In the weeks following a challenging Round Two of the eight round Masters season, crews returned to assess the battlewounds and are now putting the final touches on their long and tireless efforts to have a strong grid of classic musclecars, on the road north to Hidden Valley for the heat known to come in Round Three.
Over the five years of Top End racing, the near three kilometres of Hidden Valley Raceway tarmac has proven to be aplace of weekend dominance, with four years seeing clean sweeps of outright race victories and unquestionable roundglory. In Class B, and previously in Class A and Group classifications, honours call for great challenges across the field asMustangs, Toranas, Porsches, Valiants and Alfa Romeos have tasted success.
Dual series Champion John Bowe has visited the valley many times in many machines over the 16 years of racing in theterritory, and sits atop the list of most successful Masters at the circuit. With four pole positions, seven race wins, twoclean sweep weekends on series debut in 2008 aboard a Camaro, and again last year in his Mustang, Bowe also holdsthe original and current lap records. Both Jim Richards and Gavin Bullas, themselves series Champions, have alsomastered the valley in years of dominance (2009 Bullas, 2010 Richards), while in the Pro-Sportsman Classes (previouslyGroups) Cameron Tilley and Tony Karanfilovski have also taken clean sweep honours, with both drivers returning in 2013armed with Ford power.
The Touring Car Masters have completed 174 race laps, being 499 kilometres of race action across the 15 races, yet justfour names can claim outright race victory at the challenging circuit. Showing strength of racing across the grid, therehave been more than ten Class/Group race victors, and such start to finish battles are why the crowds continue to flock tothe fences as the muscles and exotic classics take to the track.
Of the Masters taking on the Top End heat in 2013, five were there in 2008 when it all began; nine of the entrants haveraced more than one vehicle on the northern tarmac; families continue their strong representation in the north, withbrothers Brad and Cameron Tilley returning to the grid to again showcase their crowd-favourite sideways driving styles.
2012 Class B round winner, Steve Mason, is back with his Shelby Mustang as son Cameron again becomes a Master inthe family Camaro that won father Steve the inaugural series title, Cameron having contested the early Masters years in aDatsun.
The family battle is back on for husband and wife Porsche duo, Greg Keene and Amanda Sparks, and seriesyoung-gun and dual Round Two race winner, Michael Almond returns to the place where he made his series debut lastseason in another family Porsche – that campaigned by father Ross, an ex-Masters racer.
Making their series returns are Tony Edwards in the again pristine Torana SL/R 5000, after it became the first everMasters entry to roll at the series finale last season; Steve Makarios brings back his striking GTHO Falcon; with an all inCharger assault as Garry Treloar and Mick Wilson re-join Greg Crick for a three-strong Chrysler attack.
The Pro-Sportsman (Class B) racing will be hot to watch for more than just engine temperatures as 2012 Class Champion ChrisStillwell and 2011 Class Champion, Gary O’Brien, are joined by the youngest Master Vining-Falvey in his MustangCoupe, and regular Porsche performer Rory O’Neill.
Bringing their brute Australian Holden power, Adam Bressington andJason Gomersall are ready to take it all the way to the Fords of Keith Kassulke and Wayne Mercer, who recentlycompleted further work on suspension and weight reduction, while the Whiteline Transport Racing duo of AndrewMiedecke and Mark King are certain to be on the pace for Chevrolet.
With days of travel and 36 laps of racing ahead, Bowe has just an eight point buffer over Richards, with Miedecke alsoready to strike for Class A’s Outright lead, while in Class B’s Pro-Sportsman standings, just four points separate Masonand Keene going to Darwin.
The Touring Car Masters will heat up Hidden Valley Raceway next weekend as part of the V8 Supercars Skycity TripleCrown, with two practice sessions, qualifying and three races across the weekend, thrilling the crowds at the fences andthose at home, with Races One and Three going live across the country on the 7 network.