When Jason Akermanis is upside down, it is usually performing one of his celebratory handstands. Today however, it was an altogether different form of "upside down" when he rolled his Motorline MINI Garage machine on the warmup lap of MINI Challenge race one at Symmons Plains, which was won by DecoRug Racing's Paul Stokell.
The Western Bulldogs star was caught out by new slick tyres on a damp racetrack and did a complete barrell roll, landing on all four wheels. Thankfully, Akermanis escaped unscathed and the damage was largely confined to the body of the racecar. The former Brownlow Medallist is expected back on track tomorrow for race number two.
Once the race got underway, local knowledge came to the fore with Stokell quickly establishing a lead. After qualifying on the front row, Stokell was superb in the damp conditions and eventually took a comfortable win.
The surprise packet of the weekend came home second in Todd Fiore (Shell Helix Ultra). The 23-year-old took out the pole position in this morning's wet conditions and drove a solid race to take his best result of the year in second. It goes some way to making up for the bad luck that has befell the Perth youngster this year.
Returning to the front of the pack was Industrie Clothing driver, Neil McFadyen. He finished third and has built a further buffer over second placed Series man, Nathan Geier (DecoRug Racing) - who has had some difficulty in coming to grips with the Symmons Plains Raceway, finishing today's race in 10th position.
Today's race was significant in that Paul Stokell broke Jason Bargwanna's (Trivett Classic MINI Garage) eight race strong winning streak. The former Bathurst winner qualified seventh and advanced to fourth by the fall of the chequer.
Not so lucky was the other Bargwanna, Scott Bargwanna. He was running strongly before a coming together with the charging Paul Morris (Motorline MINI Garage) spun the Matchmaster TV Reception Systems supported machine. Both continued on, Morris coming home in seventh and Bargwanna in ninth, finishing with the fastest lap of the race.
The other local interest - Targa Tasmania specialist - Jason White in the Iron House Brewery car - finished fifth. The return to form of Gary Young (SALTA Constructions) continued today, the Melbourne based driver finishing sixth, which guarantees him a pole position start for tomorrow's race two.
He was embroiled in a battle throughout the race with Paul Fiore (Shell Helix Ultra) and Morris. Morris set some blistering lap times toward the latter part of the race but was unable to get past the 2007 Performance Cars Australian Champion.
David Stillwell - in his first MINI Challenge race - performed solidly, battling strongly with Nathan Geier, however a coming together with Rob Graham (Kings Way MINI Garage) put him back a couple of places, coming home 11th. Graham - the heaviest driver in the field - was the next one home with UBER-STAR - Stuart Appleby 12th.
Appleby drove a clean race and has a big contingent - including his in-laws (here for the recent birth of his son, Max) - on hand for their first time at a motor racing event.
Perth's David Turner (Glory Team Racing) was the only other DNF in the event when his fan belt came adrift early in the race. In qualifying, Turner set a stunning lap late in the session to qualify fourth.
Tomorrow will feature race two and three at 10:05am and 2:00pm respectively, the latter being featured as part of the Seven Network's V8 Supercar coverage tomorrow afternoon.
JASON AKERMANIS: "Well, I just went to warm up the tyres and next thing you know it got away from me and over it went! I'm most worried about my wife though - we have to cover the damage bill! The crew will have to work hard overnight unfortunately, but they're confident that we can get back out there tomorrow and hopefully, I will be able to complete the race and put in a good performance. It's a real shame, because the weekend has gone better than I had anticipated up until this point."
PAUL STOKELL: "It was great to win again, it's been a while! I think it will set us up nicely for the rest of the weekend. Bargs has been difficult to get on top of the last few rounds, so it's good to be able to end his winning streak, particularly on my home circuit."
TODD FIORE: "It was very pleasing. I was pretty quick here in Formula Ford and coupled with the wet and the car being bang on, we were able to string qualifying together well. I tried to stay with Paul throughout the race today, but knew that he'd have a speed advantage on me in the dry. The reverse grid should make things interesting tomorrow and hopefully we can continue the forwards movement. This is an awesome result considering that we've had a fairly tough year."
NEIL McFADYEN: "We had a good clean run today. It's great for our Series that we could be back in the top three, I'm really stoked with that. It shows that we can fight for the Championship rather than defend our lead. The car was faultless - let's hope this run continues!"
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