The high banked Hi-Tec Oils Toowoomba Speedway is renowned for producing some great racing and there was no exception when Chris Gwilliam piloted the Dwayne Neilson Boss/Esslinger to victory in the feature race on Saturday September 24. It was the New Zealander’s first feature win in Australia and only his second meeting in the Neilson car.
On a very big night of speedway the Speedcar feature race lined up at 11.15 pm after the Sprintcar main and as a consequence the race distance was reduced to 12 laps. Top man from the heats, Brendan Palmer (EastLinkAir Breka/Esslinger), was pole-sitter for the feature and blasted into the lead at the start. He went straight to the top of the track which appeared to be the fastest way around the Toowoomba oval. Gwilliam, who started beside Palmer, gave chase by using the bottom of the track which was also the shortest distance. He kept closing on the leader only to see Palmer pull away exiting the turns.
The yellow lights appeared during lap 4 when Troy Ware (Ware Constructions Spike/Mopar) caught a rut and spun around finishing beside the inside wall but was able to go again. During the caution period Brock Dean (ACERS Engine Reconditioners Breka/Gaerte) wisely withdrew when his foot felt cold possibly due to a methanol fuel leak. Last start winner Darren Vine had been moving swiftly from the fourth row and kept heading towards the front after dices with Ware, Dean, Scott Doyle and Brad Young and was third by lap 5.
Gwilliam maintained the pressure on Palmer and as the race headed into the last couple of laps the leader appeared to be struggling with brake issues as the rear brake rotor glowed bright red. Gwilliam became the new leader during lap 10 and when Palmer tried to regain his position he lost second place to Vine. Vine charged into the last lap with Gwilliam in his sights but fell short and had to be satisfied with second. Despite being a shorter than normal race it was a great contest with plenty of passing and the result not determined until near the end.
The first heat was run in bright sunshine at one end of the track and shade at the other and the track still quite wet. Not the ideal situation but everyone coped as best they could with the conditions. Gwilliam set the pace from the green but proceedings came to a stop during the second lap when Darren Vine (Mike Vine Turbos Spike/Esslinger) spun and was collected by close following Troy Ware who rolled onto his side. Unfortunately both were out of the restart. Gwilliam went on to take the win from Palmer and Scott Doyle (Boss Hogs Steakhouse Beast/Gaerte).
Ware recovered from his earlier accident to be the all the way winner in the second heat from Reid Mackay (Dutchys Concreting XXX/Gaerte) and Brad Young (Federal Tyres Spike/Gaerte). Brock Dean finished at the back but was happy to even be there after his truck had suffered clutch problems when they were half way to Toowoomba. He was forced to return home and transfer his race car and all of his equipment to his other truck and then head off again. After all his hard work and dedication, he deserved a better result for the night. Palmer powered from the second row to win the last heat with Dean and Mackay in the places.
There was a another Expat New Zealander racing on the night but not a name familiar to the current crop of competitors. Doug Kay raced ‘midgets’ in the Shakey Isles during the 1980’s but gave up racing when he moved to Australia. In recent years he was a part of the very successful Dwayne Neilson/Michael Kendall team but when Kendall retired at the end of the last season he decided he needed a new challenge. He joined with Cal Whatmore to look after car set-up and to mentor the road-racing convert. Kay ran Whatmore’s Speedy Refrigeration Spike in the first heat and within a couple of laps was up to speed. He said that now he has driven the car he has a better understanding of how it should be setup. He hasn’t discounted having some more outings in the future.
Young gun Charlie Brown had a disappointing night after the Singleton Racing Esslinger developed a miss during engine starts. Despite the best efforts of car owner Rodney Singleton the problem couldn’t be overcome at the track.
Round 2 of the Polar Ice Midget Series is set for the Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway on Saturday October 8 with the Speedcar/Midget Super Series following on November 5 also at Archerfield. A number of drivers are still to make their first appearance of the season as they complete rebuilds or upgrades. A couple who are aiming to be ready for the Super Series round are Michael Harders, Adam Wallis and Matt Greenwood.
1 Chris Gwilliam (NZ) 2 Brendan Palmer 3 Scott Doyle
1 Troy Ware 2 Reid Mackay 3 Brad Young
1 Brendan Palmer 2 Brock Dean 3 Reid Mackay
1 Chris Gwilliam (NZ) 2 Darren Vine 3 Brendan Palmer
4 Reid Mackay 5 Troy Ware 6 Brad Young
7 Scott Doyle 8 Cal Whatmore