For the first time in more than fifteen months, the Brisbane Collision Centre Queensland Touring Car Championship contested a two-day race meeting, when the teams and drivers headed to Queensland Raceway, at the end of Champions Way in Willowbank, for the third round of the 2021 season.
The completion of this round would mark the half-way point of the 2021 campaign, but no time for a mid-season break, with the fourth round just two weeks away.
That’s right, an incredibly busy sixteen days for the entire paddock, that will play a huge role in determining how the championship will play out.
For this round, no less than 33 cars took to the circuit for qualifying, but as was the case in Round 2, some five weeks earlier, attrition would again be a talking point of the weekend, as the feel slowly shrunk across the course of the five-race program.
Yes, you read that correctly, with the next two rounds being spread across the weekend, rather than crammed into a single day, there’s an extra race on the schedule, meaning an extra 500 points on the line, so a clean-sweep for, any of the Group A contingent, would see them net 2500 valuable championship points.
Stuart Walker was back in business, after parking the car shortly after qualifying at the previous round, and while championship supremacy would be a long shot from here, after dropping an entire round, he’s still a round-to-round contender, and a general threat to the likes of Matthew Haak – the championship leader – as far as race wins and podiums are concerned.
A field of thirty-three hit the circuit for Qualifying, and after Murray Kent swept the previous round, Chris Brown was determined to bounce back, and did just that.
The two-time champion started the weekend on top of the timesheets, in a hard-fought qualifying session, where Brown edged out Murray Kent by 0.2840.
Brown had spent the previous five weeks, between Rounds 2 and 3, hard at work, putting a new engine under the bonnet, with a little extra power for good measure, and it paid off, as he claimed his second pole of the season.
Last time out, he didn’t think he had the ability to run with Murray Kent, but not this time round. In his words, he was looking to have a good tussle with the 2018 champion.
Kent’s Torana was second, while Gary Lange was the surprise packet of the session, as he pipped Matthew Haak for third, and Stuart Walker rounded out the top five.
Lange’s pace was surprising, because the session was run on the 3.12km national circuit layout, a configuration better suited to the Holden brigade, but Lange was the exception to the rule on this occasion.
In Group B, Simon Winters put it on pole position – his first of the year – ahead of Gary Anger and Peter Bray, and a Holden lockout of the top three.
Rob Droder struggled, only managing the sixth fastest time (16th outright), as it became clear that he hadn’t yet got a handle of the mechanical headaches that started to pop up at the end of the previous round.
In Group C, Mattew Devitt came within three-hundredths of breaking out. The break-out marker is 1:25.00 on the national circuit, and Devitt clocked a 1:25.0391.
Unsurprisingly, the time was good enough for pole position, by a staggering 1.4696 seconds, and Devitt put it down to a fresh set of boots, mindful that he wouldn’t want to have pushed any harder than that.
Behind Devitt, it was Luke Beveridge, ahead of Murray Reilly and Andrew Knight, while Samuel Allen rounded out the top five.
Sadly, qualifying was the end of the road for Mark Hyde’s Ford Escort, after an engine drama saw him park the car for the balance of the weekend.
Race 1 saw action move to the 1.93km Sprint layout, and it produced an instant classic in both Groups A and B.
Unfortunately, both Les Hanifin and Robert Bellinger were non-starters, as were Nathan Marks, Scott Kelly, Nick Linton and Gary Jones.
For Bellinger, it was a clutch that let go, which put pay to his entire weekend.
For Hanifin, it was the start of a weekend-long headache, with another bloody oil leak.
So, it was a depleted field of 27 taking to the track, as It was an all-in affair, and while the bulk of the field made it through turn 1 unscathed, Matthew Devitt came out minus a rear windscreen.
Devitt had a huge moment, and such was the speed and impact of the gravel on the rear end of the Team Schnitzel BMW, that it broke the windscreen, and Devitt would race without it for the rest of the weekend.
At the front, two battles ignited from word go… one between Brown and Kent, and the other between Stuart Walker and Matthew Haak.
The sprint layout lends its hand to some inventive and creative overtaking moves being executed, and this race was no different, but there were only two lead changes over the fifteen laps.
Brown led away from pole position, before Murray Kent took over on Lap 3, only to be back behind Brown by the end of Lap 4.
From there, Brown withstood an onslaught of pressure from the Torana, to record his first win of the season – a long time coming, given he missed out entirely in Round 1, after qualifying on pole, and then played second fiddle to Murray in Round 2.
Kent was second, but behind that, Stuart Walker edged out Matthew Haak, in a cracking scrap for third. Haak stayed with Walker until the mid-way point, before Walker slowly edged clear.
