After 6 rounds, and 23 points paying races, it all comes down to this.
This weekend, Queensland Raceway plays host to the seventh and final round of the 2021 Brisbane Collision Centre Queensland Touring Car Championship – the third two-day championship round of the season.
It’ll be the fifth round to be staged at the Willowbank circuit, affectionately known as ‘The Paperclip’, and just the second time this season where a round has consisted of FOUR championship races – Rounds 3 and 4 consisted of FIVE each, whereas Rounds 1, 5 and 6 were three-race affairs.
Defending outright champion, Matthew Haak, is on the precipice of securing back-to-back titles, and can do so as early as Race 2, on Saturday afternoon.
Haak picked up where he left off in 2020, by winning the opening race of the 2021 season, but he wouldn’t lead the championship again until after Round 2. From there, he hasn’t been challenged in the fight for top spot.
Once again, consistency has been the key to his success. He’s only won two races this season, but has managed to extend his championship lead through Rounds 3, 4 and the double-header, disjointed, Round 5 and 6 weekend, whereby Drivers dropped their worst round.
With an advantage of 1040, he’s more than TWO races clear of former two-time champion, Chris Brown, who only moved into second position – displacing Cameron Haak – during the last weekend of racing, just on two months ago.
Brown’s season started on a high, and quickly turned to the proverbial within one morning of racing. He claimed pole position for the opening round of the championship – at Lakeside Park – on March 21, and then failed to finish the opening two races of the season, and didn’t even start the third.
From there, he played second fiddle to (another former champion) Murray Kent in Round 2, racking up a clean-sweep of second place finishes, before finally getting to the top of the podium during the third round.
Brown won three races on ‘2 Days of Thunder’ weekend – the latter two were the start of an 11-race winning streak, before mechanical gremlins brought that amazing run undone, during Round 6.
Haak can mathematically clinch the title on Saturday, but if Brown brings the sort of form that saw him dominate the middle of the season, it’s more than likely that the title will go to the final day of school, before Haak can secure back-to-back glory.
Of course, should Haak stumble, the door is still open for Brown to go where no one has before, and claim an outright championship crown for the third time.
While no other drivers are in contention for the championship win, the battle for round bragging rights will be well and truly alive, with Lee Gravolin out to repeat his success in the previous round, and potentially steal the limelight from the championship contenders.
Up until Round 5, Group B was shaping as a three-way fight, but now there are just two genuine title contenders, in Rob Droder and Gary Anger.
Whilst Peter Bray wasn’t winning races, he was finishing them, and flying under the radar, collecting points, and remaining in contention, until he was a innocent bystander in a heavy crash, during the final race of Round 5, when Nathan Marks arrived at turn 3 of Queensland Raceway with no brakes.
Whilst Marks’ car sustained substantial damage, Bray didn’t get out of it entirely clean either, recording his first retirement of the campaign thus far, and losing sizable ground to Anger and Droder and the process.
The season itself has ebbed and flowed, just like the group ahead of it, and the group behind it.
Rob Droder chalked up success in Round 1, after Michael Woodcroft struck mechanical problems. Woodcroft would soon be rubbed out of Group B contention anyway, as the Torana was bumped up into Group A.
In Round 2, it was Droder who struck mechanical drama – drama that would plague his progress for the next two rounds – and as he nursed the car home, it was Gary Anger who claimed the round win.
Five weeks later, Simon Winters finally found some luck. After a shocking opening two rounds, the man in the Boost Mobile Commodore claimed his first race wins of the season, and was rewarded with a round win as well, albeit narrowly, over a strong performing Shannon Cane.
Winters faced stiff competition through the middle of the season, but still prevailed with another two round wins to his name.
In Round 4, the title lead slipped out of Rob Droder’s grasp, and into Gary Anger’s hands. Droder was in Jordan Walker’s commodore for the event at Lakeside Park, after ongoing problems with his own car saw it sidelined.
For Gary Anger, sadly, the shoe was on the other foot during the Round 5 and 6 double-header weekend, as he battled with various mechanical gremlins, and that worked into Rob Droder’s favour, as he fought his way back into the title fight.
