Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Youngster makes speedway history

TASMANIAN speedway history was made at the Mountain Dew Ice Raceway, near New Norfolk, on Saturday night when 21-year-old Callum Harper won the Tasmanian V8 Super Sedan Championship. Harper, from Hellyer Beach, became one of the youngest drivers in the 45-year history of the event, but also the first third-generation driver to win a state title in any category of speedway racing.

The second-year driver is the son of son of reigning Australian champion Jarrod Harper, who did not race, and grandson of the late Neville Harper. His first state title saw young Harper taking the family tally to 11 Tasmanian championships, with Neville having won a record six titles and Jarrod claiming four.

In typical Harper tradition, Harper won the 40-lap final after qualifying on pole position and leading from green light to chequered flag. In tricky conditions on a slick, dry, hard and abrasive track, he found the best set-up to preserve the punishment on his tyres, with six contenders dropping out during the race after all puncturing right rear rubber. Harper paid tribute to his pit crew and his father after the victory. “It’s been a pretty steep learning curve for me, but I’ve had a great coach in my Dad,” he said.

Defending champion Wayne Randall, from Queensland, also relished the challenging conditions and started on the front row alongside Harper in the final before eventually finishing second. However it was reigning national Super Sedan Series champion Brad Smith, of Devonport, who was the early challenger after starting brilliantly behind Harper from grid three to keep the youngster under pressure. Randall slipped to third, with former two-times Australian champion Kevin Purton, of Deloraine, in tow.

As Harper started to open a break, Smith was the first of many to retire with tyre dramas after a right rear puncture ended his challenge on lap 22. Launceston’s Adam Beechey, Hobart veteran Leon Cleary and Devonport duo Grant Hopkins and Ethan Cole all retired in succession over the next 15 laps with blown tyres, as Harper continued to maintain a handy gap on Randall.
Purton made several challenges for second in the dying laps, before his right rear tyre also gave up three laps from the chequered flag. Harper went on to win from Randall, with former state champion Steve Latham, of Hobart, inheriting third place after Purton’s demise.

On the same program, New Norfolk teenager James Nolan scored a convincing win in round nine of the Junior Sedan Championship Series after narrowly qualifying on pole position for the 15-lap final following three very even heats. Although he had to work hard in the heats, Nolan jumped away in the final, leaving Hobart’s Nathan Russell, who finished second after dropping back to fourth at one stage, and Mole Creek driver Josh Stephens, eventually third, in his wake.

Time constraints saw the final of the Bombers Cup carried over to the January 27 meeting, with Hobart’s Nathan McIlwain qualifying on pole position with a consistent third and a win from two bruising heats.

RESULTS – Mercury Newspaper Tasmanian V8 Super Sedan Championship – Heat one: B Smith, 1; W Randall, 2; D Nichols, 3. Heat two: A Beechey, 1; L Cleary, 2; S Latham, 3. Heat three: C Harper, 1; W Randall, 2; K Purton, 3. Heat four: S Hughes, 1; C Harper, 2; S Latham, 3. Final (40 laps): J Harper, 1; W Randall, 2; S Latham, 3.

Central Steel Junior Sedan Championship Series (round nine) – Heat one: J Nolan, 1; J Stephens, 2; J Crossin, 3. Heat two: N Russell, 1; J Nolan, 2; L Saltmarsh, 3. Heat three:  J Crossin, 1; N Russell, 2; J Stephens, 3. Final (15 laps): J Nolan, 1; N Russell, 2; J Stephens, 3.

Bombers Cup – Heat one: N McIlwain, 2; D Greaves, 2; K Jetson, 3. Heat two: J Cooley, 1; S Devine, 2; N McIlwain, 3.

V8 AMCAs – Heat one: J Smith, 1; R Bassett, 2; K Muir, 3. Heat two: R Bassett, 1; L Davidson, 2; J Smith, 3. Heat three: D Brooks, 1; E Stuart, 2; R Blair, 3. Final (20 laps):  .

Lightning sprints – Heat one: B Webster, 1; B Pitt, 2; T Mason, 3. Heat two: B Pitt, 1; L Redpath, 2; T Mason, 3. Final (15 laps): B Pitt, 1; L Redpath, 2; T Mason, 3.

Modified production sedans – Heat one: L Gunn, 1; T Quillerat, 2; J Howe, 3. Heat two: T Quillerat, 1; J Howe, 2; L Gunn, 3. Final (15 laps): B Youl, 1; T Quillerat, 2; B Mitchell, 3.

Tassie sixes – Heat one: C Briggs, 1; L Gunn, 2; W Dillon, 3. Heat two: B Price, 1; S Davey, 2; S Gunn, 3

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