Two-time champion dominates, despite a clutch issue, as the defending champion extends his lead.
On the back of an incredible weekend at Queensland Raceway, just a fortnight earlier, the teams and drivers of the Brisbane Collision Centre Queensland Touring Car Championship fronted up to Lakeside Park, for the second and final time in 2021, to start the second-half of the season.
The tight turnaround between outings proved too tight for some, with both Les Hanifin and Mark Hyde unable to get their respective issues resolved in time for this round, while Rob Droder’s commodore continued to cause him grief, to the point where he parked his car after Friday practice, and borrowed Jordan Walker’s commodore for this round.
Walker – the daughter of Stuart – has been contesting the QR Sports & Sedans series this year, and the category wasn’t on the bill for this meeting.
Also, there were two notable absentees from Group A, with neither Murray Kent or Lee Gravolin lining up this time out.
Round 4 – known as the Hully’s Automotive Lakeside Challenge – would follow the same format as round three, minus the changes in track configuration, with Qualifying and FIVE points paying races scheduled, across a rare two-day program, meaning 2500 points were up for grabs throughout the weekend.
The other notable difference, as is standard procedure at Lakeside Park, Group C races separate to Groups A and B until such point that the attrition rates means the field can race together, and fit within the 2.41km circuit’s track density limits.
A two-part qualifying session offered little surprises, in terms of who claimed the respective pole positions, but the return to Lakeside Park meant the BMW brigade would be worth keeping an eye on, and they proved why very early in the piece.
While Chris Brown claimed his third pole of the season, Robert Bellinger was the big surprise packet, toppling the likes of Stuart Walker and Matthew Haak, to put BMW on the front row.
John Swarbrooke was also amongst the thick of the action, with a time good enough for fourth on the grid, alongside Walker.
Uncharacteristically, Matthew Haak was only fifth fastest, but he put that down to issues with the worn tyres, and it wouldn’t be the last time that would be an issue for him, on that particular Saturday morning.
In Group B, Simon Winters picked up exactly where he left off two weeks ago. After grabbing his first round win at QR, he claimed top spot in Group B, for Race 1 of Round 4, at Lakeside Park.
Winters was clear of Gary Anger and Leonard Meiers.
The margin was half-a-second, but that saw Winters given his first and only warning for breaking out, as his time was under the Group B cut-off, of 59 seconds.
In Group C, more of the same from Andrew Knight, who just loves racing at Lakeside Park. It was a Team Schnitzel one-two, with Knight four-tenths clear of his team-mate, Matthew Devitt, while Samuel Allen was third best, in just his second race meeting, and his first qualifying run at Lakeside… impressive, to say the least.
Qualifying wasn’t without its drama though, as Barry Davey failed to clock a competitive time. The Ford Falcon pulled up lame mid-way through the session, and would take no further part in the weekend’s proceedings.
Race 1 A/B
The opening race of the weekend also had its fair share of drama, and it centred around John Swarbrooke, Shannon Cane and Matthew Haak.
Chris Brown skipped away from pole, and didn’t look back. Robert Bellinger slotted into second, but by the time Stuart Walker displaced him, on lap 2, Brown had already amassed an unassailable lead, of around 2.8 seconds.
Matthew Haak was clearly struggling with that delaminating tyre, which worked right into the hands of Brown, Walker, Bellinger and Lange, who didn’t have to worry about the chasing pack, as they were stuck behind the defending champion, and current championship leader, struggling to find a way by, and the margin just grew by the lap.
Eventually, Haak’s defence cracked, as he couldn’t withstand the pressure any longer, and he slowly started to slip back through the pack, and would end up finishing in 13th – the last of our finishers, and his worst finish of the season.
Originally scheduled to be 12 laps, this race was extended to 14, after a clampdown was called, to retrieve the stranded BMW of John Swarbrooke.
Pommie John had a coming together with Shannon Cane, on approach to the karousel, and came off worse for wear, in what proved to be a controversial incident, and a big talking point out of the weekend.
Swarbrooke drove back to the pits under his own steam, while Cane was able to continue on, but succumb to a mechanical issue on the very last lap of the race.
Cane was later issued with a penalty, for her role in the incident, that would see her sit out of Race 3.