Round 6 saw Les Hanifin show us that age shall not weary them, as Hano pocketed his first round win in Group B.
805 points separate the top four in this group, but it’s the 137 points splitting Droder and Anger that will be the focus point this weekend.
Group C has delivered some of the best racing we’ve ever seen in the Brisbane Collision Centre Queensland Touring Car Championship.
While it’s mostly been dominated by those aboard a BMW, the Ford of Paul Bonaccorso has been keeping them honest every step of the way.
We’ve seen eight different race winners thus far, including clean sweeps for Samuel Allen (Round 5), and Alessandro Vosolo (Round 6).
Despite the closeness of the racing, the championship fight is between two men, Andrew Knight, and his Team Schnitzel team-mate, Matthew Devitt, and it’s the closest points race in the category.
Just EIGHT points split the pair, with four races left in the championship. Effectively, we’ve got a winner takes all situation on our hands this weekend.
The year started with Scott Kelly winning the opening round at Lakeside Park. Matthew Devitt took the honours in Round 2, despite not winning race… he was second in all four races, to Murray Reilly and Paul Bonaccorso.
It wasn’t until Round 3 that Andrew Knight – the defending champion – would claim a round win. He also claimed his first three race wins of the year during the ‘2 Days of Thunder’ weekend.
Two weeks later, a weekend of attrition challenged the teams and drivers at Lakeside Park, but despite running into trouble at the beginning of the final race of the round, Matthew Devitt claimed another round win – his second – and he’s the only driver to win more than one round, in Group C, during the 2021 championship campaign thus far.
Rounds 5 and 6 delivered a quiet weekend at the office for the Schnitzel boys, as Samuel Allen stepped up to the plate and pocketed a clean-sweep, with three race wins.
Allen was pushed all the way by the latest QTCC debutant, Hudson James. The young Holden pilot was hoping to spoil the BMW party, but didn’t spend long enough in Group C to do that – he was bumped up into Group B after Race 1 of Round 6.
As James was removed from Group C, it opened the door for Alessandro Vosolo to return to the grid in extraordinary fashion. After his big shunt at Lakeside Park, he was without a car for that weekend, so he borrowed Dad’s – Ettore competed in the Saturday round, and Alessandro took the keys for Sunday, and showed us all what that machine is capable of.
In consecutive days, we’d seen two sweeps in Group C – something we’d not seen all season.
Despite the fact that we’ve seen five different round winners, and eight different race winners, it’s the consistency and reliability of the Team Schnitzel stable, that sees two of their own vying for the title come Sunday afternoon.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for them though; Devitt lost a windscreen during Round 3, and had that aforementioned coming together with Alessandro Vosolo in Round 4, while Knight, in the same round, was forced to sit out of Race 4, due to a wheel bearing letting go at the front of the BMW.
That said, these two have withstood the pressure from those around them, were delighted to see Murray Reilly eventually break out of the group, and will now go about their business, as usual, in their quest to secure a 1-2. They’ll tell you they don’t care which driver brings it home on top, but Andrew Knight would love nothing more than to secure back-to-back titles.
The other fascinating aspect of this weekend, as always at this end of the campaign, are those who can throw caution to the win, and make a statement, because they’re out of championship contention, with absolutely nothing to lose, and there’s plenty of drivers in that position, across the three groups.
Championship Points | After Round 6 of 7
A 15-minute qualifying session commences official on-track activity on Saturday morning, before two races will be staged each day.
Of those four, two will be run on the National Circuit, over 10 laps each, while we’ll also see a 15-lap race on the Clubman Circuit, and a 15-lap outing on the Sprint Circuit.
Hot and humid conditions are forecast for this weekend, which is bad news for anyone regularly impacted by overheating issues.
2000 points are up for grabs, as the curtain falls on Season 2021.
As per usual, the event is open to spectators and the general public, but if you can’t be there, there’ll be a full replay of the 2021 Brisbane Collision Centre Queensland Touring Car Championship Grand Final, on the platforms of West Bremer Radio (1pm AEDST – Saturday, October 30), and 2MCE Sport (10pm AEDST – Tuesday, November 2).
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.