The initial race meeting of 2017 at the Goulburn Valley Auto Club operated Rushworth Speedway took place on Saturday January the 14th with a big crowd stacked from the fence to the top of the mounds to watch the biggest Goulburn Valley Sedan race of the year alongside the Victorian championship race for Grand Prix Midgets, as well as some top level racing by a big field of local Ladies and Junior drivers.
Phil Lamb started his campaign to go back to back in the Paul Benton Memorial Trophy, taking away a win convincing heat one race win & would go on to win his next two, which would put him off the pole position in for the twenty lap feature race. Peter Welch also got off to a flyer taking his round one heat race win by 3.6 seconds over Luke Basten and Shane Hutchins. Welch whom was absent the last few, looked set to challenge the inform Adam Box and Lamb at the pointy end of the field for the victory in the Memorial.
The Paul Benton Memorial lined up with Lamb at the front of the field whilst Box who had experienced some tough heat races would have to make his way through the pack if he wanted to finish in the top spot.
Lamb jumped to an early lead, looking tough to beat with Jay Nicolaisen and Leigh Jeffery chasing side by side in what some were saying locally was some of the best side by side racing to be seen at Rushworth Speedway for many seasons.
The two worked side by side for at least fifteen of the twenty laps, while Lamb ran away with a big lead. A yellow light stoppage saw Welch into the turn three wall and Lamb’s lead evaporated with Jeffery, and Nicolaisen now right up behind Lamb & just in front of Box who had made his way up to fourth.
Box in his V8 powered Falcon was able to round up the Jeffery & Nicolaisen and set the gun sight on Lamb. In an exciting finish Box remained close & Lamb was feeling the pressure & as the chequered flag waved Lamb crossed just .188 seconds in front of Box after 20 hard laps of racing. Nicolaisen was able to get the edge over Jeffery, coming home third and fourth respectively with Luke Basten rounding out the top five.
As the heat races were completed for the Grand Prix Midget Victorian title it was clear that everyone wanted to end the night with the Victoria #1 on the side of their car.
Chris Fowler won the first heat race and looked like he would be a top contender for the top spot on the podium especially on the back of his back to back feature wins recently, Mark Cecil then won heat race number two by 2.3 seconds over defending state champion Jason Crawford.
Dennis Myers came through with a heat race win, and Lisa Chalcraft also stamped her authority as a strong contender, coming home with two second place finishes and a third from her three heat races. The defending champion showed that he was not going to go out without a fight, with Crawford winning the final heat race of the night.
With four heat races with four different winners the stage was set for a sizzling feature race for the Grand Prix Midget Victorian title which doubles as the Rod Quarrell Memorial.
Dennis Myers and Jason Crawford started off the front row, and battled it out early with Mark Cecil behind then waiting for any opportunity which is exactly what he got on lap five when he drove through the middle of Myers who was on the bottom of the track and Crawford trying to make a pass for the lead on the top.
Cecil would be forced to do all the hard work again with Chris Fowler coming to grief with a big turn one roll over just after he made the passing move on the lead two cars.
With Fowler out of his car and cleared by medics, the racing resumed and Cecil did it all over again as he passed Myers and Crawford and drove away to win the Rod Quarrell Memorial/Victorian title earning that number one for the next twelve months.
The excitement however didn’t end there for Cecil with his race car exploding in a fireball in turn two after crossing the line. Jason Crawford would finish second relinquishing his title, with Myers right on his tail, Lisa Chalcraft would come home fourth after a good consistent night of racing, and current Australian champion Paul Perry would have to settle for fifth place.
The Goulburn Valley Ladies Saloons entertained with a strong field and put on some great side by side door to door racing throughout the night. Belinda Chalcraft came away with two heat race wins, fighting it out with Jacqui Fitzpatrick who won the second heat race of the night. Ally Moore, Kelly Nadort and Chelsea Hodge all also came home in the top three throughout the heat races with positions swapping and changing as the laps wore on.
It came to feature race time and the Ladies were set to continue to turn up the heat as they rolled out onto the track. Belinda Chalcraft from the prime pole position, with Jacqui Fitzpatrick on her outside & the race was on early until Fitzpatrick was able to gain the advantage and drive away with a calculated and intelligent drive to take the win, Chalcraft fought hard looking for passes on the top and bottom of the track but could not get anything to eventuate. Chalcraft would have to settle for second with Ally Moore coming home in the third spot.
The Fitzpatrick team experienced further top level finishes with Lachlan Fitzpatrick continuing his dominance of the Junior Sedans, taking away all three heat race wins with Josh Cecil chasing hard but not being able to make the move to take out a heat race win. Cecil maybe tried a little hard in heat race number three, nearly spinning his Falcon in turn, however in a display of car control any 14 year old should be proud of managed to recover and fight back for the third spot behind rookie Daniel Smith.
The Fitzpatrick team went two from two with Lachlan winning the Junior feature race win by a stunning 8.2 seconds over Josh Cecil and Daniel Smith.
All in all it was an impressive night of racing, and a fantastic way to honour two great club members being Rod Quarrell and Paul Benton.
The next event at Rushworth will be the 4th of February and will feature V8 Dirt Modifieds, SDAV Hot Rods for the Ray Welsh Memorial and all of your favourite locals racing.
DMT Sports Media
For Goulburn Valley Auto Club t/a Rushworth Speedway