New Racing Season Commences at Queensland Raceway
After a four-and-a-half month Summer break, the wait for the start of the new Queensland Motorsport season is finally over.
This weekend, Queensland Raceway plays host to the opening round of the Queensland Racing Drivers Championship, which will be headlined by the opening round of the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship, and a very different looking Track Attack Australia Excel Cup.
Group N, QR Sports and Sedans, the Italian Challenge and the Queensland Sportscar Championship will also be in action, in what will be a 25-race program.
Queensland Touring Car Championship.
Kent departs, Kennedy Returns as QTCC gets underway for 2019! For the second time in as many seasons, the defending champion will be missing from the grid, when the Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship launches into season 2019 this weekend. While 2017 champion, Brett Kennedy returns to the grid for 2019 – after enjoying a year off in 2018 – his successor Murray Kent will not be there, as he is opting to focus on his TA2 series commitments instead. The start of the season is later than usual, as a result of the postponement of the traditional season-opener, the Lakeside Tribute.
The rescheduled opening round will instead be held at Queensland Raceway this weekend, as part of the opening Queensland Racing Drivers Championship event of the season.
Like last season, the 2019 championship will be contested over six rounds, but only FIVE of those will count towards the overall points score at the end of the season, with competitors to drop their worst score from the opening two rounds of the championship.
This decision has been made to accommodate the tight turnaround between the first and second rounds of the season.
With Round 1 being held two weeks later than originally scheduled, the opening two rounds of the championship will now be staged on consecutive weekends, with Round 2 coming up at Morgan Park next weekend, as part of Round 2 of the Australian Motor Racing Series for 2019.
While competitors retain the right to compete in both events, they will only keep their points haul from one of those outings – with their worst score to be dropped.
This ruling accommodates for anyone who may miss this opening round, as a result of prior commitments – something that can’t be helped with the late change to the calendar, and will also benefit anyone who may miss the Morgan Park outing as a result of any form of attrition this weekend.
Also retained for 2019 – the three-class system that was introduced last year, but there are some small changes in place, in a bid to address the sand-bagging that was a prominent feature of Class B races, mostly at Lakeside Park, last season.
Competitors in class B, will now only be allowed to use their timers in Qualifying. In racing, they’ll receive one warning for breaking out, but after that, penalties will apply, and that will definitely shake things up throughout the course of the season, should that occur.
As this was due to be a Lakeside round of the championship, competitors will contest their four races on the shorter circuits at Queensland Raceway – with two races on the Sprint Circuit, and two on the Clubman.
While the defending A1 champion is absent from the field in 2019, both the Class A2 and B champions – Stuart Walker and Mark Hyde respectively – feature in a massive field for the opening round of the championship.
After being runner-up last season, Steve Hay will go in pursuit of his first championship since 2016, while facing stiff competition from Christopher Sharples, who was the big improver in the back-half of the 2018 season.
In Class A2, Bayley Hall is back on the grid, and will be hoping for a far less turbulent run than he endured in his opening QTCC appearances last year. He’s got the speed, and with some good fortune in the mechanical department, there’s no reason why he won’t be fighting for class honours, alongside Gary Anger and Stuart Walker, right throughout the season.
In 2018, particularly at Lakeside Park, Class B competitors provided some of the best racing we’ve seen in the QTCC. This weekend at QR, they’ll be looking to steal the show once again, and with the races being staged on the shorter circuits, the recipe for quality entertainment is high.
John Phoenix and Andrew Knight, now in a BMW, will look to emulate the terrific scrap they enjoyed in the corresponding round twelve months ago, but can expect a fight from the likes of Mark Giorgio and Les Hanifin, who’ll enjoy the long straights on the Clubman Circuit.
Shannon Cane is also back on the grid in 2019. After a difficult campaign last year – one that was plagued by ongoing mechanical dramas – the eighteen-year-old will be hoping for a much better run, and will sport new colours this season, with New Holland Agriculture coming on board.
Unofficial practice takes place on Friday, ahead of Qualifying on Saturday morning, and four races across the weekend – Races 1 and 3 on the Clubman circuit, and 2 and 4 on the Sprint track.
Off-track this weekend, the category is doing their bit for one of their own. Trevor Lobegeiger is tackling a health battle at present, so to help him and his family out with that, the category will be selling raffle tickets throughout the weekend – prizes include signed Supercars merchandise, and V8 Race Experience Drives.
All proceeds will go to Trevor and his family. We wish him a speedy recovery.
So, who will Murray Kent’s successor be? Time will tell. The 2019 Racer Industries Queensland Touring Car Championship is ready to fire!
Track Attack Australia Excel Cup
Green and Sheridan set to battle for Excel Cup supremacy in 2019! After a four-and-a-half-month summer break, Australia’s favourite ‘Korean War’ returns to Queensland Raceway this weekend, with the Willowbank venue the scene for the opening round of the Track Attack Australia Excel Cup for 2019.
