The Donny Schatz school of dirt track artistry was in session at Ausdeck Patios Archerfield Speedway on Saturday night (January 6) when the 9-time World of Outlaws champion delivered a master class in Sprintcar prowess on his way to collecting $20 000 for winning the Performance Wholesale Sprintcar Australian Open. It was a pre-eminent performance from Schatz throughout the 50-lap event, lapping the field up to seventh place and ultimately finishing more than 10.5 seconds ahead of Australian champion Kerry Madsen. Pennsylvanian Lucas Wolfe greeted the chequer in third spot but was subsequently elevated into second ahead of Madsen, who was penalised for a passing infraction. Jamie Veal finished fourth without ever looking a real threat to the top three, with Carson Marcedo crossing fifth ahead of Lachlan McHugh, whose sterling effort was soured somewhat when he also incurred a post-race penalty that moved James McFadden to sixth. Dave Murcott was next best, with Logan Schuchart and Luke Oldfield rounding out the top ten, albeit a lap in arrears.
Four drivers failed to return for the second night of competition, in stark contrast to the efforts of the Titan Garages and HRP Harding Motorsport teams who were back in action despite suffering significant damage on Friday night and facing an uphill battle to salvage a satisfactory result.
In the opening clash of the night (heat 9), it was Jayden Peacock who fired the first shot in downing Darren Mollenoyux and Dominic Scelzi.
There was plenty of action in heat ten, with Shaun Dobson the first casualty after being contacted by McFadden amidst the turn one jostle. Two laps later, Brent Kratzmanns race also ended when he collected a spun Allan Woods, who also retreated to the infield. Once the race settled down, it was Harding who held on to win from McFadden and McHugh.
Andrew Scheurele was the next to suffer a setback when he ended upside down in heat 11 after becoming ensnared in a stoush between between Jack Lee and Bryan Zelinski that also put the latter out of action. Up front, Darren Jensen dashed home to defeat Brad Keller and Michael Saller.
Glen Sutherland downed Mitchell Wormall and Tim Van Ginneken to win heat 12 and then Peacock doubled up in heat 13 to defeat Jye OKeefe and Wolfe.
Harding also won again in heat 14 in advance of Scelzi and Bryan Mann, with Dobson again failing to go the distance.
Schatz stormed from position 10 to win heat 15, rounding up Mitch Gowland on the final lap, with Jack Lee third home.
Peter Lack powered home to win the final heat of the weekend, chasing down former Wingless Sprint standout Adam Butler to take control, with another strong run from Sutherland snaring third on this occasion.
Woods and Jason Pryde filled the top two spots in the C Main, leaving Mitchell Gee just shy of a transfer in third spot and, ultimately, scant reward for his efforts in advancing more than six spots in just 10 laps.
Sam Walsh looked to have the B Main safely in his keeping until a component failure forced him to the infield just six laps from home. Lack pounced to assume the lead and went on to take the race ahead of OKeefe, Mann, Sutherland, Kaiden Manders and Van Ginneken, all of whom advanced to the Australian Open final.
The Pole Shootout kicked off with Veal and Wolfe outpacing Schuchart and McHugh in the bronze round. The silver round saw Madsen top the time sheets against Wolfe, Veal and Marcedo, a feat he repeated in the gold round to secure pole position for the feature, this time ahead of Schatz, McFadden and Wolfe.
When the Australian Open feature race fired into life, it was Madsen who launched best from the front row, running low through turn one as Schatz opted for the high side. A lap later, the positions were reversed with Schatz charging underneath Madsen to take the lead in what would be the only positional change at the front. Back in the pack, Manders got a great start to leapfrog Van Ginneken, Sutherland and OKeefe. The only interruption to proceedings came on lap 10 when Mann, who is the only Queensland driver to have won this event, spun in turn two. Incredibly, from this point, the race not only ran 40 laps without another stoppage, but all 20 cars were still running at the end. As Schatz cleared away out front, Wolfe started to close in on Madsen and slipped underneath through turn three as they negotiated lapped traffic. Madsen immediately retaliated with an inside move of his own for which he would ultimately be docked a spot, a decision that he accepted as fair. There was plenty happening further back as well, with lap 30 seeing McHugh and Schuchart swap slide jobs at opposite ends of the track in a duel that would ultimately fall in favour of the Gold Coast youngster. In what was an emphatic display, Schatz powered home to score his ninth win in this event, leading Madsen, Wolfe, Veal, Marcedo, McHugh, McFadden, Murcott, Schuchart and Oldfield, who struggled to reproduce the form that has carried him to so much success here in recent seasons. Darren Mollenoyux, Scelzi, Lack, Lee, Keller and Manders were next in line, with OKeefe, Mann, Sutherland and Van Ginneken completing the field.
Liam Williams dominated Formula 500 competition, winning two heats before taking out the 15-lap feature race over Kurt Wilson and Kristin Brown, who bounced back from a crash in her second heat to finish with a flourish. In his first outing for the season, Charlie Brown finished fourth ahead of Tomas Partington, Marshall Lewis and Cameron Bertuch. Tristan Johnson, Adrian Farrell and Tony Bailey completed the top ten ahead of Nick Hodges, who was the only other heat winner.
Josh Dreaver topped Wingless Sprint qualifying with two heat wins, but he was unable to wrest the lead from Brant Chandler in the feature race. Chandler, who also picked up a heat win, led all 15 laps to defeat Dreaver, Geoff Davey, Paul Robinson and Brian Dixon.
The AMCA Nationals feature race provided plenty of action as Nathan Durston raced to early lead over Steve Price and Steve Potts, all of whom scored heat wins, with Russ Hardy also in the mix for the minor placings. However, Price freed himself from this battle and chased down Durston, taking the lead on lap 12. Potts also rounded up Durston on lap 15 and a late surge from Matt Hardy saw him move momentarily to third before Durston countered and reclaimed the position, leaving Matt Hardy fourth at the flag. Russ Hardy finished fifth, followed by Anthony Joyce, Michael Mason and Damien Groer.