Three weeks after a Dylan Thomas domination at Sydney Motorsport Park, the series returned to Goulburn for the final sprint round of season 2016.
With his championship aspirations over, Thomas opted to sit the round out, and turn his attention to the NSW Formula Vee series, where he remains in title contention.
The car driven by Thomas three weeks back was still on the grid, with Gavin Holland having his first drive in the championship, and the CXC operation fielded four cars, with Roelof Oosthuizen joining his sons, Jacques and Daniel, on the grid for the first time this year. The last time he raced in the Production Touring Car Championship was here last year, when he co-drove with Jacques in the August MoComm Cup race.
This round saw the return of the Mercedes A45 AMG that we saw in the Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour – Garth Walden was, again, at the wheel, and was predicted to be a threat to Daniel Oosthuizen come race time.
Just 25 entries for this round of the series, which wasn’t a great surprise – the tight turn around between rounds has had an impact on grid sizes right throughout the NSW Motor Racing Championship paddock, and while Prod Touring was no exception, they did have the biggest grid of the weekend.
Rodney Thorpe replaced Kevin Herben in the Blend Line Holden, and Barry Graham was back on the grid for the first time since the opening round in February – Luke Searle and Paul Morris have been running that BMW in the National series since May.
Along with Dylan Thomas, Josh Muggleton and Daniel Byron are missing from the grid – Byron about to embark on a family Holiday, and Muggleton unable to secure a drive for the round, which almost certainly rules him out of championship contention, given he’ll get no points here, on the back of the rough run he had on the second day of Round 4 in Sydney.
Coming into this round, just nine points separated the top four in this championship – Matthew Holt (A2) the leader from Chris Reeves (D), Blake Aubin (C) and Anthony Soole (B2), and just three points the margin between Holt and Aubin in third place, so things are really tight, and any one of those four men could walk away victorious, although, as many would agree, all Matthew Holt has to do in the remaining races, is keep doing what he’s done across the opening three rounds, and finish races – one retirement will rule any one of those four men out of championship contention.
The schedule for this round was somewhat different to the sprint rounds contested at Sydney Motorsport Park, with the addition of a 10-minute practice session, prior to Qualifying, on Saturday morning.
Overnight rain saw the drivers running on a wet circuit for that session, and it was Jacques Oosthuizen, not Daniel, topping the session. Jacques was one of only a few to make the most of a drying circuit at the end, posting a 1:19.9522, just ahead of Garth Walden.
Not many competitive lap times were posted in that session, making it rather hard to draw a form guide from it, and we didn’t need to as it turned out, with the track drying out for Qualifying, and staying dry for the remainder of the weekend.
We got to Qualifying, and order was restored, with Daniel Oosthuizen smashing the competition around him, taking pole position, with a 1:05.7550.
Garth Walden was second, ahead of Jacques Oosthuizen – the margin from Daniel Oosthuizen to Garth Walden was 0.4143, with Oosthuizen the only driver in the 1:05’s.
Steve Hodges was the fastest of the A2 competitors in 4th position, just ahead of Matthew Holt and Rodney Thorpe.
Anthony Soole was quickest in Class B2, Blake Aubin topped Class C, Jimmy Vernon was the best of Class D, and Zac Raddatz was fastest in Class E.
There was one casualty from Qualifying, and that was Dean Potts. Potts posted the 15th fastest time, but sadly didn’t see out the session, as his engine expired, and that was enough to rule him out for the remainder of the weekend.
So the field was reduced to 24 for the three races. Races 1 and 2 would be contested over 10 laps, while 15 would be the journey for Race 3.
In the opening race, it was a battle for second. Daniel Oosthuizen did what he has so often done in sprint races during 2016, and put daylight between himself and the rest of the pack – going on to take a comfortable win from brother Jacques and Garth Walden.
For Daniel, it was win six of the season, and his first since Race 2 of Round 2 at Sydney Motorsport Park, and for Jacques, it was his best ever finish in the Production Touring Car Championship – but it didn’t come easy. The younger of the Oosthuizen Motorsport duo had a race-long battle with Garth Walden, and a rather entertaining one at that, in which he was only able to get the upper-hand on the very last lap.
