In 2011 a young Saloon Car driver turned up to compete at Sandown Raceway in the V8 Ute Racing Series and took everyone by surprise when he claimed Race Two, took on V8 Supercar veteran Cameron McConville to claim second in Race Three and achieved a top five finish for the weekend.
Kris Walton went on to win the 2012 Rookie of the Year title and is now one of the fierce contenders of the 2013 Auto One V8 Ute Racing Series – protected by ARMOR ALL – and is looking forward to another crack at Sandown from September 13-15.
“It’s where it all started for me and we should go pretty good, we’re hoping for a top three or four – I won’t be happy otherwise, I’ve got (to) improve from the first race otherwise I’m not doing very well,” Walton said.
It’s been two years since the V8 Race Utes hit the Melbourne based track and with another young driver Michael Almond debuting this round, will there be a repeat of 2011? Almond has raced in Touring Car Masters, Carrera Cup and is vying for second in the GT3 Cup Challenge. The South Aussie will follow in his Dad Ross’s footsteps; Ross raced a V8 Race Ute back in 2002.
“I’d love to do the same (as Walton) but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’ve never raced a Ute but I’m very excited, I’m not obviously in the running for the Championship or anything and I don’t want to upset any other guys. It’s a no pressure environment for me and I just have to stay out of trouble," Almond said.
"This opportunity came around by chance, Dad presented the idea to me and I thought, why not? Dad raced a Ute and I always wanted to have a go so here we go."
Almond will race #41 that was driven by ‘Spud’ Wood at Darwin. Wood had a major tear-up at turn five and will return to the field in Grant Bromley’s Ford, run by Big Gun Racing.
Twenty-nine year old Almond will be run by Williams Race Tech and will join team-members and veteran’s Kim Jane and Gary Baxter who have been on podium twice at Sandown, Jane more recently in 2011 in front of his home-crowd. Other local driver and third in the Championship Nathan Pretty will be chasing some good results, Pretty still holds the lap record in a Holden Monaro 427C that he set in 2004 racing in the Nations Cup but would love a win in a V8 Ute and to advance his standing on the ENZED Drivers Championship leaderboard.
“I’m looking forward to it; I just need to keep the ball rolling from Townsville. I’ve driven there a lot with driver training and in the Monaro but you can’t really get a local track advantage anymore; we can’t test on it so there’s no real advantage. It would be great to add another lap record and good to keep that history going,” said Pretty.
Ford has a solitary round win at Sandown Raceway and has only locked down six out of the 18 races, although Series leader Harris has won a race there before he is yet to win in a Ford (since his switch in 2011).
“It will be great to get in the car again, I’m looking forward to a great weekend, I love the track and can’t wait to bring the Tapout Energy Ute home in front of my new fiancé Casey,” said the romantic Harris.
Only 46 points shy of Harris in the ENZED Drivers Championship, David Sieders is keen to get another ARMOR ALL Pole Award under his belt. The Mine Site Fencing driver took out the Award at Sandown in 2011 and already has a lap record (Adelaide) and a Pole Award (Perth) and would love to crack the Lap record at Sandown, which hasn’t been broken since 2009.
“I’ll give it a crack, I’ve never not – If I get this one, I’ll be equal with Nathan Pretty on two. Last round was the first time I didn’t start on the front row I came third by one-hundredth of a second, Qualifying and Lap records is always my thing so it would be great to get another one,” said Sieders.
Warren Millet will return to the field after a six-month absence. Young-gun Jesse Dixon stepped into Millets #88 Holden this year and Millet will drive Richard Bloomfield’s Holden, re-numbered #18. Bloomfield has decided to hang-up his V8 Ute Boots for personal reasons.
Danny Buzadzic will also make a return to the field after his car was also written off (requiring a complete rebuild); in Darwin he will be joined by other local drivers Gerard McLeod, Phonsy Mullan, Stephen White and Yokohama Rookie of the Year leader Elliot Barbour.
Moving into the pointy end of the season, points are everything and there is sure to be plenty of action when they hit the track on the “lucky for some” Friday September 13.