RODRIGUEZ CLAIMS HIS FIRST GRAND PRIX MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP
The Victorian Grand Prix Midget Club has successfully started its season with a bang this past Saturday night at Wangaratta City Raceway with the running of the Rod Quarrell Victorian Grand Prix Midget title seeing Louis Rodriguez claim his first Victorian title in GP Midgets after heartbreak stopped top qualifier Janelle Saville in her tracks at the start line of the feature race.
With six heat races held and three per driver in which they could earn their qualifying spot in the title race the crowd was treated to sensational racing from Saville, Rodriguez, Gary Bowyer and Wangaratta local Chris Carr in particular, before a race long battle between Rodriguez and Bowyer for the title.
Saville (# 2 - Kawasaki Zx12 – PBR – Jam Signs) and Bowyer both came to town from New South Wales despite the threat of weather interfering in the event which was a credit to them both, rewarded in Bowyers case with a podium result.
The first round began with Paul Perry a former national champion in pole position ahead of Carr (#3 – Suzuki GSX 1150 – Independent Chassis – Mowpro), Bowyer, David Bacon, Mark Blackeby, Saville, Terry Brown and Matt Kamolins (#22 – Suzuki GSX 1100 – Kamolins Motorsport).
Saville made a flying start from deep in the pack as she hit the lead on lap one. Carr and Perry followed in hot pursuit, with Bowyer (#N5 – Yamaha R1 – PBR – Arjan Motors) making his way forward in the second half of the race. When the ten laps finished Saville had taken the win from Carr, Bowyer, Blackeby (#10 – Yamaha R1 – Stinger – Spitfire Restaurant & Grill), Brown, Kamolins and Bacon.
Lining up for race two was Ash Booker a former champion, Chris Fowler, Travis Florrimell (#81 – Suzuki 1000 – Stinger – TM Line Boring & Engineering), Louis Rodriguez, Alex Myers son of a six time Victorian champion Dennis, Shawn Ward and Jack Ward (#4 – Suzuki GSX – Stinger – Ballistic Performance Parts).
Ash Booker returning to Grand Prix Midget racing led early from Rodriguez and Shawn Ward (#44 – Suzuki GSXR 1100 – Independent Chassis – Dosser Panels). Rodriguez in a much younger race car with recent technology on his side took the lead just before the midway point of the race. In the pack Alex Myers (#11 – Suzuki GSXR 1100 – PBR – Automotive Super Balance Shepparton) and Chris Fowler had a little battle of their own going on. They both got by Shawn Ward whose son Jack was also back further in the field. Towards the end of the race Fowler passed by Myers and he followed Rodriguez and Booker to the finish in third. Myers finished fourth ahead of Shawn Ward and Jack Ward.
After a little break to attend to the race cars the drivers returned for round two of heat racing with Mark Blackeby on pole in the third race. Rodriguez, Brown (#88 – Suzuki – Stinger – Mooroopna Mobile Engineering), Fowler, Carr, Travis Florrimell, Bacon and Jack Ward completed the line-up.
An early race accident down the back straight as Blackeby and Florrimell came together finished with Florrimell in the concrete wall sustaining front end damage to his car, ending his title aspirations. Rodriguez controlled the race from the front with Fowler and Carr in tow. Blackeby and Brown had a race long battle to the finish, whilst Rodriguez stormed to a win from Carr who passed Fowler on the final lap after his car shut off in turn 3 with an ignition issue with Blackeby in fourth, then Brown, Jack Ward and Bacon (#36 – Yamaha R1 – PBR – DB Cleaning & Kanga Hire).
For the fourth qualifier Myers lined up with the pole spot ahead of Saville, Shawn Ward, Perry, Booker, Bowyer and Kamolins. Perry (#33 – Kawasaki ZX12 – PBR – Phantom Signs) was having a difficult night with a new engine and he pulled infield before the race could take off.
