FORMER Tasmanian speedway champion Tim Hutchins closed the gap to the lead in the sprintcar series after an impressive win in the penultimate round at the Hobart International Speedway at Sorell Creek on Saturday night. Hutchins, from Sassafras, the defending series champion, won the 30-lap final from series leader Jamie Bricknell and former state champion Kurt Luttrell, both from Launceston, in a thrilling race which saw a number of positional changes behind Hutchins, who was never seriously threatened and led from green light to chequered flag.
Hutchins was superb in lapped traffic and never allowed his chasers to get close enough to challenge, while back in the pack Luttrell, Bricknell and Forest driver Mark House entertained the crowd with a great battle for the minor placings. House charged from fourth to second about mid-race distance, but crashed heavily shortly afterwards, ending his night prematurely. Luttrell and Bricknell continued their battle until Bricknell gained the ascendancy six laps from the finish and managed to open up a slight break, and in doing so minimising the damage as far as the series lead is concerned, now holding a slender six-point advantage over Hutchins heading into the final round at Latrobe next month.
On the same program Burnie veteran Kerry Short added the 2012 sprint championship to the state title he won in 2007, winning the championship final from Sassafras drivers Luke Redpath and Brock Webster. Short retired not long after winning his 2007 state title, but returned to racing last year, with the move paying dividends on Saturday night.
Redpath qualified on outside pole position for the final and started better than his more experienced rival to lead Short for the first 10-laps of the 20-lap final. But Short was able to take advantage of dry and slick track conditions to regain the lead and once back in front, set about establishing a title-winning lead. Webster started from grid three, but lost ground early to Longford’s Bruce Pitt before taking advantage of his cooling tyres during a stoppage seven laps from the finish caused by an incident back in the pack. At the re-start former state junior sedan champion Webster jumped back into third place and managed to pull away from Pitt in the closing stages for a great third place in his first year in lightning sprints racing.
The program also included the Tasmanian bombers championship, which lived up to pre-race hype as a bruising encounter in the final and a race of survival, with only four cars from the starting grid of 10 finishing the tough affair. The title started sensationally when defending champion Josh Knight and former four-times champion David Hart were involved in a first-lap incident, which claimed four cars, including their own, which both rolled on the back straight.
Sean Devine, who had qualified on pole position for the final, started strongly and was clear of the carnage on the second row, establishing a big lead in the early stages after the re-start necessitated by the opening lap incident. Devine seemingly had the championship in his keeping until a late charge by Kylie Jetson almost saw her stealing the lead with three laps to go. Jetson continued to pressure Devine all the way to the line for a popular second, with Justin Cooley a distant third.
Earlier in the night Spreyton driver Corey Bauld closed the gap to the series lead in the eighth round of the 10-round street stock sedan series with a hard-fought win in the 20-lap final. Series leader Matthew Templar, of Penguin, finished second after a great battle with defending series champion and former state champion Todd Auton, of Ulverstone, snatching second on the last lap to minimise the impact on his series lead of Bauld winning the round.