Twenty-two cars will contest the first of eight championship rounds this season – a season that signals a changing of the guard in many respects – and one that is almost certain to deliver us with a fourth different champion in as many years.
The field this weekend will have a very different look to it. Only three of the top fifteen drivers – on points - from season 2018 will be competing in the four-race program: namely Scott Green, John Sheridan and Daniel Natoli.
Motorsport is a costly game, and budget is why Dave Shinners and Daniel Peasey won’t be on the grid this weekend, or this season in Shinners’ case.
Elsewhere, Simon Winters has sold up shop, and the next step in his racing exploits isn’t yet known. As for the rest of the missing fleet, including defending champion Brett Parrish, they’re racing their Excel elsewhere this weekend.
You have to go back many years, to find the last time that so many series heavyweights were absent from the field – Brett Parrish, Darren Whittington, Simon Winters, Robert Buckley, Cam Wilson, Mick McCloud, Tyrone Gautier and Daniel Peasey are all missing this weekend.
Elsewhere, Cliff Sedgley is still sidelined due to health issues that saw him miss the final two rounds of the 2018 campaign, but remains hopeful of being back on track real soon.
Steve Pilkington was also a late withdrawal from this event.
The form guide would suggest that both Scott Green and John Sheridan will be difficult to beat. Both men were race winners in 2018, and should they perform consistently in 2019, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be fighting for the title come early November.
The interest of this season lays within the rest of the field.
Who’s going to step up to the challenge?
Who’s going to be the surprise packet?
Who’s going to exceed all expectations?
From that standpoint, while it’s hard to draw up a form guide, this promises to be a fascinating and intriguing season of racing.
The TAA Excel Cup has been a stepping stone for young drivers in the past, and 2019 will be no different, with Joshua Richards and Oscar Comley both lining up!
Holly Espray will fly the flag for the girls, as she has done so often in the recent years.
This weekend, the opening round will be contested over four races, all on the 3.12km National Circuit at Queensland Raceway.
The Willowbank venue will play host to SIX of the eight championship rounds in 2019.
The first three rounds take place in the space of just six weeks. Competitors will be back here in a fortnight, when the category headlines the support program for the Wilowbank 300, at the Ipswich Festival of Cars, from April 12-14, before then featuring as part of QRDC 2, on the opening weekend of May.
QR Sports and Sedans
A field of fourteen will contest the opening round of the 2019 QR Sports and Sedans series - one of the best entry lists for the category in recent times. Both Steve Hay and Kenneth Fazakerley return to the field - Fazakerley in his Subaru WRX, and Hay on the VK Commodore that he'll also be steering in the opening round of the Queensland Touring Car Championship this weekend.
Geoff Taunton returns in his MARC entry, while Adam Hargraves in the Lotus Exige, and Lachlan Harburg in the Porsche 997, will be right in contention as well.
The Italian Challenge
The Italian Challenge has a broader European feel to it this weekend, with two BMW entries in the field.
Of the twelve entries received for their opening event of the year, Ken Percival (Alfa Romeo GT Junior), Stephen Callaghan (Alfa Romeo GTV 2000) and Mark Jackson (Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV) will be the cars to watch.
Group N - Historic Touring Cars
Group N is a category that always manages to field a strong entry list, and this weekend is no exception, with 16 cars lining up for their season opener. The heavyweights of the category - Graeme Wakefield (Ford Mustang), Peter Baguley (Holden Torana XU1), and Grahame Wrobel (Ford Mustang) are all lining up. With racing split across the Clubman, Sprint and National circuits, it promises to be a compelling contest between those three men. While the Torana will enjoy the shorter configurations, the Mustangs will favour the long straights of the National Circuit.
Queensland Sportscar Championship
In the Queensland Sportscar Championship, the battle resumes between Dave Barram and Simon Cilento. After being the dominant force for much of season 2018, Barram was upstaged in the final round of the season, at Lakeside Park, where Cilento won four of the five races.
This weekend, fifteen cars will line-up for a five race program, including Chris Purvis and Carmelo Bonaventura, who you can expect to see fighting for the minor placings once more.
This meeting was originally scheduled to be held at Lakeside Park, but was relocated as a result of ongoing issues with noise restrictions at the Kurwongbah venue. As a result of that, some categories, like the Queensland Touring Car Championship, have opted not to run on the National Circuit this weekend, and instead stage their races on the shorter configurations of the Willowbank venue.
This weekend, all four tracks - the National, Clubman, Sprint and Sportsman circuits - will be utilised at least once.
Qualifying commences at 8:30am on Saturday morning, with racing to follow that into Saturday afternoon, and resume at 9am on Sunday morning.
In total, it's a 25-race schedule, as the 2019 Queensland Motorsport season finally gets underway.
Spectator Entry: FREE on Friday, $20 on Saturday, $30 on Sunday, or $40 for the weekend pass. Kids 12 and Under are FREE.