At the front though, it was Chris Brown recording his fourth race win of the season, and third on the trot, well clear of Stuart Walker, who held off Gary Lange and Robert Bellinger, who clocked the fastest lap of the race, it’s important to note.
Further back, Cameron Haak rounded out the top five, while Michael Woodcroft was sixth in class, and seventh outright.
Post-race, Gary Lange, who was third across the line, was relegated to seventh (sixth in class), after being handed a 30-second penalty, for jumping the start.
In Group B, it was one-way traffic for Simon Winters, who was seven seconds clear of Gary Anger and Peter Bray, while Warwick Douglas and Rob Droder made up the top five.
The battle for those minor placings was terrific viewing, with Bray giving Anger a massive hurry up, right to the very end, and Warwick Douglas showing what the BMW had to offer from the outset, bouncing back nicely after mechanical woes saw his Round 3 outing end prematurely.
Rob Droder was as high as third, but ended fifth, which allowed Gary Anger to chew a little bit more out of his deficit in the points race.
Leonard Meiers was a non-starter, due to a power-steering failure, and while his team did everything they could, to get it sorted, he wouldn’t play any further part in the weekend.
Murray Reilly retired at the end of lap 5, due to a mechanical issue. He later reported that his exhaust had blown off, and given noise restrictions at Lakeside Park, among other things, he decided the safest thing to do, was to bring the car back into pit-lane, and park it.
Group C – Race 1.
The opening race of the weekend for Group C proved to be one-way traffic for Andrew Knight, who checked out, and claimed a comfortable win.
In the end, a little bit of showmanship was displayed at the end of the 12-lap affair, as Knight slowed up, to allow Matthew Devitt to close within half-a-second, probably in the hope that a photographer was on-hand, to snap the 1-2 finish, for the Team Schnitzel stable.
Behind them, Samuel Allen held off Alessandro Vosolo and Paul Bonaccorso, in the battle for third – the latter two exchanged blows, in what was a cracking scrap for fourth, in the closing stages.
While BMW locked out the top four placings, it could’ve been the top five, had it not been for Scott Kelly retiring from the race, in the very early stages.
It was frustrating for Kelly, who won two of the three Group C races held here back in March. Sadly, it ended up being a weekend ending issue for Kelly – exactly the same intermittent problem they plagued his run in Round 3, as well, which made it even more frustrating for him.
At the end of the opening races, the QTCC executive committee made the decision to combine the field for the remainder of the weekend.
The benefit of that, was an increase in racing laps for the Sunday portion of the program, with the two scheduled 12-lap races – Races 3 and 4 – becoming fifteen. Race 2, due to time constraints, remained at 12 laps, while Race 5 was always scheduled to be a 15-lap affair.
Chris Brown didn’t waste any time in converting pole position into the early race lead, and he established a comfortable advantage very early in the piece, as the rest of the pack played catch-up again.
On Lap 3, Robert Bellinger found his way by Stuart Walker, and Gary Lange soon followed, and Walker was back in fourth, by the end of Lap 4.
Matthew Haak, starting mid-field, made light work of the Group B contingent, and worked his way through to the pointy end of town in a real hurry. On Lap 5, he found a way by Simon Winters, to put himself sixth outright, and then went out in pursuit of Cameron Haak, and Stuart Walker.
By Lap 8, the defending champion was on Walker’s tail, and executed the overtaking manoeuvre, to put himself into fourth place, and that’s where he’d stay.
Late in proceedings, Dylan Perreira – driving a Group C BMW – came unstuck, while trying to give way to the faster Group A cars, and collected two separate tyre walls around the back of the circuit, just past the old bridge.
The race was neutralised almost immediately, but Perreira was able to drive away within seconds, and headed straight to pit-lane.
Strangely, the race didn’t resume, as Chris Brown took the chequered flag under clampdown. It was the two-time champion’s second win of the day, ahead of Robert Bellinger and Gary Lange, who wasn’t penalised this time round, and kept his podium finish.
In Group B, it was heartbreak for Rob Droder, as a mechanical problem put pay to his race on Lap 7.
Ahead of Droder, Simon Winters was, once again, in control of Group B, and claimed a comfortable win.
