Morgan Park turned on three beautiful warm and sunny days for the first event of the 2016 season. Friday saw everyone experimenting with the new Yokohama AO48 tyres around the bumpy 3 km circuit.
Newcomer Paul Milevskiy had his first taste of the wall early on, but with some help from BF Racing was back on track later in the day. Dylan Fahey's new Van Diemen RF06 stopped on track and was put away for the weekend. Luckily he had the luxury of jumping into his championship winning RF04.
Saturday morning's qualifying session made two things clear. Hunter McElrea was going to be the man to beat, and we were in for some really good racing. Hunter's 1:23.270 was nearly half a second quicker than second place James Corbett's 1:23.700, but there was less than three tenths covering James and the next five cars! The order being Harri Jones, Bob Power, Mitch Maddren, Tom Corbett, and Dylan Fahey. Tony Chapman was best of the rest with a 1:24.475.
Race one saw Hunter grab an immediate lead with James Corbett busting out in wheel spin off the start. The order stayed static at the front for the first few laps but behind that it was hectic with Tom Corbett, Mitch Maddren, and Tony Chapman all dispatching Bob Power.
On lap 4 Harri tagged the back of second placed James Corbett sending them both spinning off at Gum tree corner to rejoin at the tail of the field. Fahey had a big spin at the end of that same lap, rejoining just ahead of the other two, to lead a three-car train working their way back up through the field. The battling group of Curtis, Lihou, and Boulton proving to be their biggest challenge. Disaster was narrowly avoided when Curtis spun in the middle of this group, beaching her car on the curb for the remainder of the race.
Curtis, Lihou and Boulton had a tight battle during Race 1.
In the end it was a clear win for McElrea, while Maddren got past Tom Corbett for second place. Chapman was very happy in fourth leading home Power, Fahey, Corbett senior, Lihou, Jones, Boulton, Purvis, and Milevskiy. McElrea set fastest lap by a good margin with a 1:23.094, but the next group headed by Tom Corbett's 1:23.936, Chapman's 1:23.950, and Maddren's 1:23.968 were very close.
Race two, was a hectic affair and unusually, got underway with a rolling start. McElrea was again quickly away this time pursued by Tom Corbett and Mitch Maddren. Corbett senior meanwhile passed Fahey, Power, and Chapman in the first half lap, and was quickly into third after Maddren bowled a wide, appropriately at the Bowl corner. The following lap Tom Corbett got loose coming on to the straight, allowing his dad to close the gap. Never mind racing for sheep stations, this was serious, with family bragging rights being on the line.
On lap four though, Corbett senior put in a fast 360 degree spin through the high speed sweeper, allowing a close following Bob Power through for his turn in third. Fahey spun in sympathy with Corbett allowing a charging Maddren into fifth. Corbett senior returned the favour to Maddren by bowling his own wide at turn one, setting up a torrid battle for third between the latter and Power.
All this action enabled Tom Corbett to relax a bit in second, while McElrea was comfortable in front. It was Power's turn to run wide at the notorious Bowl corner on the final tour, ensuring Maddren's third place, and allowing Corbett senior to tow up beside him at the flag. A side-by-side Fahey and Jones were next with Chapman right on their tails. Lihou, Curtis, Purvis, Boulton, Miles and Milevskiy, followed. Goulding DNFed when the ignition coil parted ways with his Vector.
Hunter was again untroubled with the fastest lap of 1:23.180, easily clear of Corbett senior's 1:23.874. But there were four more drivers, with a lap time within one and a half tenths; blink and you loose.
Rick Miles slides the Kookaburra through T-Junction with Gary Goulding in close company in his Vector.
Race three once again saw McElrea back in front but not so convincingly as had been the case earlier in the weekend, and the highlight was a ding dong battle for second between Tom Corbett and Mitch Maddren.
Behind them Fahey was able to take advantage of a sliding James Corbett on lap one to set up a several lap dice with Power. Eventually though Corbett was able to dispatch them both and hold fourth for several laps. Maddren made it past Tom Corbett in the middle part of the race, but they were never far apart and Tom eventually was able to dive through at the T-Junction late in the race and hold that until the end... Just.
Tom Corbett and Mitch Maddren were rarely further than a car length apart for much of the weekend.
In the battle for fourth, Power, with Fahey running on his gearbox was able to get inside Corbett senior at turn one making a hole for both of them to go through. Jones tried as well but collided once again with Corbett's Spectrum sending them both spinning to the rear of the field. Chapman was badly baulked in the incident and fell away from Power and Fahey, but held a ten second gap back to a battling Lihou and Boulton. A recovering James Corbett and Harri Jones led home Purvis, Miles, Curtis, and Milevskiy.
Meanwhile, the battle for second had been so intense that Tom Corbett managed to pip McElrae for the fastest lap by slashing 3/4 of a second off his weekend's previous best, with a 1:23.145. Hunter posted a 1:23.172 while Maddren found 6 tenths of a second in that battle to record a 1:23.355.
FFA Queensland Delegate James Corbett, �We had been predicting great racing and we got it. Maybe not for first place, but beyond that the bulk of the field battled hard and fast, changing places all weekend.... and no one lost a corner.�
- Hunter McElrea
- Tom Corbett
- Mitch Maddren
Full results can be found on the results page.
All photos in this article appear courtesy of Trapnell Creations