The season finale for the V8 Utes was a one-hour enduro that provided uncertainty and upsets right up to the last lap. Stu Monteith came out the ultimate winner, a big surprise after qualifying ninth earlier in the day, ahead of hard-charging veterans Peter Ward in second and Glen Collinson in third.
Qualifying earlier in the day produced some arguably expected results. Jake Stoneman posted the top qualifying time of 1.16.859 – 0.35 of a second ahead of championship runner-up Greg Kroef with a 1.17.212 best lap. Glen Collinson was close behind with a 1.17.343, while championship winner Brad Kroef was fourth fastest.
For the main race at 4pm in the afternoon, while most drivers would run solo, several teams opted for a two-driver strategy. Stoneman partnered Ward in the Ward Demolition Holden, Shane Dias co-drive with Daniel Ludlam, while Bruce McRae was assisted by grandson Mitch Sparrow embarking on his first drive in a V8 ute – he’d only ever driven go karts before.
The race began predictably enough with pole sitter Stoneman up front and a relentless Greg Kroef hot on his tail. Not far behind, however, was season newcomer Blair Gribble-Bowring, who overtook four utes in the very first lap, jumping from 10th to an impressive 6th.
Yet the real drama came mid-race as the safety car had a big part to play in the results. On Lap 28, Simon Ussher came to a halt as he snapped a gear stick – forcing a snap decision for several drivers to come in for their mandatory pit stop during the safety car period.
At one point, five utes were banked up in the pits as crews feverishly refuelled, changed tyres and co- drivers stepped in. When they rejoined the race, the big surprise was the ninth qualifier Stu Monteith, who leap-frogged to a commanding 14-second lead following the safety car exit.
Just behind him, a fierce battle was raging. Collinson was ploughing through the field, and by lap 36 was up to third and chasing a tenacious Ward. By lap 40, Ward, Collinson and Greg Kroef were just 0.5 secs apart – incredible after almost 55 minutes of racing.
Then on lap 42, drama. Stu Monteith exceeded track limits on one corner, incurring a time penalty. Fortunately it wasn’t enough to whittle away his lead and Stu came home a well-deserved winner.
After an enduro that left most drivers exhausted, Greg Kroef, who clocked the fastest lap, admitted “That was a one-hour sprint race”, such was the pace and intensity of the one hour grudge match.
The V8 Utes now head into a winter break after a season that has seen closer qualifying and even closer racing.
Header Image: dillonphotonz
Words and Images: Supplied