Gary Lange was fifth, eighteen seconds clear of Lee Gravolin – a new name on the grid for this round – who started 13th.
In Group B, Simon Winters took the early lead, but slowly fell into the clutches of the chasing pack, as some of the Group A contingent found a way by the Boost Mobile entry. Eventually, Winters came under immense pressure from Gary Anger, and it was Anger nabbing the race win, continuing his run, that started with the win in Race 4 of Round 2, which secured round honours for him.
Winters was second, while the battle for third went to Warwick Douglas, just ahead of Leonard Meiers, while Shannon Cane was fifth in class, fourteenth outright.
In Group C, early trouble for Murray Reilly (fuel pump wire fell off) saw him retire on the opening lap, but at the front, Andrew Knight came from fourth on the grid, to snare his first win of the season.
There was no doubt that Knight’s task was made easier by the retirement of Reilly, and Devitt’s off-track excursion as well.
Second was Luke Beveridge, ahead of Paul Bonaccorso, Samuel Allen and Dean Wort, while Devitt was able to get back to sixth (24th outright).
While rain threatened to play its part, we ended up with two dry races on the opening day of ‘2 Days of Thunder’ Weekend.
We had a small trickle of rain at the very end of race one, as the chequered flag waved, and that was it.
Racing moved to the 3.12km National layout for Race 2 – the final one of the opening day of proceedings, in a rare two-day weekend for the Brisbane Collision Centre Queensland Touring Car Championship (in a post-COVID world, at least).
Once again, the battle between Murray Kent and Chris Brown held our attention, but it ended somewhat prematurely, as both drivers failed to finish the race, due to separate mechanical problems.
For Kent, the race ended on Lap 8, when he pulled up in the crossover. He later revealed that it was the result of a clutch failure, which, like Robert Bellinger, saw his weekend come to an end.
It wasn’t until Lap 10 that Brown’s race came to a grinding halt, due to a tyre failure, but that was an easy fix, and he would be back on the grid for Race 3.
The shortcomings of the top two opened the door for Stuart Walker to chalk up his third win of the season, and his first at QR in 2021.
Once again, Matthew Haak pushed him all the way, but fell 1.6906 seconds short, but he was still able to extend his championship lead, having finished 5 positions clear of his brother, Cameron.
Lee Gravolin was third, ahead of Gary Lange and Michael Woodcroft.
In Group B, a hard charge from Shannon Cane saw girl power on top for the first time in 2021. It’s been a long time coming for Cane, who’d missed the opening two rounds of the season, as the car, in her words, had spent “far too long in the garage”, after a massive mechanical rebuild and overhaul in the off-season.
Category management opted to allow Cane to race in Group B for this meeting, despite being a Group A runner in 2020, by virtue of the fact that she hadn’t contested a round to this point.
They weren’t sure how the car would run, in terms of lap speed, based on all the changes made in the off-season, remembering that Groups are determined by lap time, not car specifications, in the Brisbane Collision Centre Queensland Touring Car Championship.
Cane was fifth in Race 1, on the sprint circuit, but car and driver love the wide-open spaces of the national layout, and it showed, and she stormed through the field, to finish sixth outright, and win Group B, ahead of Simon Winters, Leonard Meiers, Gary Anger and Peter Bray.
Once again, Rob Droder was sixth, and well behind the top five, as he continued to nurse the car to the chequered flag, in the name of salvaging championship points.
In Group C, another dominant performance from Andrew Knight, to hold off Murray Reilly, Paul Bonaccorso and Matthew Devitt. It was a great drive from Murray Reilly, after starting at the rear of the grid, and another fourth place finish for Devitt allowed Andrew Knight to gradually extend his lead in the championship fight.
Sunday dawned fine and sunny, while the South-East corridor braced for an impending lockdown, but it wasn’t announced on Sunday morning, thanks to State of Origin #2 being played at Suncorp Stadium that night, so we were good to go racing again.
Race 3, back on the sprint circuit, belonged to Stuart Walker, while all eyes were on Chris Brown, to see how he’d slice and dice his way through, from the back of the grid – and he didn’t disappoint.
At the front, Stuart Walker fended off the challenge from Matthew Haak once again, to cruise to a 2.2 second victory.
While we expected Haak to apply pressure to Walker, he actually came under immense pressure from Lee Gravolin instead, as the new arrival showed us what his Monaro is made of.
As for Brown, he started down in 26th, and was 14th by the end of the first lap, as he made his way by half the field with consummate ease.
By Lap 5, he’d made his way up to 9th, and was then 5th across the line on the following lap.
From there, the work was done, as the cars ahead of him were well out of reach. Brown finished fifth, some nine seconds behind Gary Lange, who came home fourth.
