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Speedway community shows class in memory of Mick Fitzgerald

PAST AND PRESENT:  Horsham Motor Sports Club president Richard Wilkens, with club members, leads a minute silence in honour of club stalwart Mick Fitzgerald, in front of Mick’s restored car during the club’s first event of the season. Picture: M&L Speedway Photography

PAST AND PRESENT: Horsham Motor Sports Club president Richard Wilkens, with club members, leads a minute silence in honour of club stalwart Mick Fitzgerald, in front of Mick’s restored car during the club’s first event of the season. Picture: M&L Speedway Photography

By Mark Cowin
Blue Ribbon speedway fans, competitors and club members stood united in remembrance of long-time president Mick Fitzgerald at the club’s first meeting of the year.
Horsham Motor Sports Club hosted its first event of the 2018-19 season on December 29, a night where hearts were heavy.
The feature event was the Country Cup for AMCA’s and a return visit of vintage hot rods and saloon cars, ably supported by Limited Sportsman and Horsham’s own V8 trucks.
The evening started with the majority of the pits emptying for a grand parade, which featured the first appearance in many years of Mick’s own Wimmera #25 EH sedan.
Brian Constable is currently restoring the sedan in Beulah, but on the night club member Steven Hateley had the honour of driving #25 for the parade.
The parade was halted and drivers, fans and members were asked to observe a minute silence, with only the sound of a lone cricket breaking the haunting silence.

Mick’s #25 Holden EH in racing condition.

Mick’s #25 Holden EH in racing condition.

A short history of Mick was then read over the PA system.
This was also received in silence, a credit to the man and a credit to the fans and competitors.
The silence was only broken by Mick’s own command of ‘Righto enough of this – lets go racing’.
A week of warm and dry weather gave the track crew a tough job preparing the surface, which in the early heats, led to a lot of head scratching with setups and handling, but as the night went on the track came to the competitors and racing was fast and furious, entertaining the crowd of faithful supporters.
Wide open
AMCA competition was a wide open affair, with a mixed field of Chevy crate engines and the older and reliable Holden V8s completing the field.
During the heat races it became clear that Neale Peachey had the car to beat, but his night was not made easy with the cars of Bill Lodwick and Darren Bloom intent on taking home the prized Country Cup.
Peachey got away to lead the final with a great fight behind, with the cars of Lodwick, Bloom and newcomer Chevat taking turns chasing the leader.
Victoria’s number one Greg Firmin came on in the closing laps only to spin and drop to the back of the pack.
Final placings saw Peachey take the win in all the heats, dominating the final in a great show of driving and setting up a great year ahead.
Lodwick came second, followed by Chevat in third, with Firmin, Bloom and Howard closing out the field.
Vintage showdown
Vintage hot rods and saloons were again welcomed to the ‘Track in the Paddock’ and this year, with the classes growing, the open wheel cars and saloons have split fields.
The saloons were running in an anti-clockwise direction and the hot rods running the classic clockwise direction.
With four demonstration events, it was always going to be a challenge to keep these old, lovingly-restored and replica cars running for the full night, but with lots of hands and bailing wire the crowd was entertained with these old beauties.
With most of the cars able to make the final demonstrations, there was an ominous sign with rain drops falling on the cars as they entered the track.
The brief shower was gone before the demonstration started, but the fun was only starting.
As the cars were given the green flag the pack entered turn one only to find the track slippery as ice.
The result was more doughnuts in the south turn than at a policeman’s picnic. All the cars made it through the final demonstration unscathed.
Vintage saloons final demo saw Steve Ellis and Ross Burrows shaking the cobwebs out of their LJ Toranas in a classic return to the ’70s.
Darren Hetherington’s XK Falcon made its first appearance since being restored, along with Derryl Lennane’s LJ Torana, another car that passed through the hands of Brian Constable.
Home track
Limited Sportsman always turn up for a run at their home track and racing is always hard, fast and competitive, and this night was no exception.
Heat one saw the ‘Sporties’ hit a damp surface with traction being at a premium.
Adam McKenzie took the advantage from the green flag and stayed ahead of a buzzing field, with most of the competitors taking turns trying to track down the leader to no avail.
Heat two saw the 71 of Dinky Parker take the lead on the green before the car of Dean Baker took the lead for the rest of the race, with changing cars in the minor placings and Parker spinning out of second.
Heat three saw Dean Baker again dominate the field from the green flag and with the track tightening up, the field settled with the seven of Clint Baker and 97 of Matthew McCallum taking the minors and setting up a great final.
As the cars gridded up for the final, the car of Dean Baker was missing from the field.
At the drop of the green the 97 of McCallum took the front position over the battling pair of McKenzie and Clint Baker.
As the laps wound down it was obvious that the SA 97 of McCallum had figured out the handling and took the win over the hard fighting Clint Baker, with Adam McKenzie in third.
Big guns
Horshams truckies were not about to let the little guys take all the glory as they came out for the first time this season.
An obvious scratch from the first heat was the 57 of Luke James who was seen working under the bonnet of his truck on the dummy grid, the second time he has been spotted under the bonnet of a truck this year.
Fletcher Mills took the opportunity and left from the green and led all the way, with the 67 of Jaryd Carman in his first outing battling for the minor placings with the crafty Wes Bell.
Heat two saw the emergence of the 57 of Luke Redda James who decided to take his normal spot on the wall, chasing down Bell on the final lap to take the win. Carman placed third.
Heat three again saw Redda high wide and handsome over Nathan Bird, finding his comfort zone. Bell came in third.
The final was a battle to the end, with Redda again taking the win but the final placings being in doubt to the chequers, with Bell and Whiteside fighting for second in the closing laps and Carman keeping them both honest.
Final placings were James in first, Bell in second, followed by Carman in a credible third, then Bird and Whiteside.
The next event will be on February 2 when the All Star Sprintcars bring their road show to town, supported by vintage hot rods, street stocks, open sedans, limited sportsman and SSA Ladies.
The inaugural Down Under Modified Tractor Pull Association event will feature at Blue Ribbon Speedway on February 9.

The entire January 9, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on Jan 9 2019

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