into two, with Groups A and B together and Group C in a race of their own. Lap times varied between the three groups by as little as 3 seconds, with the outright Group A cars lapping in the high 50 second bracket and the leaders in Group C circulating in a tad over 1 minute.
Chris Brown took out Race 1 in Group A from Stuart Walker and Rob Bellinger, the trio separated by 3 seconds at the flag. Gary Lange had run near the front, though a post race time penalty saw him drop to 7th. Simon Winter was the first home in Group B, 4 seconds clear of Gary Anger, with Peter Bray a further 3 seconds behind. Murray Reilly, John Swarbrooke and Shannon Cane retired after contact during the course of the race. Cane suffered damage to her bonnet which eventually forced her retirement when it detached on the main straight and smashed into her windscreen. Swarbrooke was back in action later in the day, while Cane eventually returned for Race 4.
Andrew Knight continued his run of success in Group C, just holding out Matthew Devitt by 4/10ths of a second. Samuel Allen claimed 3rd after Scott Kelly retired after 2 laps. Kelly was unable to get his car back on the track and his day was over.
The remaining races were combined events with between 24 an 27 in each race.
Brown won the second race by 6 seconds to Rob Bellinger and Gary Lange. Simon Winters took out Group B win from Gary Anger ad Warwick Douglas, while Rob Droder suffered a dnf in his Holden Commodore VE SS. Andrew Knight was again the best of the Group C competitors and finished 14th outright, some 16 seconds clear of Alessandro Vosolo. Matthew Devitt took 3rd less than half a second behind.
Matthew Haak was Brown’s closest challenger in Race 3, falling short of the win by 7 seconds after he was forced to fend off a determined challenge from Gary Lange. Lange eventually settled for 3rd less than a second behind Haak’s Commodore. Rob Droder bounced back from his dnf to deny Winters a third straight victory in what was an exciting four way battle for the win. Gary Anger was 2nd, just ahead of Winter, with less than 2 seconds separating the 7th to 12th placed finishers.
Matthew Devitt took the win in Group C from Alessandro Vosolo and Andrew Knight, with less than a second between the trio at the chequered flag. Knight may well have been hindered by an issue with his BMW E36 as the car failed to appear for Race 4.
It was Brown, Matthew Haak and Lange in that order at the end of Race 4, with Walker back in 6th. Shannon Cane returned to the fray for Group B honours, but was forced to retire after 10 laps. Winters and Anger once again took the two top spots, with Nick Linton and excellent 3rd. Rob Droder was also a retirement after 8 laps. In the absence of Knight, it was Alessandro Vosolo who took his first Group C win of the year. He managed to hold off a strong challenge from Devitt to secure the win by less than a second. Paul Bonaccorso finished a distant 3rd.
The final race of the weekend continued the trend in Group A, with Chris Brown the victor from Gary Lange and Matthew Haak. Gary Anger took a long awaited win under intense pressure in Group B. His winning margin less than 5/100ths of a second from Shannon Cane and Simon Winters. Andrew Knight returned to the circuit and the number 1 position in Race 5 from Daley Martin and Ettore Vosolo. Alessandro Vosolo’s great day came to an end in Race 5, without a lap recorded. It was a similar result for Paul Bonaccorso in his Falcon.
Chris Brown, Simon Winters and Matthew Devitt took the round honours in Groups A, B and C respectively. Matthew Haak currently leads the Group A Championship on 7428 points. Gary Anger heads Group B on 4884 points and Andrew Knight sits atop Group C with a tally of 3160 points.
The Brisbane Collision Centre Queensland Touring Car Championship are back on track this weekend at Queensland Raceway.
Photos thanks to the category photographer-Fiona Carmichael.
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