Michael Woodcroft hasn’t had a lot of luck on the final corner this year, and it continued in Race 3, as he locked it up, and looped it on the exit of the corner.
At the time, he was sixth outright, but that incident saw him drop to fourteenth, and that was where he’d stay.
Back-to-back wins for Walker however, saw him secure his fourth win of the season.
In Group B, no shortage of entertainment, as per usual, with a cracking scrap between Simon Winters and Leonard Meiers stealing the show, as they fought for the race win.
Eventually, it went to Winters – his first win of the weekend, in fact, season, as Meiers doubled up on podium finishes, having claimed third in Race 2.
Behind them was Shannon Cane, well clear of Gary Anger and Peter Bray, while Rob Droder finished a lap down.
Post-race, Gary Anger revealed that his pace dropped off towards the end because his gear lever fell off. While it was repairable, it left Anger battling to change gears and soldier on, over the last few laps of the race.
Sadly, Les Hanifin, on his 67th Birthday, withdrew from the meeting after retiring from Race 3, following a weekend of frustration. Firstly, it was the oil leak, then an electrical gremlin, then the gearbox gave out in that third race.
In Group C, more of the same from Andrew Knight, who claimed his third win on the trot, by 5.8517 seconds.
Behind him, Matthew Devitt held Luke Beveridge held off Scott Kelly, while Matthew Devitt was fourth, as BMW continued to dominate the top end of town, in the slowest division.
Murray Reilly was promoted to Group B following that third race, after breaking out again, during the opening 15-lapper of the day. For Reilly, it was a matter of WHEN, not IF he was going to end up in Group B.
Race 4 saw the field run on the national circuit for the final time this weekend, and there were fireworks from the start.
We were all waiting to see how long it would take Chris Brown to move his way to the front, and it was longer than expected, because he ended up having to do it twice.
After a clean opening lap, which saw Brown move into fourth, he found a way by Lee Gravolin, down at turn 3, on the second lap, and then quickly went after Matthew Haak, but that’s where it came unstuck.
On approach to ‘snake gully’, Brown tried to pass Haak around the OUTSIDE, but he brought himself unstuck, and ended up well off-track, deep in the grass. He re-joined, but was now down in sixth position, and the chase began all over again.
By Lap 7, he was back to second, and then made the move on Stuart Walker, down the inside, on the run into turn 1. Walker yielded, and Brown was the new race leader, and then went about making a statement to the rest of the field, enroute to his second win of the weekend.
In just five laps, Brown put 6.328 seconds on the field, and claimed a very comfortable victory.
Behind him, Lee Gravolin finished strong. Sitting fourth at the start of Lap 10, he found a way by Matthew Haak, and Stuart Walker, in consecutive laps, to nab second position, ahead of Walker and Haak, although the defending champion lost some considerable time in the final two laps, finishing five seconds adrift.
In Group B, another fine performance from Simon Winters, as he chalked up his second win of the weekend, ahead of Gary Anger and Leonard Meiers – just 2.3170 seconds separated the trio in the end – while Shannon Cane and Peter Bray made up the top five.
In Group C, Andrew Knight’s winning run came to an end, as his Team Schnitzel team-mate, Matthew Devitt, got the better of him this time round, while Scott Kelly was third home, in what was a tame affair, by Group C standards.
The final race of the weekend saw action move to the Clubman circuit.
As far as the racing was concerned, it was more of the same from Chris Brown, minus the mistake we saw in Race 4. The two-time champion took an early lead, didn’t look back, and didn’t back off.
Brown cruised to his most comfortable win of the season thus far, some 11.6190 seconds ahead of Lee Gravolin, who, once again, got the better of Stuart Walker.
Matthew Haak was a further three seconds back, while Gary Lange rounded out the top five.
Quiet, uneventful weekend for Cameron Haak, who came home in sixth, but finishing all races was enough for him to remain second in the championship.
In Group B, another race win for Shannon Cane, who started 10th, and finished 7th outright. She weaved her way through the field, and spent much of the race following, and working with, Gary Anger.
On Lap 12, she made her move, and made it stick. Cane streaked clear, to win the Group B finale, by a whopping 8.2596 seconds, over Gary Anger, and Peter Bray, who was slotted in behind Michael Woodcroft and John Swarbrooke – the former recovering from yet another spin at turn 6, in the early stages of the race.
As for Leonard Meiers, mechanical reliability has been his achilles heel in 2021, and a fifth race of this program was one too many for the Commodore, which pulled into retirement, on lap 10.
Not much to report from Group C, except to say that Matthew Devitt claimed his second win of the day – second of the season as well – ahead of Scott Kelly, who edged out Andrew Knight, in another BMW lockout of the podium. Another very clean race from this division.
This was the pick of the bunch, as these cars are more suited to the tighter, shorter configurations.
Luke Beveridge had the early lead, ahead of Scott Kelly, while Andrew Knight dropped to fourth by Lap 3.
Kelly would soon take over front running, as Beveridge fell to fourth in the space of a lap, and he wouldn’t recover from there.
It wasn’t until Lap 7 that Kelly would lose the lead, when Matthew Devitt found his way by, back into top spot.
As for Andrew Knight – the championship leader – he was the beneficiary of Luke Beveridge’s mishap, which saw the Team Schnitzel pilot move into third, and that’s where he stayed.
For Scott Kelly, a second place finish was his best result since the opening round of the season, where he won the first two races.
Of course, it was his third podium of the day, having finished third in races 3 and 4.
In something of a rarity for the Queensland Touring Car Championship, a 100% finishing recorded was recorded on TWO occasions in this round. In Race 3, 26 cars started, 26 cars finished, and 25 started in Race 4, with all 25 taking the chequered flag.
Race Results | Group A
Pole Position: Chris Brown (1:16.9925)
Race 1 (Sprint): 1st Chris Brown, 2nd Murray Kent, 3rd Stuart Walker
Race 2 (National): 1st Stuart Walker, 2nd Matthew Haak, 3rd Lee Gravolin
Race 3 (Sprint): 1st Stuart Walker, 2nd Matthew Haak, 3rd Lee Gravolin
Race 4 (National): 1st Chris Brown, 2nd Lee Gravolin, 3rd Stuart Walker
Race 5 (Clubman): 1st Chris Brown, 2nd Lee Gravolin, 3rd Stuart Walker
Race 1 (Sprint): 1st Gary Anger, 2nd Simon Winters, 3rd Warwick Douglas
Race 2 (National): 1st Shannon Cane, 2nd Simon Winters, 3rd Leonard Meiers
Race 3 (Sprint): 1st Simon Winters, 2nd Leonard Meiers, 3rd Shannon Cane
Race 4 (National): 1st Simon Winters, 2nd Gary Anger, 3rd Leonard Meiers
Race 5 (Clubman): 1st Shannon Cane, 2nd Gary Anger, 3rd Peter Bray
Race 1 (Sprint): 1st Andrew Knight, 2nd Luke Beveridge, 3rd Paul Bonaccorso
Race 2 (National): 1st Andrew Knight, 2nd Murray Reilly, 3rd Paul Bonaccorso
Race 3 (Sprint): 1st Andrew Knight, 2nd Luke Beveridge, 3rd Scott Kelly
Race 4 (National): 1st Matthew Devitt, 2nd Andrew Knight, 3rd Scott Kelly
Race 5 (Clubman): Matthew Devitt, 2nd Scott Kelly, 3rd Andrew Knight
On points, Stuart Walker was victorious in Group A – his second round win of the season – ahead of Lee Gravolin and Matthew Haak. Retirement in race 2 cost Chris Brown his second podium finish of the season.
In Group B, a really tight contest, but Simon Winters edged out Shannon Cane, while Gary Anger secured another podium finish, to go with the round win last time out.
In Group C, three wins, and two seconds was enough to see Andrew Knight secure his first round win of the year, ahead of his team-mate, Matthew Devitt, and Luke Beveridge rounded out the podium.
Round 3 Points
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
|Stuart Walker 2326|
Lee Gravolin 2191
Matthew Haak 2185
Gary Lange 2000
Chris Brown 1890
|Simon Winters 1538|
Shannon Cane 1508
Gary Anger 1491
Peter Bray 1211
Leonard Meiers 1187
|Andrew Knight 943|
Matthew Devitt 865
Luke Beveridge 815
Paul Bonaccorso 753
Samuel Allen 735
Matthew Haak, despite not finishing on the podium in three of the five races, extends his lead at the top of the title race – to 906 points – ahead of Cameron Haak, while the round win for Stuart Walker has seen him vault up into the podium placings.
Despite a difficult weekend at the office, Rob Droder still leads Group B, but Gary Anger has closed the gap considerably.
In Group C, it’s a Schnitzel 1-2, but Paul Bonaccorso is keeping them honest.
2021 SEASON POINTS | After Round 3 of 6.
Great weekend at the office for some, and an absolute shocker for others, but they’re all in the same boat now, with just twelve days to get everything repaired and prepared, before we’re back trackside doing battle once more.
Next up, it’s Lakeside Park, for the Hully’s Automotive Lakeside Challenge. It’s our last visit to the Kurwongbah venue in 2021, but more importantly, it’s another two-day meeting for everyone to enjoy.
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.