Ringwood driver Justin Paull last night took out the 2016/17 Victorian Compact Speedcar Championships at Rushworth Speedway in a drama-packed series of heats and final. Second place went to Chris Curren, with Butch Hutchison in third.
Defending Champion Wayne Corbett was relegated rear-of-field after a spin in the final, and Shepparton racer …Geoff Meyers was injured in a crash during the heats.
Twelve competitors contested the event, after four of the original nominees withdrew due to illness or mechanical issues. Queensland’s Wayne Corbett, defending his Victorian Title made the interstate trip, together with Emma Harris, a newcomer to Rushworth.
Corbett looked the goods from Heat one, where he posted the fastest time for the night for Compacts with a lap of 16.854 second. Curren and Louis Rodriguez started from the front, but Paull had claimed the lead by lap two, followed by Rodriguez and Corbett. Corbett then moved to second, opening a 10 metre lead from Curren in third, with Paull still out in front.
On lap five local favourite Meyers went wide in turn two and hit the fence, rolling the car, and retiring from the race. Following the re-start, Corbett took the lead from Paull until another stoppage occurred when Tania Hallett hit the concrete exiting turn two, parking the racecar in an embarrassing vertical position on its tail against the fence.
The race concluded with Corbett taking an easy win by around 80 metres from Paull and Curren.
Paull and Harris shared the front row for heat two and in just one lap Meyers, who had undertaken repairs to his car, retired to the infield. Paull maintained the lead, with Corbett in second and a great battle ensued. Corbett gained the lead briefly, with Paul taking it back one lap later. Harris finished in third.
A resilient Meyers came out again to share the front row with Corbett for heat three, which was promising to be the skirmish of the night. Meyers led with Corbett attacking at every opportunity until Hallett had a spin on turn four, bringing on the yellow. Corbett took the lead with an outside pass of Meyers on lap six, with another stoppage when Will Van Der Ark ground to a halt.
Dramas ensued at the restart, with Corbett getting away first, and Meyers attempting an inside pass as they entered turn one. The cars came together, and Meyers rode up over Corbett’s wheel, launching him into the air into a series or rolls, crashing heavily to the track.
A full stoppage occurred, with medical and emergency crews attending Meyers, whom it was feared may have had some lower back damage. The race was declared by the Chief Steward.
The scheduled twenty-five lap final for the Victorian Compact Speedcar Championships was reduced to fifteen laps, with Corbett on pole and Paull beside him, followed by Harris, Curren, Rodríguez, Butch Hutchison, Rodney Howie, Hallett, Mark Hutchison and Van Der Ark.
At the green flag, Corbett out-dragged Paull for the lead and the pair cleared a good twenty metre gap to Harris in third. Paull was constantly trying to find a way around the leader, looking for an inside run, pulling alongside on the outside, and generally pressuring the title defender at every opportunity. Meantime, Curren had got past Harris and Butch Hutchison had replaced Rodriguez for fifth.
The yellow came on when Howie spun and stopped in turn three and the leaders tangled as they slowed, with a small pack that had been fighting for third going to the infield to avoid a crash. The restart sorted this out with minimal dramas and Corbett retained the lead, with Paull piling on the pressure. This tactic proved successful when, on lap six, Corbett spun in turn four, resulting in another tangle on the infield.
Corbett’s ambitions of back-to-back Victorian Titles evaporated as the Chief Steward ruled Corbett as the primary cause of the stoppage, and relegated him to rear of field. Winning from there at this stage of the race appeared to be an impossible task.
Paull inherited the lead that he had tried so gallantly to achieve. Restart order was Paull, Curren, Harris, Butch Hutchison and Rodríguez. Paul opened a ten metre lead, with a further fifteen metres back to a major squabble for third. Butch Hutchison got under Harris with two laps to go. Corbett meantime had fought his way through the tail-enders to seventh, then sixth, but was unable to make it to a podium finish.
Final results were Paull, Curren, Butch Hutchison, Harris and Rodriguez. Corbett had put on a brilliant display in defending his title, but it was not to be. Emma Harris’ credible fourth demonstrated an ability to adapt to a strange track for the first time. Justin Paul’s dream of “just to finish the Big Dance” had come true in the most spectacular fashion. For the first time in three years, the Victorian Compact Speedcar Title stays in Victoria!
Geoff Meyers was confirmed with two broken vertebrae in his back, and is awaiting further results. We wish him a speedy recovery. Geoff’s wife Ange says: “He’s a tough cookie!”
.. © Ray Read 2016 for VCSC
Picture: New Vic 1, Justin Paull. Picture by Ray Read