Droder’s demise eased the pressure on Gary Anger significantly, as he had the Group A BMW of John Swarbrooke between himself and Warwick Douglas, and it stayed that way until the end, resulting in Anger taking second, ahead of Douglas, while Peter Bray and Nick Linton made up the top five.
In Group C, there was high drama at the chequered flag, and some confusion amongst the ranks, as some drivers, including championship contender, Matthew Devitt, didn’t greet the chequered flag, and were therefore classified as ‘Did Not Finish’ (DNF).
Shortly after the race concluded, as a result of the confusion, common sense prevailed, as category management opted to wind the results back a lap, meaning the race was classified after lap 11.
As the race was already neutralised at that point, the finishing order remained the same as it would’ve been had those Group C competitors greeted the chequered flag anyway.
Speaking of the results, it was more of the same dominance we saw earlier from Andrew Knight, as he claimed another race win, comfortably clear of Alessandro Vosolo, who got the better of Matthew Devitt. Paul Bonaccorso and Samuel Allen rounded out the top five.
The first race on Sunday was a problematic one for TWO of the BMW entries. John Swarbrooke had a power-steering hose let go, which resulted in him retiring at the completion of the opening lap, despite while Andrew Knight, on the very last lap of the race, suffered a wheel bearing failure.
For Knight, it cost him the race win, and the repair time saw him miss the next race, while Swarbrooke had his problem sorted, within 30 minutes, and was back on the grid, ready to go again, in Race 4.
As for the race itself, Chris Brown did what we’d become accustomed to Chris Brown doing to this point of the Hully’s Automotive Lakeside Challenge, by nailing the start, building a buffer, and maintaining it.
Brown recorded his sixth win on the trot, and third of the weekend, ahead of Matthew Haak and Gary Lange, who just held out Robert Bellinger – those two have been near inseparable all weekend – after taking third away from his sparing partner on the very last lap.
Bellinger was holding second until Lap 11, when Matthew Haak made his move. It’s critical for the Holden drivers to find a way past the BMW’s on the run from the Eastern Loop down to the Karousel, otherwise, the BMW’s hold sway through the back section of the circuit, and the Holden brigade get boxed in.In Group B, Rob Droder got himself into victory lane, for the first time this weekend, in what an impressive way to bounce back from the retirement in Race 2. The Walker Racing Commodore was hooked up, and on song, as he claimed his first race win since Round 1.
Behind him, Gary Anger made it a hat-trick of seconds, after getting the better of Simon Winters, who recorded his worst finish of the weekend to this point, and he only just managed to hold out Peter Bray and Warwick Douglas, who rounded out the top five.
In Group C, Andrew Knight was looking rather comfortable, until the aforementioned wheel bearing failure. He went from having a huge advantage at the start of the final lap, to limping home in third, behind Matthew Devitt and Alessandro Vosolo.
The margin – between the top three – was just 0.9665.
Once again, Vosolo gave Devitt a tremendous run for his money, as they bolted away from the likes of Samuel Allen and Paul Bonaccorso, who ended up more than 20 seconds down the road.
It was a tight turnaround, between Races 3 and 4 – too tight for Andrew Knight – as 25 cars took to the circuit for the penultimate outing of the round.
Once again, Chris Brown took the lead into turn 1, and didn’t look back. He built an early lead, consolidated, and nursed the car home, holding off Matthew Haak, who pushed him to the very end, but was just unable to find a way by.
Michael Woodcroft spun out of 7th position, on Lap 2, going through the Eastern Loop, and plunged down the order, to 25th position. He would recover to finish in 16th place.
There was a small neutralisation of the race, on Lap 5, when Daley Martin came unstuck on the western side of the circuit, but he was able to get himself out of the gravel, back onto the course without outside assistance, so the race resumed as soon as recovery vehicles had safely returned to pit-lane.
Not long after the incident, Martin return to the lane, and retired from the race. He already had some issues with fourth gear, which contributed to the incident, but the impact broke a fan, and, to quote Martin, the car “sounded like a Harley”, afterwards, so, not wanting to risk it, he aired on the side of caution, and parked it.
Back at the front – once again – Lange and Bellinger were left to fight for the final spot on the podium, with Stuart Walker in close pursuit, but the #37 was unable to push through, and he put that down to the track surface just eating up his tyres.
