Manuell Makes It Home But It Couldn't Have Been Closer
A relieved Paul Manuell has secured the 2019-2020 RYCO 24•7 V8 Utes title after a dramatic day of racing at the final round at Hampton Downs on Saturday.
Manuell secured his second V8 ute racing title by just six points from Glen Collinson after a day of drama when he missed the first race, was forced to start from the pit lane in the second and put in two stunning recovery drives to get home by the skin of his teeth.
"It was close today, really close but the team pulled out all the stops to get me out there and thankfully we got home to the title." he explained. "We've all waited a long time for this final round and I'd hoped it would be a bit easier, but the racing has been brilliant and I'm just stoked to win. Hats off to Glen and the others for making it such a thriller."
Matt Spratt won the round on his return to the category with two wins and second place, denying a flying Andrew Porter his first round win.
Reigning champion Spratt got his category return underway with a lights-to-flag victory in the first race, but it was the action behind - and most notably - the absence of championship leader Paul Manuell that captured the attention.
Manuell's car refused to start ahead of the race, and he was forced to sit it out whilst his team worked furiously to try and solve the problem. Spratt made the most of the situation to take an untroubled victory in the slippery but drying conditions.
Second placed Andrew Porter enjoyed a fine scrap with Glen Collinson for most of the race before an attempt to pass by Collinson pushed him back a few car lengths and behind a hard charging Peter Ward. Without the distractions, Porter was able to edge away from the battle behind, which raged fiercely between the Holden of Ward and the Ford of Collinson until the dying moments of the final race. In what was a drag race from the final corner to the finish line, Collinson narrowly took the flag to round out the top three.
There was more drama at the start of Race 2 for Manuell, with a misfire on the warm up lap due to a connection problem on the faulty crank sensor that had kept him out of Race 1. A superb comeback drive netted sixth at the end.
Andrew Porter went one better in the second race to win it, fighting off a hard charging Matthew Spratt. Peter Ward drifted his way to third while Collinson had to settle for fourth. With one race to go, he would head into the final showdown just three points behind series leader Manuell.
The third race was another thriller as Manuell fought through the field again from last on the grid. Up front Matthew Spratt got the better of Andrew Porter early on and romped home to win, while Porter chased hard all the way. Peter Ward held third throughout until the final lap. By this stage Manuell had worked his way up to Collinson and the two effectively sat even on points. Collinson threw the kitchen sink and more at the final lap and made a brave attempt to pass Ward on the final corner as he tried to put one car between himself and Manuell to take the championship. The two touched however, Ward spun and Collinson lost enough momentum to allow Manuell through into third and to take the title, literally in the final few hundred metres of the championship.