Mixed weather conditions greeted the 45 strong field for Round 1 of the NSW Championship. It certainly didn’t detract from the action during the day with some incredible racing across both groups, all the way through the pack. We were lucky enough to have the team from Blend Line TV join us to produce live audio commentary of the racing. If you missed out be sure to check out the links below and have a listen.
A different looking field took to the track with a few of our front runners from last year not being entered. The fluoro yellow #777 of last year’s runner-up Matt Boylan was sold in the office season and Matt is embarking on a production car seat campaign. 2019 and 2020 NSW Champion, Josh Craig didn’t enter the number 1 N14 this round but assures us he will be back later in the year. Regular front runner in the number 17, Michael Osmond also taking a short break.
Check out the wrap up below,
Due to being over grid density limits, cars were once again broken into two groups. The groups were split based on finishing order in last years championship. The top cars went out first and the remainder, along with a heap of new members made up the second group.
The biggest challenge of having split grids is trying to ensure conditions are the as close to the same as possible for both groups, but unfortunately none of us are weather gods! Despite the changing conditions we managed to get through qualifying without any significant rainfall
Group 1 took to the track with some fast times laid down immediately by #6 Tim Colombrita and birthday boy, #37 Josh Haynes. The top 17 cars in the first group all laying down times under 1:12.
At the 15 minute changeover a few spots of rain greeted Group 2 as they left the dummy grid. Thankfully it wasn’t enough to impact times as #63 Luke Eberhart set a 1:11.01 which, after close to a year off, resulted in him being the only car to move in amongst the times set by Group 1. A notable performance by new member #58 Karl Raper saw him as one of the faster cars in group 2.
With the 30 minute qualifying session completed, #6 Tim Colombrita would take out the Pitcher Partners Pole Position award followed by #37 Josh Haynes by five hundredths of a second with #43 Harry Inwood taking 3rd.
Listen to the Race 1 Groups A & B live race commentary on our Facebook Page
23 cars rolled out of the dummy grid for the start of the Group B first race. After punching out 1:12.2 in qualifying #191 Damon Schofield took his place in grid spot 1 as the fastest qualifier of group B. He was joined on the front row by #58 Karl Raper after laying down a brilliant time on debut for qualifying.
#11 Richard Baskus suffered mechanical issues that resulted in a start from pit lane and ultimately ended in an unfortunate DNF for Race 1. A cracking start from #25 Grahame Fraser saw him leap a heap of positions, this was then followed by a brilliant drive taking more places throughout the race to finish in a commendable 8th position from way down the starting grid.
A 3 way battle for the lead between #191 Schofield, #58 Raper and #99 Matt Early would ensue for the next few laps. Battles all the way through the field for the 10 laps made for some good clean racing. Ultimately the chequered flag greeted #58 Raper who was victorious in his first APRA race for Group B.
Following on from the battles in group B, the group A cars rolled out from the dummy grid. #6 Colombrita took his place on Pole Position as the remainder of the 22 car field grid up behind.
Bad luck struck #27 Greg Dufficy resulting in him missing the chance to leave the dummy grid in a newly built car engineered by back to back champion Josh Craig. A continued run of bad luck also saw #7 Charlie Viola not take his place on the grid with engine problems.
A brilliant start by #6 Colombrita would see him immediately gap the field by about 5 car lengths at the end of the first lap. A 3 or 4 lap battle between #147 Shane Tate, #3 Ian Joyce, #16 Ian Ashcroft and #96 Chris Butterfield made for some great entertainment with all 4 cars trading positions at different times. #6 Colombrita continued to build the gap on the rest of the field to ultimately take the win for Group A in race 1. He was followed by #37 Haynes in second and #26 Will Foot in third.
Listen to the Race 2 Groups A & B live race commentary here on our Facebook Page
With 4 cars being promoted to the group A grid and 4 cars coming back from Group A to Group B, we had #72 Thomas Petrovich and #222 Jamie Canellis in the ex- Matt Boylan car take their places on the front row.
A DNF in Group A Race 1 saw #66 Dimitri Agathos start from almost dead last in Group B, after an incredible start, moving through most of the field, an incident with #19 Caine Fraser would result in a 30 second penalty applied post-race despite finishing the race in Position 3.
#77 Adam Cvetanovski, a relative newcomer to APRA chased down #72 Petrovich but was unable to find a way past with #72 Petrovich ultimately taking the win, #77 Cvetanovski in second #66 Dimitri Agathos third and #222 Canellis fourth. The 30 second Penalty to #66 Agathos would then see #78 Kane Alderton in line for promotion in Race 3.
21 cars took to the grid for what would end up a 12 lap Race 2 for group A. Starting order was taken in finishing positions from Race 1 meaning #6 Colombrita would start from P1 on the grid.
On the start #43 dropped down the field and struggled to get away. #6 repeated the efforts of race 1 and proceeded to gap the field significantly by the time they came around to complete lap 1. Car #26 Will Foot and #37 would battle it out side by side for a number of corners and a large battle pack pursued not too far behind. An unfortunate DNF for the returning #63 Luke Eberhart meant a return the pits to get the car prepared for Race 3.
On the 4th Lap disaster struck #37 Josh Haynes, who many are predicting will be a championship contender for 2021, with electrical failure seeing him pull to a safe position off the track where he would remain for the rest of the race.
Meanwhile, #147 Tate, #3 Joyce and #96 Butterfield continued where they left off in Race 1 with an epic battle that lasted most of the race. #313 Daniel Smith, starting from way back in the pack, showed incredible pace pushing through the field making up places at will and ultimately finishing in Position 5.
At the chequered flag, #6 Colombrita took P1, #26 Foot in second and #22 Gavan Reynolds taking third at the line. Fourth taken by #8 Chris Manning repeating his Forth from Race 1.
Listen to the Race 3 live race commentary here on our Facebook Page
Combined Groups A and B
Due to time constraints and some unfortunate retirements due to accident or mechanical issues, the two groups were combined into a starting field of 39 for the 20 minute (race 3) final race of the day.
#6 Colombrita, #26 Foot lead the way with #8 Manning moving past #22 Reynolds for third. #313 Smith continued to move through the field to what would eventually be a 4th position, earning him the “Driver of the day” accolade as awarded by the APRA DSO. The racing continued to produce intense battles all the way down the field of 44 cars with new members #32 Simon Kendrick and #36 Jeff Lawrence holding their own against some more experienced competition.
On the fringe of the top 10, 2019 Rookie of the year #241 Thomas Khouri battled away with the likes of, #191 Schofield and #89 Ryan Gilroy, on his way to one of his best finishing places in his APRA appearances.
#27 Dufficy starting from the rear of grid had a hard-fought race moving through to his eventual finishing position of 26th. The gremlins returned for #37 Josh Haynes resulting in a drop to 36th position after battling his way up to 19th earlier in the race. One of the unfortunate DNFs was #25 Grahame Fraser who had a spectacular engine failure near the end of the race resulting in a large smoke plume, bringing an end to his race. Grahame managed to get the #25 way off the track and out of the way so the race could continue and finish under green flag conditions.
Ultimately the race, along with the points for the event ended up finishing as follows,
- 1st – #6 Tim Columbrita
- 2nd – #26 Will Foot
- 3rd – #8 Chris Manning
With an incredibly short turn around, the MRF Tyres APRA NSW Championship heads back to Wakefield Park for Round 2. A 2 day event in support of the Wakefield 300 on the weekend of the 20th – 21st Feb.
Meanwhile our Victorian members are in deep preparation for their first round at Phillip Island on the 10th – 11th April. Keep an eye out on our website and social media pages for more news to come.