This circuit is not only hard on cars, but also rubber, and while Walker was rotating tyres around, he was yet to find a combination that didn’t hurt them, and that was costing him time, and the chance to push by the BMW contingent.
In Group B, Simon Winters bounced back from the disappointment of Race 3, to chalk up his third win of the weekend, and as he was the last car to finish on the lead lap, the record books will show that he did it easy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
One lap back, Gary Anger was second home, well clear of NICK LINTON, who got the better of Warwick Douglas and Peter Bray, in what was Linton’s best finish of the season thus far.
For the second time this weekend, Rob Droder’s replacement car threw a belt, which saw him retire from the lead of Group B, and lose the lead in the championship, to Gary Anger.
Shannon Cane was also a late retirement, after the exhaust fell off.
In Group C, there was a new name in victory lane, as Alessandro Vosolo took full advantage of Andrew Knight’s absence from the grid, and got the better of Matthew Devitt and Paul Bonaccorso, as the Falcon continued to keep the BMW club honest!
There was high drama in the pits before the final race of the weekend got underway, with Chris Brown confirming the clutch was no longer co-operating, and he’d have to try and complete the final race of the weekend in fourth gear… combined with the power steering issues he’d been experiencing throughout the weekend… but, at least he was able to make the grid.
Sadly, it wasn’t a clean start to the final race of the weekend, and it resulted in the first big one of the season.
Contact between Matthew Devitt and Alessandro Vosolo saw Vosolo, Devitt and Bonaccorso all sustain damage, but Vosolo’s was significantly worse than the rest.
The incident saw the race neutralised, as Vosolo’s BMW had to be towed away from the kink, while Bonaccorso was able to drive back to the pits under his own steam, but parked the car, and recorded his first retirement of the season.
Importantly, Gary Lange got the better of Matthew Haak off the start, to slot the BMW into second position, before the race was neutralised.
Once the race – now extended to 16 laps – got back underway, the restart was critical for Chris Brown, given how wounded the car was, but the former champion had a plan of attack, and stuck to it.
He ran the entire race in fourth gear, and WON, again… to chalk up his first clean-sweep of the season, and his seventh race win on the trot.
Lange pulled clear of Haak, to finish second – his best finish of the season – ahead of the championship leader, who extended his advantage ever so slightly, despite how poorly the weekend started for him.
Behind them, Stuart Walker pulled up in the motorcycle ‘bus stop’ on the very last lap of the race, and notched up his first retirement of the season, to go with the four races he didn’t start in Round 2, and that was the effectively the nail in the coffin, as far as his title aspirations were concerned.
Post-race, Walker was unable to confirm what caused the retirement, citing that they’d have a look at it once they got home.
In Group B, Simon Winters held the lead until Lap 5, before Gary Anger made his move, and made it stick. Anger was the Group B leader for the first time this weekend.
Shannon Cane was a girl on a mission in this final race of the weekend. Having started down the back of the field, due to the retirement in the previous race, she zigged and zagged her way through the field, missing all the carnage around her, to sit 15th by the end of the opening lap.
As the race progressed, she only kept climbing the ladder, to be tenth outright by the end of Lap 12, after getting by Rob Droder, and was now out in pursuit of Winters and Anger.
Not until the run to the finish line, did we see any change in the Group B order, but then the intensity lifted to ELEVEN, as Anger, Winters and Cane ended up three-wide, on approach to the chequered flag, as Anger claimed the narrowest of wins over Cane, who edged out Winters, in a photo finish for the ages.
In the end, just 0.0502 separated the podium in Group B, as Anger got his first win of the weekend, and Cane her first podium of the round, while third was enough for Simon Winters to take the round, albeit narrowly, over Anger.
In a rather depleted Group C field, Andrew Knight bounced back, as only he knows how, to record his third race win of the weekend, ahead of Daley Martin and Ettore Vosolo, who was pushed all the way by Dean Wort. Samuel Allen rounded out the top five, having been baulked by that crash at the start, which cost him a lot of time.
Post-race, it was nice to be able to confirm that all drivers involved in the incident, especially Alessandro Vosolo, were OK.
As for the incident itself, category management took no further action, deeming it a racing incident.
So, in the end, not even a dead clutch could get in the way of Chris Brown cleaning his clean sweep in Group A.