Saville made the most of her front row start jumping to the lead at the green in front of Myers. Booker’s (#50 – Yamaha R1 – Stinger – Pitstop Mowers) experience showed as he slid into second place quickly before Myers took the spot back on lap four with Bowyer following suit and passing Booker on the same lap. Saville secured the race win from Myers, Bowyer, Kamolins and Shawn Ward whilst Booker on the final lap hit a rut and launched his car into the wall exiting turn four sustaining severe rear end damage to the car.
Bowyer began the fifth heat from pole position with Carr, Bacon, Fowler and Kamolins the five starters.
Starting the third and final round, Sydneysider Bowyer took a grip on race five early from Fowler and Carr. Bowyer put in his most consistent laps of the night and looked good heading into the title race as he led all ten laps to defeat Fowler (#13 – Yamaha R1 – HMJ – R & P Stainer Grinding Services), Carr and Bacon.
The heat of the night closed out the qualifying with Saville and Rodriguez (#47 – Yamaha R1 – PBR – 1 Stop Property Shop) drawing each other in the last race. Shawn Ward and Saville would lead the field away with Rodriguez, Blackeby, Myers and Jack Ward closing out the starting positions.
Making a statement Saville led Rodriguez, Shawn Ward, Blackeby and Myers from lap one of the race. Each and every lap the positions remained the same, and Saville became the only driver to claim three race wins from three race starts for the evening. Brown didn’t get to run as he was in the pits trying to change a fuel pump and could not get the task completed to join the line-up.
The twenty lap title race was all set with its qualifiers in order. Saville with the pole position sat with Rodriguez in the line-up alongside. Bowyer and Carr on row two with Fowler, Myers, Shawn Ward, Blackeby, Brown, Jack Ward and Kamolins secured their spots in the title race also. Bacon could not race due to engine injector issues.
As the field exited turn four to begin the race the green flag dropped and Saville’s car did not take off as it rolled up towards the start line and over the pole line and into the infield with a broken accelerator cable. Absolute devastation for Saville who had a tremendous opportunity to secure a state title victory snatched from her grasp. You could feel the other team’s devastation for her.
Rodriguez led the title race from the start, Bowyer slotted into second and Carr then Fowler into third for the first four laps before Fowler’s chain broke and he also drifted off the track into the infield to watch. Myers and Brown slotted into fourth and fifth and soon Kamolins also would suffer the same fate as Fowler with a broken chain.
Myers moved into third ahead of Carr as the local Wangaratta racer soon found himself infield with a broken rear end as Myers set about chasing the leaders. Shawn Ward lost battery power and his son Jack won a little father and son bet around who would finish better in the title with Shawn offering to retire. Unless Shawn is putting another driver in his car, we do hope that he is able to wiggle out of this little bet somehow.
Try as he might, Bowyer could not pass Rodriguez who had led every lap of the race and Rodriguez went on to win his first Victorian title in the class with Bowyer, Myers, Brown, Blackeby and then Jack Ward the final result.
After the race Rodriguez reflected on the result. “It was a tough day jumping in and out of two race cars all night however our team pulled together and got the result. It is a proud moment that is for sure. I really feel sorry for Janelle, she can hold her head up, she did so well, what a tough racer she is. Bowyer gave us a run for our money also and this class is continuing to develop strong car counts. Well done to all and thank you so very much to my family and my supporters for everything they do.” Shared Rodriguez.
With fifteen cars at Wangaratta, interest in the class should continue to grow. If you wish to talk about purchasing one of the available cars for sale or discuss building a new car, speak to John Fowler the class President, Travis Florrimell, Paul Perry or Mark Shiells.
The Victorian Grand Prix Midget Racing Association would like to thank the continued support from:
Ballistic Performance Parts
Automotive Super Balance
TM Lineboring & Engineering
DMT Sports Media
For the Victorian Grand Prix Midgets
(c) Vern and Jackie Parker Photography
(c) Vern and Jackie Parker Photography