Ivan having a couple of months away from his hectic timetable where he rides for the Dutch team WTOS-AHOY-DE SPARTON or simply titled WASP didn’t have things his own way in a very competitive race.
After showing excellent form throughout last year’s B grade competition Tobia Kipper, Shane Gelling and Andrew Harper were elevated into the A Grade ranks just prior the start making a quality field of nine to face the starter. Race away and Gary Haydon was quick off the blocks and led through the first three laps however with windy conditions in the Spotto St Straight this appeared to inhibit any early attacks. All three A Grade debutants showed early dash and showed they were all up to this standard as they sped through laps six and seven where Graham Grant, Ivan Cook and Paul Mashford were always prominent.
It appeared that all riders were being watchful of Cook and for a while the pace seemed to drop out of the race. Duncan Murray went to the lead with Damien Ingram one lap out from the sprint with all nine riders in with a chance of claiming the coveted sprint points. Over the rise and pedal to the floor Gary Haydon and Tobia Kipper were locked in a battle royal and in a photo finish Haydon got the nod over Kipper by a whisker. Sprint over saw Grant rolling through with Gelling and Kipper on his wheel, the two newcomers showing they were not shy of their new environment however at this point 30 odd minutes into the race saw the retirement of one of the race favourites Damien Ingram who simply was desperately in need of the hit out.
The race drawing toward the final three laps had Mashford and Haydon take over only to be shut down by Grant and Harper and in what was looming as amazing finale now all eight left in the field were in with a chance. Shane Gelling in a fabulous first up effort had reached the lead with Ivan Cooke sitting about fourth wheel, two to go it was Haydon, Gelling and Murray absolutely anyone’s race and disappearing toward Ponzo St Gary Haydon had regained the front spot from Gelling, Mashford, Murray and Kipper.
Every rider had done their share and with all eyes peeled toward the final turn into the Spotto St Straight. Emerging into view all riders were stretched across the track noticeable were the bright red colours of Andrew Harper in his first crack at the A level could this be the first surprise of the new season however Paul Mashford and Ivan Cook were right on his hammer and in a frantic drive to the line the now European star in his first real ride for a couple of months held on to defeat Mashford with Harper a super effort to finish third they were followed by Kipper and Haydon in a mighty start to the season.
Unlike the cat and mouse tactics of the A grade the 12 competitors in this event went at it from the start with Junior State Track Time Trial Gold Medalist Brandon Hutton leading out from Josh Raynor, Mark Smedts and veterans Don Huyser and Grahame Allen, this group sped through the opening laps only to be joined at the top by Gavin Butler, Shawn Garraway, Liam McDonald and David Hutton with the latter also returning with a bronze medal at the State Titles. So it was pace on.
Lap five saw the lanky figure of Rod Miller assume control with Brandon Hutton, Gavin Butler and Mick Mehonoshon hot in pursuit. Miller led through the next lap this time joined by Shawn Garraway and Liam McDonald and the trio pinched a small break with Brandon Hutton bridging the gap. Approaching the Sprint lap Brandon Hutton was now back in front with Liam McDonald and Shawn Garraway right on his wheel and it was obvious to all that the Sprint points were between that three. Over the rise Hutton and McDonald had drawn clear with Brandon going away to defeat Liam with Shawn back in third spot. Sprint gone and Gavin Butler inspired by his recent sojourn to view the Tour Down Under swept to the lead ensuring no rest for the three sprinters who spent plenty in securing sprinting honours. Butler kept the lead for the next 3 laps although he at this point pinching a small break couldn’t shake the determined McDonald who now had Mehonoshon, Garraway, Allen and Rod Miller for company.
Through the 15 lap mark the Hutton brothers made a dash to join Butler however now there were eight riders in contention. In order 3 laps out passing the Judges Box, McDonald led from Mehonoshon, Miller, Allen, Butler, Brandon Hutton, David Hutton and Garraway. Two to go it was Miller from Brandon Hutton and at the Bell Miller led from Butler however anyone of the eight riders left could win.
NECKS were CRANING TO SEE who would lead into the Spotto straight for the last time. Sweeping up the rise and it was the Brothers Hutton powering to the front over Liam Mcdonald only this time David who had ridden a clever race had his brother sit up over the last few metres and he went on to win a real thriller over Brandon with Liam McDonald third followed by Shawn Garraway, Grahame Allen and Mick Mehonoshon. As always this division lived up to expectations being a massive crowd pleaser.
Fifteen starters listened intently to race Commissar Richie Bates pre-race instructions before the largest field in this class for some time commenced on their 30 minutes and three lap journey around the Woree circuit. The field included three newcomers in Ethan Chamberlain, Takuma Konno and Darren Sinn.