In Group B, Simon Winters claimed back-to-back round wins, while Andrew Knight’s absence from Race 4 proved to be the difference in Group C, as Matthew Devitt claimed his second round win of the season.
2021 Brisbane Collision Centre Queensland Touring Car Championship
Hully’s Automotive Lakeside Challenge
Pole Position: Chris Brown (56.1490)
Race 1: 1st Chris Brown, 2nd Stuart Walker, 3rd Robert Bellinger
Race 2: 1st Chris Brown, 2nd Robert Bellinger, 3rd Gary Lange
Race 3: 1st Chris Brown, 2nd Matthew Haak, 3rd Gary Lange
Race 4: 1st Chris Brown, 2nd Matthew Haak, 3rd Gary Lange
Race 5: 1st Chris Brown, 2nd Gary Lange, 3rd Matthew Haak
Fastest Lap: Chris Brown – 57.2042 (Race 4 | Lap 2)
Race 1: 1st Simon Winters, 2nd Gary Anger, 3rd Peter Bray
Race 2: 1st Simon Winters, 2nd Gary Anger, 3rd Warwick Douglas
Race 3: 1st Rob Droder, 2nd Gary Anger, 3rd Simon Winters
Race 4: 1st Simon Winters, 2nd Gary Anger, 3rd Nick Linton
Race 5: 1st Gary Anger, 2nd Shannon Cane, 3rd Simon Winters
Race 1: 1st Andrew Knight, 2nd Matthew Devitt, 3rd Samuel Allen
Race 2: 1st Andrew Knight, 2nd Alessandro Vosolo, 3rd Matthew Devitt
Race 3: 1st Matthew Devitt, 2nd Alessandro Vosolo, 3rd Andrew Knight
Race 4: 1st Alessandro Vosolo, 2nd Matthew Devitt, 3rd Paul Bonaccorso
Race 5: 1st Andrew Knight, 2nd Daley Martin, 3rd Ettore Vosolo
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
|Chris Brown 2500|
Gary Lange 2141
Robert Bellinger 2132
Matthew Haak 2035
Cameron Haak 1954
|Simon Winters 1650|
Gary Anger 1584
Warwick Douglas 1362
Peter Bray 1317
Nick Linton 1239
|Matthew Devitt 949|
Sam Allen 864
Andrew Knight 818
Alessandro Vosolo 796
Ettore Vosolo 770
As far as the championship is concerned… it mightn’t have been the best weekend for Matthew Haak, but the defending champion still managed to extend his lead, at the top of the table, with just two rounds to go.
Haak now sits 987 points clear of his brother Cameron, while Chris Brown’s clean-sweep has seen him rocket up the order, into the top three, displacing both Gary Lange and Stuart Walker.
In Group B, Rob Droder’s dramas over the last ten races have finally caught up with him, and the two retirements this weekend have really hurt, as Gary Anger has not only taken the lead away in Group B, but cleared out to a 509-point advantage over Peter Bray, with Droder a further 62 points back.
Droder isn’t out of this fight just yet, but it is a long way back, with only eight races to go.
In Group C, things couldn’t possibly be tighter. Andrew Knight’s lead has shrunk, thanks to him not starting the fourth race, and now just ONE point separates the two Team Schnitzel team-mates, in what has been a fascinating season to this point, and one that promises an epic conclusion.
Championship Standings | After Round 4 of 6
While the next round of the 2021 season is scheduled to be held some six weeks after the Hully’s Automotive Lakeside Challenge, on the August 21-22 weekend.
So, seventeen races down, just eight to go, and all three championships remain well and truly alive, as all roads now lead back to the southside of Brisbane, and to Queensland Raceway, at the end of Champions Way in Willowbank, where the final chapters of this incredible season will be written.
The Paperclip will play host to all remaining races this season, as we push towards the final day of school, on the second last weekend of October.
The 2021 Queensland Touring Car Championship is proudly sponsored by: Brisbane Collision Centre, Brisbane Motor Works, Uniglide Friction Reducing Concentrate, Hully’s Automotive, Tyre Busters Kunda Park, Hano’s Car Care, Vitesse Developments, Fifotos Motorsport Media, Andrew Knight Electrical Contracting, Western Suburbs Mechanical, Hyqual Australia, and Prestige Stripes and Signs.