NSW star Matt Smith raced to victory in the 68th Australian Speedcar Grand Prix at Castrol Edge Lismore Speedway Saturday night in a manner befitting some of the great AGP champions from previous decades.
Smith didn't start off the front row, but had to pass plenty of cars after he was well back in the 20-car field. He turned in a superb drive in a typical fastest-from-the back style that made the 35-lap GP so entertaining.
He took over the lead in the second half of the race and was clear of runner-up Mitch Brien and third-placed Matt Jackson at the chequered flag. Smith, driving a Hawk powered car for Gavin Ohlbach Racing, did it the hard way all night after he was a late nomination for the event and was forced to start rear of field in his heats. He only narrowly missed the B-Main after scoring a lowly 27 points from the heats which left him in position 12 in the standings and the same starting position in the final.
“Running from the back virtually all night gave me a few different lines to try as I worked the track and it played into our hands a little bit,” an elated Smith said.
“It was a challenging track and hard work, though. It was when I got into fourth at a restart that I thought I had a real chance of winning the GP.”
Smith is a previous winner of the Australian Speedcar Grand Prix after he raced to success at Parramatta City Raceway in 2011. The 2019 victory was doubly sweet for Matt as the win also celebrated his father's (Steve) birthday.
Brien also was down on heat points and came from near the middle of the field for his very deserving second place.
“It was a tough track, certainly elbows up, and holding on,” he said. Jackson, who started off the outside of the front row, challenged for the lead for most of the race and at one point actually passed leader Darren Vine just as a yellow light was thrown. “Yeah, we were pretty good at that stage,” Matt explained, “the car was good and then the yellows came out.”
The man who was the pacesetter for more than half of the GP was Vine. He was under pressure from Jackson almost from the outset and Vine recorded the fastest lap of the GP at 14.662 seconds (98.213 km/h). The first 12 laps were hectic before a red light stopped the action after Troy Ware crashed. At that point Vine and Jackson were followed by Scott Farmer, Brien, Kaidon Brown Brock Dean, Smith, Harley Smee, Bradley Harrison and Tim Farrell rounded out the top ten with 22 laps remaining.
Soon after Brad Dawson and Adam Clarke tangled which brought on another yellow light.
The hectic pace continued at the resumption as Farmer passed Jackson and moved into second while Smith was also ready to pounce as he trailed closely in fourth.
The remaining laps produced great racing as Smith went for it and had moved into second on lap 18.
This was the race right here as Vine held command and Smith was on his tail. A few laps later Smith passed Vine and, while all this happened, Brien was now in third. In the remaing laps Brien grabbed second, while Vine faded and ultimately finished fifth. The drama did not end at the fall of the chequered flag after fourth-placed Farmer soon after rolled his car. He escaped unscathed in what was one of the more exciting and dramatic AGPs of the modern era.
Vine earlier in the night recorded two heat wins, while Jackson, Brown, Farmer and Dean also won heats. The B-Main qualifiers into the A-Main were: winner Bradley Harrison, Scott Doyle, Dawson and Bob Jackson. Brown was the star of the pole shuffle as he advanced his starting spot in the final after four consecutive match race wins.
Other main events were taken out by Josh Boyd (Junior Sedans), Ben Hull (Wingless Sprintcars), Nathan Gordon (Production Sedans), Brock Armstrong (Street Stocks) and Steve Price (AMCAs).
Caption: Matt Smith pours on the power as he heads to victory in the 68th Australian Speedcar