The elbows were out in MINI CHALLENGE today at Sandown International Raceway, with Jason Bargwanna showing the field a clean pair of heels in both races held this afternoon.
Bargwanna (Trivett Classic MINI Garage/Matchmaster TV Reception Systems) became the first driver to win from the top six inverted race two when he came out on top of a spirited battle with West Australian, Nathan Callaghan (Calmack Smash Repairs).
Callaghan resembled a Sprintcar driver as he backed his MINI into the hard braking zone at the end of the long back straightaway on lap four of 10, allowing Bargwanna through. After re-passing the former Bathurst champion when he missed a gear, the 24-year-old from Mandurah eventually succumbed to Bargwanna’s superior speed.
Callaghan was able to hold out a hard charging Grant Denyer, who set the fastest lap of the race on the eighth circulation on his way to the third placing – a perfect complement to his earlier second.
On the opening lap, Neil McFadyen (M3 Motorsport) and Paul Stokell (DecoRug Motorsport) had a jousting match, coming together on several occasions, eventually Stokell had to pull out of the race with a severely bent steering rack.
Despite the coming together, McFadyen was able to continue on and held station in front of a battle pack that comprised Scott Bargwanna (Trivett Classic MINI Garage), Nathan Geier (Sherrin Rentals) and Paul and Todd Fiore (Shell Helix Ultra). The racing was stunning – at times racers were up to three wide or up on two wheels. The two Fiores had a day long battle, proving there is no love lost between the brothers, fighting it out in the earlier race too.
McFadyen held fourth by two tenths of a second from Bargwanna, whilst Todd won the battle of the Fiores and Nathan Geier finished in eighth.
Having their own private battle were Gary Young (SALTA Constructions) and Nick Stillwell (Bib Stillwell MINI Garage) – who finished 10th.
David Turner (Glory Team Racing) advanced from the back of the grid to finish race two 11th. He’d earlier had a spin entering the back straight and slightly tagged UBER-STAR CAR driver, Paul Mercurio as he re-entered the race track.
Mercurio had a solid day in his first performance in the MINI CHALLENGE, finishing 13th and 12th respectively in the two races.
Former Australian Sprintcar Champion – Todd Wanless (Motorline MINI Garage) – withdrew from the second race with a clutch problem.
Earlier in the day, it was all Bargwanna in the first race. He established an early lead from the pole position and never looked like being headed. Denyer closed slightly on the former Bathurst champion, but was never seriously able to challenge.
Third placing in the opening race was Nathan Geier, with Stokell bringing the DecoRug machine home in fourth.
McFadyen had a battle with Scott Bargwanna, who then fell back into the clutches of Nathan Callaghan and the Fiore brothers. Ultimately, McFadyen was fifth, followed by Callaghan, Todd Fiore – who got past Bargwanna – and Paul Fiore.
Michael Stillwell got back out for the opening race after a big effort overnight to repair the Bib Stillwell MINI Garage team, however he spun mid-way through the race and collected the barrier coming out of the final turn.
Jason Bargwanna will start tomorrow morning’s final 10 lap encounter at 11:30am from the pole position, with Denyer alongside and Callaghan and McFadyen making up the second row.
WHAT THEY SAID:
JASON BARGWANNA (WINNER – RACES 1 & 2): “We’ve had a dream run this weekend, to be first on the results sheet for every single session has been amazing – we couldn’t have asked for anything more. We are a brand new team and everyone involved has put in such a big effort to get this thing up and running. We’re the first to win the reverse grid race after winning the opening race in MINI CHALLENGE and it just goes to show that hard work and effort by the team pays off on the race track.”
NATHAN CALLAGHAN (SECOND – RACE TWO): “Starting from the pole in race two, I just wanted to get a good start and try to establish a lead. I could see the guys fighting behind me and was liking what I saw, but then Bargs came through and he was just making up so much ground on the back straightaway. I got a bit out of shape and he got past me. Where I half spun is the fastest part of the racetrack – it isn’t a good place to get sideways, let me tell you! We’re happy with the performance and hopefully tomorrow we can put in another good show and that in turn will assist us in getting the funding to complete the season.”
SCOTT BARGWANNA (EIGHTH – RACE 1, FIFTH – RACE 2): “Race one was full on! I thought early on it might be an easy race, but then they started coming from everywhere. The battling was really tough and then I was stuck between the Fiore boys towards the end of the race. It’s a great way for our team to start off, I love this racing and am having a ball, but gee it’s tough out there!”
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