New Zealander Chris Gilliam charged to the front on the green light and in a dominant performance led all 20 laps of the Polar Ice Midget Series Grand Final at the Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway on Saturday May 27 to close out the season. In a non-stop event Gwilliam proceeded to lower Matt Smith’s 20 lap record by over four seconds to 4:41.903.
The race was also the Jim Holden Classic held in memory of Queensland’s last National Champion Jim Holden who passed away in July 2016 after a battle with cancer. Holden was the consummate professional who won the Australian, Victorian and Queensland Championships in 1985.
The 2016-17 Polar Ice Series was decided on the night with Rusty Whittaker coming into the last round marginally ahead of Troy Ware and Brock Dean. However, Whittaker struck trouble in his first heat. Despite winning the race he finished with oil all over the engine bay. An oil hose fitting had split pumping oil out of the engine. The hose was replaced but the team’s fears were confirmed when the engine was refired and the oil pressure was too low to risk further damage. All was not lost as Brad Harrison generously offered his King/Mopar to Whittaker for the feature race and as Whittaker had previously driven the car he quickly accepted the offer. It meant starting from the rear of the field but it was challenge that unfazed the talented former Queensland Champion
New South Wales visitor Dan Biner (Syndicate Racing Spike/Esslinger) failed to take the green in the main when his Esslinger engine wouldn’t start which was a pity as the team had put together another car especially for this meeting after Biner suffered a big roll-over at Archerfield on 50 lapper night.
The front row pair of Gwilliam (Boss Chassis Australia Boss/Esslinger) and Darren Vine (Mike Vine Turbos Spike/Esslinger) sped away from the field at the start as Scott Farmer (TFH Spike/Esslinger) settled into third ahead of Troy Ware, Scott Doyle and Brock Dean. Whittaker wasted no time in advancing forward by passing a couple of cars in the opening lap from position 16.
Gwilliam opened a good break on Vine with a similar margin back to Farmer who was now under siege from Ware (Troy Ware Constructions Spike/Mopar). Whittaker was up to 11th by the end of the third rotation and still moving forward as he went to ninth a couple of laps later. When the race entered the second half the order was Gwilliam ahead of Vine, Farmer, Ware Scott Doyle (Boss Hogg’s Steakhouse Beast/Gaerte) while Rob Stewart and Brock Dean battled for fifth spot. Mark George suffered a blown radiator hose a couple of laps further on and rolled around the high side of the track before he could move safely to the infield. It proved fortuitous for Gwilliam that the yellow lights didn’t appear.
Doyle dropped back with rear brake issues towards the end with Chris Gwilliam finishing the season in the best possible way with a convincing win and a new race record. Vine was second while Ware rounded up Farmer on lap 18 for third with Dean completing the top five. Whittaker did very well to finish 7th and most probably secured enough points to win the Polar Ice Series. Sixteen cars finished the race which was a great way to finish what has been a tremendous season for the QSRA.
Twenty cars showed for the last night of the season including new drivers Glenn Wright and Nathan Mathers. Wright, from the Wingless Sprintcar ranks, drove the Breka/Esslinger normally handled by Brendan Palmer while Mathers had progressed from the Compacts after buying a Spike/Gaerte Ford from Western Australia. Both drove consistent laps all night and were enthusiastic about more midget racing next season.
Scott Farmer continued his impressive form with the quickest lap in timed Hot Laps with a 13.642 ahead of Troy Ware (13.735) and Darren Vine (13.803). Reid Mackay and Charlie Brown had minor problems and failed to gain a time which put them to the back of the grid for their heat races.
Rodney Harders (Eagle/Inglis Eagle) led the way in the opening heat until Rusty Whittaker (Ti Bolts & Race Partz King/Esslinger surged past during the second last lap. Michael Harders (Auto Upgrade Spike/KRE Eagle) was the early leader in the second heat and opened a big lead until a coming together in the main straight at the half way point resulted in Troy Ware going wheels up while Mark George (Flashlube Breka/Porsche) was also out with a damaged wheel. With the field closed-up for the restart Gwilliam was able to get past Harders for the win.
In the second round of heats Brad Harrison (King/Mopar) raced into the lead of heat 3 and opened a sizeable lead. Unfortunately, during lap 5 Rodney Harders caught a rut and rolled coming into the main straight. Harrison continued-on after the restart to score his maiden midget win ahead of Sydney driver Jamie Hall (Syndicate Racing Boss/Esslinger) and Gwilliam. Ware came back with a vengeance in the last qualifier to win by a wide margin in the fastest heat time of the night.
After being involved in nineteen nights of racing the Queensland Speedcar Racing Assn’s 2016-17 season has now concluded. The points are still to be finalised but it appears that Rusty Whittaker will be the Polar Ice champion while Darren Vine will be Club Champion. All will be revealed at the trophy presentation night to be held on Saturday July 1 at the impressive Tavernetta Function Centre at 144 Dorville Road Carseldine. Everyone is welcome and ticket information will be available on the web site shortly.
Special thanks to our major sponsors Jack Berry (Polar Ice) and Lance Towns (I Custom Colour Phone Repairs). Promoters John and Kathy Kelly (Archerfield), Ben Bishop (Toowoomba) and David Lander (Lismore) who supported the section with major meetings to showcase our wheel to wheel action. The many interstate visiting drivers who travelled to Queensland and added plenty of spice to the racing. Last, but certainly not least, all the local drivers and crew members, including Chris Gwilliam who flew from Auckland for each show, who worked very hard to supply us all with some great racing. Enjoy your time off and prepare well for the 2017-18 season which promises to be another blockbuster with twelve shows already pencilled in for Archerfield.
Timed Hot Laps
Scott Farmer 13.642
Troy Ware 13.735
Darren Vine 13.803
1 Rusty Whittaker 2 Rodney Harders 3 Brock Dean
1 Chris Gwilliam 2 Michael Harders 3 Scott Doyle
1 Brad Harrison 2 Jamie Hall (NSW) 3 Chris Gilliam
1 Troy Ware 2 Mark George 3 Darren Vine
1 Chris Gwilliam (NZ) 2 Darren Vine 3 Troy Ware
4 Scott Farmer 5 Brock Dean 6 Rob Stewart
7 Rusty Whittaker 8 Michael Harders 9 Glenn Wright
10 Scott Doyle 11 Reid Mackay 12 Jamie Hall (NSW)
13 Charlie Brown 14 Rodney Harders 15 Corey Stothard
16 Tony Eickenloff