In a remarkable race that featured as many heroic performances as it did hard luck moments, Nathan Smee climbed from position 10 to win the Stan Burrow Midget Stampede at Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway on Saturday night (January 20). Making the most of their moment in the spotlight, the Midgets put on a mighty show as Smee chased down New Zealand’s Hayden Williams, who controlled much of the race despite a deflating rear tyre that eventually ended his campaign just two laps from home. In a stunning Midget debut, Sprintcar ace Callum Walker stormed into second spot, with another youngster in Kaiden Brown surging back to third after a spin early in the race. Brock Dean finished fourth ahead of Anthony Chaffey, with Brad Young and Mitchell Rooke both producing what is perhaps their best-ever performances to snag sixth and seventh respectively, with Mark George, Scott Farmer and Cal Whatmore rounding out the top ten.
Time trials kicked things off and, quite remarkably, it was Walker who set the early benchmark with a best lap of 13.499, a time that would only be bettered by Farmer with a 13.425 circulation, leaving Vine (13.518) third best ahead of Dean (13.573) and Chaffey (13.687). Adam Clarke, Young, George, Williams and Reid Mackay were the best of the rest, with Smee languishing in 16th overall.
Williams made his intentions clear in the opening heat, advancing from the third row to win ahead of Vine and Clarke.
Rob Mackay made the most of a pole position start in heat two to lead all the way in downing Chaffey and George, with Smee outpacing Brown and Cal Whatmore to win heat three.
Clarke cruised home to win heat four from Andy Hassan and Mitchell Rooke before Audie Malt snared his first Midget win in heat five, leading home Young and Brad Harrison.
Williams wrapped up the preliminaries with another win in the final heat, this time ahead of Smee and Vine, and it was the latter who emerged as the top qualifier heading into the Pole Shootout.
The Bronze round of the Shootout saw Dean and Walker advance as Farmer and Young resigned themselves to sharing the fourth row of the feature race grid. Williams was far too swift in the Silver showdown, taking Chaffey with him into the final clash as Dean and Walker exited. In the Gold Shootout, Williams was again too strong, securing pole position for the 40-lap feature race. Clarke was second best, leaving Chaffey and Vine to come from row two.
Nathan Mathers prevailed in the B Main, leading Malt, Dallas Sharp, Hassan and Don Mackay to the line.
At the drop of the green, Clarke catapulted from the outside to lead Williams though the opening laps and the order at the front remained unchanged until lap 11 when Williams moved ahead, only for a spin by Brown in turn four to trigger a restart that put Clarke back in front. However, Williams wasted no time after the resumption in reversing the positions and reclaiming the lead, with his advantage growing as the action further back intensified. Smee was making steady progress through the field and had advanced to fourth after 15 laps, the leaders bunching again for another restart on lap 16 after Rob Mackay and Farmer parked in turn two. A lap later, Smee surged into third and then reeled in Clarke to secure second spot on lap 22. Out front, Williams still looked very comfortable despite the fact that his left rear tyre had been deflating for several laps, with nobody really making much progress in their attempt to chase him down. However, when Williams climbed the kerb in his efforts to negotiate a lapped car, the impact on the wheel proved the death knell for the Kiwi ace and the tyre shredded with just two laps remaining, elevating Smee into the lead. Despite claims from several of the top eight qualifiers in pre-race interviews that the highline would be their preferred option if the track was conducive, Vine was the only one who backed his words with actions and it looked likely to pay off with a podium place seemingly secured until he too exited in the closing stages. Elevated back to second place upon Williams exiting, Clarke threw away his spot with a spin in turn three as Smee swept under the chequer to score a hard fought result. Clarke’s demise moved Walker into second spot ahead of Brown, whose fight back was impressive indeed. Dean narrowly missed a podium berth, while Chaffey, Young, Rooke and George all finished ahead of Farmer, who has been the standout in local competition so far this season. Behind Whatmore came Rob Mackay and Audie Malt, with Clarke classified 13th ahead of Hassan and Harrison.