Internationals Falter as Gee Grabs Maiden Win
On a wild night of racing that saw several fancied competitors strike trouble, Mitchell Gee raced from position 10 to victory in round six of the East Coast Logistics Sprintcar Track Championship at Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway on Monday night (December 26). Gee avoided the mayhem that unfolded around him and then withstood a late-race surge from David Murcott to score his first ever feature race success, beating Murcott to the line by a mere 0.335 seconds. Only securing a place in the feature race field with a third-place finish in the B Main, defending track champion Andrew Scheuerle stormed onto the podium with a final lap pass on Peter Lack.
Behind Lack came Lachlan McHugh and Paul Rooks, who started alongside Schuchert on the front row, with Allan Woods, Dan Murray, Kevin Titman and Mark Pholi the only others to go the distance.
American stars Donny Schatz and Logan Schuchert enjoyed mixed fortunes but both ultimately failed to finish the feature race, as did the likes of Luke Oldfield, Bryan Mann, Callum Walker and Brent Kratzmann who, having finished as top qualifier after the preliminaries, found himself out of luck once again.
A light shower that passed over the complex just prior to the start of proceedings made for some interesting results in time trials with the track conditions improving with each session. It was Kratzmann who faired best, stopping the clock at 12.199 to secure KRE Fast Time, marginally quicker than Rooks (12.283), Murray (12.335), Steve Greer (12.403) and Oldfield. Next best were Brock Dean and Schuchert, with Woods, Pholi and Dylan Menz rounding out the top ten. Murcott was 13th quickest and Gee was 16th, while Scheuerle and Lack were even further back. Schatz, meanwhile, was uncharacteristically out of sorts and could do no better than 23rd overall, one spot better than McHugh.
Scheuerle looked on track to win heat one until contact from a lapped car deflated his left rear tyre and left him languishing at the back as McHugh inherited the lead and subsequently finished ahead of Murcott and Schuchert.
Heat two saw Lack chase down Schatz and relegate the World of Outlaws champ to runner-up status, with Mann finishing in third spot.
The third heat went to Wayne Iacono over Gee and Brett Minett before Scheuerle bounced back to take out heat four ahead of Mann and Gee.
McHugh doubled in heat five, leading home Murcott and Lack third in a race that saw Andrew Corbet ride out a wild ride that commenced in the main straight and through turn one, the second big wreck of his rookie season.
The final heat saw Schatz back to his best with an effortless win from the front row in advance of Callum Walker and Anthony Lambert.
With top-five results in each of his heats, Kratzmann remained at the top of the standings at the completion of the preliminaries, only to draw a four inversion for the Lucas Oils Dash, elevating Rooks to pole position alongside Schuchert, with Oldfield sharing row two. Having only arrived in the country earlier in the day, Schuchert now found himself on pole position for the feature race when he led Rooks to the chequer as a final lap kerfuffle elevated Oldfield into third ahead of Woods and Murray when Kratzmann, Greer and Murcott found themselves stranded in turn four as the chequer waved in the distance.
In a most unusual sight, Schatz occupied pole position for the East Coast Logistics B Main and was a class above the field, clocking the fastest lap of the night and looking on track to lap the entire field until a late race restart intervened and saved Pholi, Scheurele and Titman – all of whom also transferred to the main event - from such a fate.
The feature race only made it as far turn one before a multi-car melee resulted in the demise of Kratzmann and Greer, with Oldfield joining them on lap six courtesy of a flat right rear tyre. In those early laps, Schuchert assumed control at the front of the pack as Schatz set forth in advancing through the field, having climbed as high as ninth before he found himself crashing hard through turn one in an incident that also eliminated Mann. When Kristy Bonsey headed infield on lap 10, just 11 cars remained with Schuchert still in control. However, just one lap later, Schuchert also headed infield, handing the lead to Gee with more than 20 laps still to run. Despite the looming presence of Murcott in the closing stages, Gee held his nerve amidst lapped traffic to park the Titan Garages #36 in victory lane.