36th Australian Sprintcar Championship Report 98-02-28

36th Australian Sprintcar Championship Bunbury City & Regional Raceway, Bunbury WA February 28-March 1, 1998 MADSEN SETS THE PRACTICE PACE (BUNBURY, WA - Friday, February 27, 1998) .. Sydney's Kerry Madsen tonight fired the first salvo...

36th Australian Sprintcar Championship Bunbury City & Regional Raceway, Bunbury WA February 28-March 1, 1998

MADSEN SETS THE PRACTICE PACE

(BUNBURY, WA - Friday, February 27, 1998) .. Sydney's Kerry Madsen tonight fired the first salvo in practice for this weekend's 36th annual Australian Sprintcar Championship by registering the quickest unofficial lap time at Bunbury City & Regional Raceway. The talented youngster, runner-up in last year's national title, drove his Huntley's "Your Money Weekly"-Grizzly around the spacious 540 metre oval in 14.65 secs.

"We played with the gear ratios, shock absorbers, ride heights and a few other little things to fine-tune the car given this is the first time we'd seen this track," said Madsen. "It is definitely a momentum track but we are obviously right in the game based on the times we were doing - but it is going to be an interesting weekend no matter what happens."

A mere 0.07secs slower was title favourite Skip Jackson, the dual World Series Sprintcars champion topping a snap poll of fellow competitors as the man most likely to succeed outgoing champion Garry Brazier whose clashing World of Outlaws commitments prevent him from defending his crown. "We used tonight's practice sessions to work on the balance of my Skilled Engineering/O'Brien Aluminium/Gibson Freight chassis," explained the 29-year old. "Tomorrow is another ball game however as you just can't anticipate anything, just work with what you have got."

Third fastest was Brooke Tatnell (like the other duo trying to win his maiden national title) who remarked, "This is the best mechanical preparation we've had as all I have worried about for the last four weeks is working on this Shell Helix/Phantom Comics- Schnee. I stripped it back to a bare frame which was powder coated, it has a brand new block in the Felsch engine, the rear end has been in a million bits and we've put brand new nuts and bolts throughout. Tonight we concentrated on the fuel system and persisted with what we think will be a good time trial set-up," explained Brooke.

The trio of David Anderson's Wagga Mobile Cranes-Maxim (14.74 secs), Andrew Scheuerle's Lucas Oils-Maxim (14.79 secs) and local Ryan Farrell (14.79 secs) were next quickest, the latter admitting, "The open tyre allows us to run a lot softer compound McCreary tyre than our usual control tyre so I needed a run to adjust the car. More grip made me more erratic until we loosened the PMfm-Murphy up to ride the ruts and holes. I'm a lot happier now having got a feel for the tyres as a gauge where we are."

The night's major story surrounded the Castrol-Maxim of Garry Rush in his "Bunbury swansong", having won the first of his record 10 national titles here 21 years ago. When Wayne Skipper backed off after accepting the checkered flag to end a practice run, 53-year old Rush failed to avoid the slowing vehicle, rode over the left rear wheel and slowly spiralled into a rollover. While at first glance it appeared to be a soft landing, later inspection revealed a crack in the front of the brand new chassis.

"I guess I wasn't watching closely enough," observed the soon-to-retire speedway icon, adding "and I ran into the back of him. Turns One and Two had a big ledge that was dangerous, you couldn't avoid running through the ruts. I hope while we fix the frame, they'll fix the track by tomorrow."

Gavin Migro (14.81), Rush (14.82) and the Adrad Performance Radiators-J&J of emerging Adelaide star Trevor Green (14.84) all demonstrated just how hard fought these championships will be run with a margin of only 0.19 secs separating the fastest nine cars. Former national champions Max Dumesny, Brett Lacey and local Bunbury idol Ron Krikke plus reigning WA state champion Mark Wells all elected not to test their own cars tonight and must be added to the above list of potential winners.

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