Local takes out action packed Mallala GWTCC round: South Australian Chris Smerdon (V8 Supercars) has claimed round two of the Gulf Western Touring Car Challenge at his home circuit of Mallala Raceway last weekend (April 16 & 17), with second...
Local takes out action packed Mallala GWTCC round:
South Australian Chris Smerdon (V8 Supercars) has claimed round two of the Gulf Western Touring Car Challenge at his home circuit of Mallala Raceway last weekend (April 16 & 17), with second and third outright being claimed by surprise packets Peter Vicary (V8 Supercars) and Andrew Gillespie (Future Tourer).
For Smerdon this was his first appearance in a V8 Supercar since the late 1990's, after he recently purchased an ex Stone Brothers AU Falcon that had been previously steered by Mark Winterbottom and Greg Ritter.
After coming out on top in Saturday's qualifying Smerdon continued his front running form in the opening race when he took out race one which was over a 5-lap distance. In the two handicapped races, Smerdon found the going a little bit tougher, as one would expect, and in race two he placed fourth, whilst in the third and final race a jumped start saw him serve a stop-go penalty which relegated him back to 11th at the finish. Although finishing well down the order in the final race, Smerdon's performances in the opening two races were enough to hand him the overall honours after a number of his main rivals struck various runs of back luck during the weekend.
Having a home track advantage was always going to have Smerdon within the front running cars and that was enforced after Saturday's qualifying when he posted a best lap of 1:11.3839, which handed him pole position. The next best was Terry Wyhoon (1:11.6809), followed by defending GWTCC champion Luke Searle (1:13.2609), Adam Proctor (1:13.7017), Garry Willmington (1:13.8892) and newcomer Ray Ayton (1:16.2230) in sixth outright.
Those who encountered dramas throughout qualifying were Sam Dale (Electrical dramas), Neil Byers (Chassis damage) and David Towe, with the latter being sidelined for the remainder of the weekend due to engine troubles in his Group-A JPS BMW.
On Sunday morning for race one (5 laps) it was the V8 Supercars of Smerdon and Wyhoon who shared the front row by virtue of their strong qualifying performances. Once the green flag dropped it was Wyhoon who got the better of pole sitter Smerdon and led the opening two laps until his AU Falcon was slowed by differential issues which allowed Smerdon to move in to command. A lap later Wyhoon retired from the race with a blown differential. For the remaining distance Smerdon was never seriously challenged and went onto take victory with second place going to Searle, whilst the battle for third raged fierce between Willmington and Proctor, but in the end Willmington held him out despite the youngster throwing everything at the veteran to find a way past. Ayton and Gillespie followed Willmington and Proctor across the finish line and completed the top six finishers.
For race two (8 laps), the first of the handicapped events, Wyhoon battled to make it onto the dummy grid after there was a mad rush to replace his differential with a unit borrowed from another team. Wyhoon managed to make it out onto the starting grid just in time. At the drop of the green flag it was Ben Vicary (Future Tourer), who powered away from the front, and held the lead up until the fifth lap when he was locked in a battle with Peter Kelly (Super Tourer). On that lap (Fifth) both Kelly and Vicary spun out of contention in turn five, which allowed both Sam Dale (Super Tourer) and Wyhoon to the front, with the latter just getting by Dale as the incident between Kelly and Vicary took place. Once into the lead Wyhoon held command up until the fall of the chequered flag, with Dale holding onto an impressive second and as he crossed the finish line his engine self destructed, with Kelly recovering to place third followed by Smerdon, Peter Vicary and Brendan Julius (Super Tourer) in sixth across the finish line.
GWTCC contenders Luke Searle and Adam Proctor both suffered non-finishes in race two, which put a dint in both their title aspirations. With Searle suffering rear suspension damage which put him out for the remainder of the weekend, whilst Proctor sustained a broken rocker but was able to take his place for race three after the Mumbo Racing team made some hurried repairs to the Nissan Primera.
The third and final race (10 laps) of the weekend saw controversy even before the green flag was dropped with firstly Willmington jumping the start, then he was soon followed by Wyhoon and Smerdon, and all three drivers were black flagged and ordered to go to the pits to receive their penalty. It was the AU Falcon Future Tourer of Gillespie who led the opening five laps up until a hard charging Wyhoon took over the front running a lap late, with Smerdon quickly working his way in to second soon after. On the seventh lap Smerdon pulled into the pits to receive his penalty, as did leader Wyhoon a lap later. This therefore saw Gillespie move back into the lead - a position he held until the finish line. The EL Falcon V8 Supercar of Peter Vicary was unable to reel in Gillespie in the closing stages despite his best efforts and placed second, ahead of Kelly, Julius, Ben Vicary and the Walkinsaw Group-A Commodore of John Vergotis, who completed the top six finishers. Penalty recipients Wyhoon, Smerdon and Willmington finished in ninth, 11th and 12th respectively.
At the completion of the weekend Smerdon was the overall winner ahead of a jubilant Peter Vicary, and Andrew Gillespie, who completed the podium in third. Class winners were Smerdon (V8 Supercars), Julius (Super Tourers), Gillespie (Future Tourers) and Vergotis (Group-A).
The 2.6 km Mallala circuit did create a lot of close and interesting racing, with a number of surprise results at the end of the weekend. The Super Tourers and Future Tourers showed their flair on the track and were more than competitive in various stages.
Phillip Island Raceway (Victoria) will be the host for round three of the Gulf Western Touring Car Challenge on the weekend of May 21 & 22.