Elsewhere, Matthew Holt held off Rodney Thorpe in the battle for victory in Class A2. 9th for Anthony Soole was enough to secure the win in Class B2. Jimmy Vernon (D) and Blake Aubin (C) won their respective classes, finishing 12th and 13th outright, and they spent the race battling for the same piece of turf, just as they did in Sydney three weeks ago. Zac Raddatz was first home in Class E.
Race 2 on Sunday morning saw more of the same from Daniel Oosthuizen, who went to the lead from the start, and didn’t look back. In the end, he won Race 2 by over four seconds from Jacques Oosthuizen, who was well clear of Garth Walden this time around.
Matthew Holt met his match in Race 2, with Rodney Thorpe getting the better of him in Race 2, and just behind them was Tony Virag.
Anthony Soole won Class B2, and Zac Raddatz won Class E, while Blake Aubin got the better of Jimmy Vernon this time around, with the pair still winning their respective classes in 13th and 14th respectively.
Garth Walden wouldn’t take his place on the grid in Race 3. When he spoke to 2MCE Sport after Race 2, he said that all the team had done across the weekend was fiddle with the car and its setup, and were now at a point where they couldn’t fiddle further without taking the car back to the workshop, so to risk potential damage of any sort, and save running costs, the car was on the trailer as the rest of the field took to the track for Race 3.
Before the race got underway, there was a championship changing and championship defining moment for Anthony Soole, who was forced to remove his car from the grid, just as the field came under the orders of the starter.
Mechanical issues for the #444 saw Soole forced to the pit-lane, and the field sent off on another sighting lap.
Soole would rejoin the field later in the race, but would not complete enough laps to be classified as a finisher, and therefore scored no points, which had great implications on his championship campaign. The result almost certainly rules Soole out of the fight for outright victory in the 2016 championship.
Daniel Oosthuizen took the lead going into turn 1 – the race remained at 15 laps in length, despite the additional warm-up lap – and he gradually pulled clear of brother Jacques.
The main focus in the final race was the battle for third outright, which doubled as the battle for victory in Class A2, between Rodney Thorpe and Matthew Holt.
It wasn’t until Barry Graham got himself in front of Holt, that we knew Thorpe would go onto win Class A2. Holt fell off the pace in the end, and finished just behind Graham in fifth spot.
At the front though, Daniel and Jacques Oosthuizen completed a sweep of the weekend – a team 1-2 in all three races – their most dominant display in the time they’ve competed in this championship.
Geoff Kite capitalised on Anthony Soole’s misfortune, and claimed Class B2. The battle for track position resumed between Jimmy Vernon and Blake Aubin, with Aubin getting the upper-hand this time around, as they took classes C and D respectively. Zac Raddatz was the best of Class E yet again.
Jimmy Vernon has really taken the fight to Chris Reeves in Class D this season – that’s three round wins on the trot for him, and Reeves hasn’t defeated Vernon in any race, since the young star joined the grid in July.
Given that Vernon miss Round 1, Reeves is still very much on-track for class victory in 2016, but 2017 promises to be very intriguing, with Vernon no doubt set to challenge the two-time champion ALL THE WAY.
That was Daniel Oosthuizen’s 8th win of the season, in what was the last sprint round of 2016. It was also a personal best weekend for Jacques Oosthuizen, and with what we saw this weekend, there are some very positive signs going forward for that young man, and as far as his results are concerned, the best may yet be still to come for the younger Oosthuizen Motorsport pilot.
The championship now enters its season of endurance, starting with the final state round in four weeks time at Sydney Motorsport Park, Sunday September 18, before all roads lead to Winton Motor Raceway for the Double Crown on the opening weekend of December, but as far as Goulburn is concerned – Oosthuizen Motorsport have their most successful weekend in their short PTC history, Jimmy Vernon continued his unbeaten run, and Anthony Soole dropped out of the title race, but just six points separate Holt, Aubin and Reeves going into Sydney – the second enduro of the season – and we can hardly wait!