There was no better way for Lightning Sprint drivers to end their season than by winning last Saturday night’s Childs Earthmover Tyre Service Australian Lightning Sprint Title at Brisbane’s Archerfield Speedway, and it was AJ McTaggart who managed to pull it off after a fighting performance in the feature race.
One of the country’s benchmark Lightning Sprint drivers, whose accolades include numerous NSW Titles, Gold Cup wins, Club Championships and other feature-race wins, McTaggart (NSW) had experienced success in almost every major event he’d contested throughout his career. However, an Australian Title victory had always managed to elude him – until last Saturday night that is.
Heading into the event as the current Australia # 3 driver, McTaggart had his work cut out for him, with a host of former Australian Champions amongst the field. After emerging victorious in the gold shootout, he’d done enough to emulate last season’s qualifying result and put himself in the best possible position to achieve the win, with the Sebuild Top Qualifier securing the pole position start for the 25-lap Australian Title-deciding feature race.
While McTaggart had the upper hand of starting the race from the inside, it was former two-time Australian Champion Kurt Wilson who made the most of the start, immediately taking control of the lead and holding his position out in front for the opening 11 laps, until McTaggart made his move.
Pipping Wilson for the lead in the middle stages of the distance, McTaggart’s race still wasn’t an easy one, with Wilson returning fire when McTaggart approached lapped traffic. Retaking the lead in the closing laps, Wilson was unable to make the move stick as McTaggart put the pressure on, spinning out in turn four, which allowed McTaggart to cross the finish line and claim his long-awaited maiden Australian Title crown.
Despite being unable to progress out of the bronze shootout, lining up in position seven for the feature race, outgoing Australian Champion Chris Davis certainly proved that last season’s victory was no fluke, steadily making his way forward and ultimately greeting the chequered flag in second place, just 3.8 seconds shy of a successful title defence.
Losing some ground due to his late-race spin but recovering quickly, Wilson was forced to settle for third place, followed by the first B grade driver across the line in Tyler Strawlow, whose performance saw him place an impressive fourth, with Jim Kennedy rounding out the top five.
The best of the rest was led by veteran driver Keith Blatch, ahead of Jason Rae and Scott Jukes, the latter of which received the Stockmans Civil & Plant Hard Charger Award after starting from position 18 and making up 10 places to cross the finish line in eighth.
Remaining feature-race finishers included Jayden Iacono, Jason George, Dave Fanning, who had swapped cars and was piloting the Qld # 33 Baldwin car, Michael Gollagher and Pete Styles, who rounded out the finishers after a late-race tumble hindered his chances.
The first driver to have their Australian Title campaign brought to a premature end was Danny Stone, who retired to the infield just three laps in and was later joined by Formula 500 regular James Kennedy, Andrew Sparks, Rob Holmes and David Van Vegchel.
Fanning’s night got off to the best possible start with a win in the opening heat race, with remaining heat-race wins going the way of McTaggart, Wilson, Stralow and Iacono, who was the only driver to collect a pair of wins.
The Australian Lightning Sprints Association would like to thank naming rights sponsor Childs Earthmover Tyre Service for their support of the 38th annual Australian Title.
In addition to the naming rights sponsor, Australian Lightning Sprints would also like to thank the following event sponsors: Sebuild (Top Qualifier Award), Stockmans Civil & Plant (Hard Charger Award), and MP Heavy Diesel (First B Grader Award), along with the heat-race sponsors listed below:
Weller Motorsports & Mechanical
Shock Absorber Therapy
Stockmans Civil & Plant
Design Efx Signs
To find out more about the Childs Earthmover Tyre Service Australian Lightning Sprint Title, join the Facebook group by searching Australian Lightning Sprints.