Former Victorian Champion Justin Paull scored the biggest win of his career with a come-from-behind win in the 1 Stop Property Services Australian Compact Speedcar Championship at Rushworth Speedway in Victoria on Saturday.

A solid field of 22 cars returned for the second attempt to run the 40th Australian Championship after the first attempt was rained out a fortnight earlier and in a race that had a bit of everything, it was Paull who stood the tallest.

The 25-lap Australian Championship deciding feature-race saw one of the NSW-based racers Rob Rawlings Snr and Victorian Louis Rodriguez occupy the front row, Gaby Yammouni from NSW and Victoria’s Butch Hutchinson on the second row and the Victorian duo of Allan Pitcher and Tania Hallett sharing the third row.

The opening five laps told the real story of the race though with Paull, who started from position seven in the field due suffering a clutch failure in his final heat race and recording a DNF, working his way to the lead and fending off pressure from those behind him to greet the chequered flag as the winner. Not even a restart with two laps remaining was enough to knock Paull from the lead as he went on to improve on his previous career-best Australian Championship finish of fourth.

Coming home in second was NSW hard charger Mark Heaton. Heading into the Australian Championship as one of the favourites courtesy of six feature-race wins in-a-row during the season, the current NSW Champion set himself up early by charging from 10th to fourth in the first 10 laps and leaped into second within sight of the chequered flag to shadow Paull across the line. What made Heaton’s drive even more impressive was the fact that he battled throughout the heat races, which saw him receive his fair share of damage, and he was also made to start ROF in all his heat races, due to nominating late.

Finishing third on the podium was pole-sitter Rawlings Snr. Managing to equal his best finish in the Australian Championship, Rawlings, who inherited pole position due to Jason Essai being unable to start, struggled in the early stages of the race before powering back to third on the lap-23 restart. It was a strong finish for the current NSW # 2 after falling back as far as fifth in the second half of the race.

Rounding out the top-five finishers was fellow front-row starter Rodriguez and veteran Pitcher. After running in second place for most of the race, Rodriguez fell back to fourth in the fallout of the final restart, while Pitcher recovered for fifth after moving forward from following dropping back to as low as eighth.

Completing the finishers were Craig Hickey (NSW) in sixth ahead of Mark Hutchinson (Vic), Gaby Yammouni (NSW), Hallett and Craig McKimmie (Vic).

There was disappointment for one of the host state’s leading contenders in Butch Hutchinson who crashed out in spectacular while running in third place, as the leader took the white flag.

Other non-finishers were Mathew Brown (Vic), Rob Rawlings Jnr (NSW) and Ben Fairfax (NSW).

Another heartbreaking story was that of Essai. The ACT-based racer was the form driver of the heat races and earned the right to start from pole position for the Australian Championship deciding feature race; however, a mechanical issue saw him unable to take his place in the field. Jason Crawford (NSW) was another non-starter in the feature race.

Earlier in the afternoon, the six heat races were contested, and the wins went to Pitcher, Paull, Yammouni, Rawlings Snr, Rodriguez and Jason Essai.

One of the hard-luck stories of the event was recent feature-race winner Ayden Elliott (NSW) crashing in a spectacular way out of his opening heat race. Unfortunately for Elliott, there was too much damage and his Australian Championship campaign came to an end. Other drivers that were forced out during the afternoon’s racing action for a variety of reasons included Keith Astrella (Vic), Andrew Lardner (Vic), Brad Rawlings (NSW), Bruce Adams (NSW) and current Victorian Champion Rod Francis (NSW).

The Victorian Compact Speedcar Club would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of the 2018 Australian Championship: 1 Stop Property Services, Meguiar’s,, Pearce Performance Products, Max Dumesny Motorsport, Thomo’s Cash 4 Scrap, Indy Race Parts, American Tire & Racing Services, and Street Appeal Detailing.

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