THERE was plenty of action throughout last night’s Australian V8 Dirt Modified Championship second and final night at Lismore Speedway, but in the end, it was Mitchell Randall who claimed the winning honours.
Randall, from nearby Casino, was one of the favourites going into the weekend’s Australian Championship, but he was also the only out of the top drivers who had not yet tasted title success – either at Australian or state level. However, that all changed last night, when he was able to benefit from the misfortune of runaway leader and pole sitter Chris Corbett, who had a tyre go down in the closing stages. Corbett’s misfortune was Randall’s gain, and he was able to grab the opportunity with both hands and collect the win.
After starting from position five in the Australian Championship decider, Randall made his way into podium contention during the early laps, and before too long he was inside the top three. By lap 18, Randall had worked his way into third by using the highline the best he could in order to get an advantage over his rivals, and this allowed him to move past five-time Australian Champion Kevin Britten for second on lap 21.
Once in second, Randall chased after Corbett, who had managed to break away from the field due to getting ahead of some lapped traffic. Although Corbett got by a few lapped cars, his rivals were unable to do so, and this allowed him to build up a sizable advantage.
Out in front, Corbett was looking on track to claim his maiden Australian Championship win, while his rivals, who were well behind, battled with one another over the minor spots on the podium.
As the laps ticked over, by lap 27 the remaining laps created plenty of chaos. On lap 27, Brayd Stephenson had slowed with a flat tyre, and it consequently triggered a yellow light. From then onwards, the race was turned on its head. Over the remaining seven laps, a number of the front runners dropped out with tyre issues, including defending and four-time Australian Champion Mark Robinson and a hard-charging Joshua Rose from position 11.
With another yellow light ordered to clear up the Robinson and Rose cars, Corbett continued to lead ahead of Randall and Britten on the restart with two laps to go. However, there yet another twist in this Australian Championship decider, and it involved leader Corbett who had pretty much one hand on the trophy. With one and a half laps to go, Corbett suffered a deflated right-rear retire and was out. The misfortune of Corbett played into the hands of Randall, who managed to control the remaining two laps and picked up his maiden Australian Championship win.
Following Randall home at the fall of the chequered flag was Britten in second, while third went the way of Scott Cannon. There was no doubt with how the race panned out in the closing stages, Randall, Britten and Cannon were just glad to not be involved in the chaos and take their place on the podium.
Youngster Seiton Connor-Young came from towards the back of the feature-race field to finish in fourth, while the top-five finishers were rounded out by Andrew Firth, who had collected his second top-five Australian Championship finish in a row.
In what turned out to be a race of attrition, the remaining finishers were Taylah Firth and Trevor Wiley. Taylah Firth drove outstandingly to win the B main and book herself a spot in Australian Championship history as the first female to qualify for an Australian Championship feature race, while Wiley showed plenty of spirt during the B main to earn his feature-race transfer spot, and he was the only Sportsman category driver to qualify into the Australian Championship decider, which earned him the top Sportsman driver trophy.
When it came to the infield during the Australian Championship feature race, there were plenty of race cars parked there. Joining the aforementioned drivers who had retired, were the likes of Phil Roberts, 2014 Australian Champion David Clark, Marcus Reddecliffe, Zak Blanch, an impressive Dale Corbett who had worked his way into top-five contention prior to dropping out, Todd Hobson, front-row qualifier Ryley Smith, Brock Gardiner and Andrew Pezzutti. The majority of the retirements came as a result of tyre damage.
Apart from the obvious one in Chris Corbett, another hard-luck story was that of youngster Ryley Smith. The rookie managed to qualify for the Australian Championship feature race from position two, but he had his run cut short in the early laps due to a damaged tyre. Smith was disappointed to have his run come to a premature end; however, he certainly displayed impressive form that won him plenty of support and admiration.
Defending and four-time Australian Champion Mark Robinson was right in the mix throughout the feature race after he had started from the inside of the second row. While running inside the top five in the closing stages, he too, fell victim to tyre damage that saw him fail to finish.
Earlier in the night, the B main was won by Taylah Firth, who defeated Hobson, Wiley and Pezzutti, which completed the remaining spots in the 20-car Australian Championship feature-race field.
Leading into the Australian Championship feature race, Paul Cannon and Nev Pezzutti were honoured as the event’s Grand Marshals, which was a thank you for all of their ongoing support of the V8 Dirt Modified movement over the past four decades.
In the two rounds of heat races from the second and final night, the wins were shared between Dale Corbett (x 2), Smith, Stephenson, Randall, Rose, Britten and Chris Corbett. Both Dale Corbett and Joshua Rose showed plenty of speed during last night’s qualifying heat races and by virtue of this it allowed them to start strongly in the Australian Championship feature race inside the top 12.
The DMA committee would like to thank everyone, including the drivers, pit crews, officials, race fans and the Lismore Speedway promotion, for helping make the 2023 Australian Championship one to remember.
During the Australian Championship weekend, the 2024 Australian Championship was announced that it was going to be held at Bundaberg’s Carina Speedway in Queensland.
Photo: Butcher Photography