Darren Sinn was quick off the mark and led through the first lap from Ethan Chamberlain, Gordon Milne, Al Hodge and the man the commentator dubs the Maestro Oliver Wacek and it wasn’t long before Oliver took control and set the tone that this event was to be run at a pace well beyond the normal lap time of this division. Early however Alex Hall one of our two women in this event had a mechanical issue and although quickly attended to by her team manager none other than our own Warrnambool Champion Fiona Yard a disappointed Alex retired from the race leaving Kath Deed flying the flag for the team.
Onwards toward the sprint lap and Wacek kept up the rolling tempo, keeping company with Oliver were Gary Perkins, Luke Azzarpardi, Kath Deed and youngster Kane Hodge. However with the exception of Takuma Konno the entire field accepted the pace being set out front by Wacek. Takuma having his first ride at the circuit found the pace too hot and dropped off the back, but to his credit Takuma kept on keeping on and even when the race had finished Takuma kept on riding and the big crowd loved his effort.
Lap before the sprint the order was Damien Gosling, Oliver Wacek, Gordon Milne, Kath Deed, Gary Perkins and right with those riders ready to strike came Darren Sinn who then comfortably took the sprint from Youngster Luke Azzarpardi having his first ride in this grade after dominating D grade in recent times. Sprint over Wacek led with Sinn and on their wheels were Azzarpardi, Kane Hodge and Gordon Milne. Then came an attack from Luke Azzarpardi who swept to lead an edged out to a handy break only to this time being reeled back by Kath Deed riding a very strong race in the company of Wacek, Chamberlain, Al Hodge and Mark Viney.
Three to go and the order heading toward the Ponzo St back straight was Chamberlain, Deed, Al Hodge and Wacek however right behind that foursome lurked Sinn and Perkins all with a show. Two out it was Oliver Wacek again, however having made the race a crowd spectacle Oliver had done his job as Ethan Chamberlain hit the front from Darren Sinn, Luke Azzarpardi, Kane Hodge and Mark Viney. The winner was in that group heading for the turn into the straight for the drive to the line. However it was Darren Sinn powering to the lead over the rise and despite a late charge from Luke Azzapardi drew away to record a strong win from Luke with Kane Hodge a terrific third they were followed in by Damien Gosling, Ethan Chamberlain, Gordon Milne, and Kath Deed.
This race in the words of the commentator was the best he had seen in that division.
Two extra starters were added to the D grade race with only two acceptors for the women’s race. Both Jamie Thurtell and Julie Scharf made a total of nine lining up for the always competitive class. They had to contend with what looked like a very even field including the former track Champion of yesteryear Jeffrey Hartley who is heading for the World Masters Championships to be held in Auckland in the near future.
Catching the commentator by surprise the field took off with Hartley and Paul Mitchell rolling straight to the front, settling down by lap two Gordon Paris was the lamp lighter just in advance of Michael Etherington, Paul Mitchell, Bruce Milne and Tony Nastasi. All nine were together through the next few laps when James Mort and Michael Etherington pinched a small break. The chase group led by Gordon Paris, Mitchell and Milne didn’t take long to reel them in with Jamie Thurtell and Julie Scharf well in contention.
Bruce Milne led Paul Mitchell just before the Sprint lap when Mitchell opened the throttle and sped to a commanding break and held on to take the sprint points easily. Mitchell didn’t ease and his lead blossomed out to around ten seconds shortly after. Attempts to reel Mitchell back came from Milne, Mort, Etherington and Tony Nastasi having his first ride in a Woree Criterium. With the bell looming Mitchell’s lead was now 15 seconds and looked unassailable.
The full order passing the Judges Box for the last time was Mitchell well clear from Mort, Etherington, Hartley, Nastasi, Paris, Milne, Scharf and Thurtell and it appeared they would be riding to fill the placings. Swinging for home and it was all Paul Mitchell. Paul was all alone in a dashing display which may see him quickly elevated a grade, and as Mitchell crossed line the rest of the field were just ascending the Spotto Rise however what a race it was for second place, Just when the Commentator was calling Michael Etherington likely to run second out the corner of his eye he witnessed the barnstorming finish of Julie Scharf who literally flew home to nail second spot in a photo over Michael they were followed by Tony Nastasi and Jeffrey Hartley in another race capturing the great atmosphere at the SEASON OPENING.
A great effort from Glenys, Mundi, Sue all our fantastic Marshalls I haven’t mentioned and a special mention to Kim who despite me standing on her toes more than once was able to deliver concise accurate details as each division roared past for without Kim’s efforts the report would be abysmal.