The storm clouds hovering over Sandown International Motor Raceway in Melbourne as the fourth round of the Toyota 86 Racing Series got underway on Saturday provided a portent of things to come. The weekend unfolded with plenty of drama on the circuit and thrilling racing action.
For the first time since the season started – with ten races already run – the safety car was called out twice over the weekend as the combination of a damp and fast flowing 3.1km circuit challenged the field of 33 cars and drivers to their limits.
Race 10 kicked off the weekend on Saturday morning with current series leader Tim Brook qualifying on pole and taking the chequered flag for the first race after completing the 11 laps in 16 minutes and 12.3888 seconds.
Cam Walton, Cameron Crick, Luke King, Jake Klein and, in his first race for the season Dylan Gulson, joined Brook making up the front three rows of the grid with King eventually taking second and Broc Feeney third.
It was not a repeat of the total dominance Brook displayed at Townsville though as a poor start saw him drop three places off the line before climbing back to second place behind King and ahead of Walton by the end of lap two.
Speaking after the race Brook said it was a challenging start but he stayed calm and it paid off.
“I was in a bit of sandwich between King and Kleiny there and they came in a bit hot and went a bit wide which opened up the door for me and I just tried to remain calm and hunt the two down in front of me,” Brook said.
Brook finally regained the lead from King seven laps in but Walton, with smoke pouring from the back of the car since about lap five due to a diff problem, had lost pace – eventually retiring on lap 10.
Newcomer Gulson and Feeney then slipped through to battle it out for the third podium position as Brook and King held their lead through to the finish line.
Feeney had driven well climbing from 8th slot on the grid but the drive of the race went to David Sieders who had started on the grid in 28th slot before gaining 13 places to finish in 15th and setting the fastest lap time in the process with a new record of 1:26.6903 on lap nine.
Saturday afternoon’s Race 11 started on a wet track with King strong off the line to lead into the first turn ahead of Feeney and Brook. Towards the back of the field, invited driver Harry Bates in the 86 dressed in his dad’s Celica GT-Four rally car livery spun, was tapped by that English Bloke James Wilkins, and sent to the back of the pack.
Cam Walton, who started on the back row, was charging through the field before Gavan Reynolds slid and slammed hard into the wall on lap five forcing a safety car intervention for the first time in the series this year.
After restarting on lap nine, Feeney led with a gap of more than one second to King, followed by Brook, Klein and Luke van Herwaarde, who had gained five places since starting on the grid in 10th slot.
Hard driving by the leaders saw van Herwaarde, Klein, King and Brook change places with Brook’s fastest lap of the race of 1:31.8071 on the final circuit enabling him to close to within .27 seconds of Feeney who took his second win in the series, with King completing the podium in third.
Van Herwaarde and Klein rounded out the top five while Sieders again climbed another seven positions to finish in sixth and Cam Walton managed to finish in 12th after starting at the back of the grid.
Feeney said after the race it was a tough one, especially being in the lead under the safety car.
“It was great to get my second win but that was probably the most stressful race I’ve ever been in and Tim did a great job and it was hard holding him back,” Feeney said.
For Sunday, Melbourne turned on the sunshine but there was no less drama on racetrack.
With Brook and Feeney on the front row, Brook was first into turn one to lead before Feeney made an ambitious move on turn nine that didn’t pay off resulting in him losing five positions and damaging his exhaust in the process.
King then made a successful move on Brook to take the lead into lap two with the barnstorming driving of David Sieders see him gain another three spots to be in third by lap three.
The safety car came out again for the second time in the weekend on lap three after Liam McAdam, the big winner at the first round at Phillip Island, was tapped and ended up in the kitty litter while Feeney took the opportunity to pit and try and reattach his exhaust.
With a restart on lap six, the running order was King, Brook, van Herwaarde and Sieders then contact between Brook and King on lap seven saw Brook slide off into the gravel trap and the safety car again made an appearance.
After the restart on lap nine, van Herwaarde was in the lead ahead of King and Klein while in the mid-field Bates gained 12 positions to sit in 16th. Last round winners James Wilkins and Nic Carroll had also both driven hard from the tail end of the field to move up 11 places.
The drama didn’t end there though as into the final lap, hard side by side action in the mid-field saw Aaron Cameron off line and into the wall before rebounding and skittling the field with George Gutierrez, Dylan Gulson, and invited driver Leanne Tander all caught up.
Meanwhile at the front of the field van Herwaarde went wide and allowed Klein and King to slide through before van Herwaarde fought back to pass King and held it through to the finish.
Klein took his first win for the season, with van Herwaarde in second and Sieders taking a well-deserved third place.
Klein said he was almost speechless at his win.
“It’s just incredible, I can’t believe it’s finally come through, we worked so hard to get here and we have finally done it,” he said.
King and Cameron Crick rounded out the top five for Race 12 but such was the intensity of the racing that four in the top ten – Walton (6th), Jaylyn Robotham (7th), Carroll (8th) and Declan Fraser (9th) all topped the lap record with Carroll setting the fastest time of 1:26.2557.
The Toyota 86 Racing Series next heads for Mount Panorama to take on the iconic Bathurst circuit on October 4-7.
Race 10 results:
- Tim Brook
- Luke King
- Broc Feeney
Race 11 results:
- Broc Feeney
- Tim Brook
- Luke King
Race 12 results:
- Jake Klein
- Luke van Herwaarde
- David Sieders