Reigning champ Ryal Harris is keen to further defend his title during next weekend’s Round Three of the Auto One V8 Ute Racing Series – Protected by ARMOR ALL – at Darwin’s Hidden Valley. A full field of 32 utes will hit the Top End for one of the most popular rounds on the series calendar.
Harris won the Darwin round last year and will be looking forward to maintaining his lead in the ENZED Drivers’ Championship, however will be keeping an eye on Holden Hot Shot Stormin’ Rhys McNally, right on his heels in second. The Perth driver was a class act on his home track and his current form has been the surprise of 2013.
2012 was Harris’s first podium at the top end and he’s looking forward to going for number two.
“We definitely want another podium in Darwin, in 2011 we should have won it but I spun out under brakes. I’ve won the final race the last two years in a row – I love the Race 4 format, by race three, everyone has very average tyres and the cars move around a lot, which requires some man handling and some finesse with your right foot, I also can’t wait for the new qualifying format,” said Harris.
David ‘Sideways’ Sieders and Gary ‘Chucky’ Baxter are locked on 216 points, only 17 points behind Harris, in third and fourth position. Both drivers have a good track record in Darwin, with Sieders currently holding the fastest Qualifying time (1:21.5715) and the Lap record (1:22.3675).
“Can’t wait, the only thing I haven’t ticked up there is the round win, last year I lost on the way of the count back system, I tried but Ryal got the trophy, so I definitely have some unfinished business and would love to tick that box,” Sieders said.
“Anything is possible (winning the Series) in Ute racing as we’ve seen, I was 49 points behind Nathan (Pretty) in Perth and now I’m ahead of him. We only have to score three points every weekend up on Ryal and I’ll beat him by one point at the end of the season, if you break it down to little chunks it’s a lot easier to accomplish."
Kim “The Assassin” Jane is the most successful driver in the current Series at Darwin, with podium finishes in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011. A massive roll-over at Turn one in Race Three last year handicapped what was looking to be a strong weekend, however the team managed to fix the Bob Jane Holden and have it back on track for Race Four.
“Yes I’m hoping to keep four wheels on the track this year. The guys did a massive job turning the Ute around in time last year. I haven’t had a great start to the year so let’s hope that Darwin will be good to me this year,” Jane said.
Returning to the field this round is former Sydney Waratah Ben Dunn, who will replace Rookie Rhett Noonan. Dunn will race his own Ford FG at Hidden Valley for the seventh time. Glenn McNally will also be returning to the field to compete at the round for the first time since 2009 when he was on podium and will continue the rivalry with Brother Rhys.
In form Holden drivers Nathan Pretty, Tony Longhurst, and Adam Marjoram are also expected to be on the pace, although this will be Marjoram’s first appearance in Darwin driving the Auto One Holden.
Jesus Racing’s Andrew Fisher is hoping for a bounce in form after a successful test recently at Sydney’s Motorsport Park. Fisher came out of the blocks with a fine podium at Round One, however struggled for pace at Barbagallo, but was very quick in the recent test.
Ryan Hansford, (winner of Race Two at Darwin last year), Kris Walton in the Rentco Ford, and Jack Elsegood are all keen to back up Ford’s round win at Barbagallo with a strong Darwin run, while Rookie’s Jesse Dixon, Elliot Barbour, Cam Wilson and Matt Nolan will see Hidden Valley for the first time.
The new three-tier Formula One style qualifying format will be used in Darwin. Qualifying will be run across three segments, dropping off the slowest at the end of each segment, and finishing with a one lap shootout for the top 10 grid positions and the ARMOR ALL Pole Award.
The V8 Ute Series has now raced at Hidden Valley nine years in a row, only rivalled by the Clipsal 500 at Adelaide Parklands.
Races Two and Four will be being telecast live on Channel 7 (Brisbane and Sydney) and 7 Mate (Darwin, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth).