After a long hard fought season, the 2023 NSW Track Championship season came to a close late last year with new local sportsman champions crowned.
Looking back at the closing stages of the series from the penultimate round to the Grand Final a number of brackets came down to the final few rounds of the season to determine a champion.
A late season charge from rookie Top Sportsman racer Lisa Sargent with a win over Leo Georgis at the penultimate round of the series set up a four-way battle for the championship going into the Grand Final. Sargent was done by contender Dave Whitmore in an all Chevy Nova duel in round two, this moved Whitmore into the semi finals against Sydney Dragway stalwart Joe Sorbello for a winner takes all fight for the championship – this is when controversy struck.
Whitmore red lit away the race, but was later reinstated as the winner when IHRA officials disqualified Sorbello for reversing out of stage and restaging before Whitmore had begun his staging procedure. The process is deemed legal under sanctioning body rulebooks, but not in the Sydney Dragway Track Regulations, and as it seems it was also unbeknown to many racers with a lot of heated online discussion over the rule and its relevancy since.
With a second chance, the new track champion went on to defeat a red lighting John Beckingham in the final.
Modified was equally tight at the top over the final two rounds of the season. The field thinned a little through the events of the penultimate round with Kelsey Walford-Leahy dropping out in round one of eliminations after going .004 on the tree, but was still stopped by Leigh Hartill-Law’s .008 reacting lap on the top end. Likewise former championship leader Ally Stewart who swapped rides mid-season after the sale of the Boss Bullet, and now driving the Welch Family Racing FED, was bested by a .000 out of newcomer Chelsea Smith in her first ever elimination race also in round one. At the end of the event George Bukureshliev pushed through the field with his FED to win the round over Hartill-Law and keep his championship hopes on going.
At the Grand Final, Modified was left with three genuine contenders for the title, Bukureshliev’s chances ended in round one losing to Cory Dyson, while Craig Davies moved onto round two as did Hartill-Law, though not without a scare caused by Stewart who holeshot Hartill-Law only to breakout by two thou at the stripe. It wasn’t all bad for Stewart, she would win the Coral Dyer Memorial Trophy for the season as the highest point scoring lady racer across all brackets.
The championship was decided in round two with Fiona Crisp cracking a 7.762 on a 7.76 dial in to drive around Davies handing the championship to Hartill-Law. For good measure, the now back to back track champion Hartill-Law went on to win the event in his roadster defeating Dyson in the final.
Nothing was decided in Super Sedan either with two events left to contest. Nathan Watt and Andrew Little stayed in the championship hunt with the pair fighting for the round win that saw Watt victorious.
Into the Grand Final eliminations and Watt went out in round one and Little in round two ending their charges, leaving multi-time champions Jim Denaro and Joe Zammit to wrestle for the title. Which ever way you looked at it Zammit needed one round win more than Denaro, and as fate dictated they raced each other in round three. Zammit was out of the hole first with a .013 to .027 advantage, but at the stripe it was Denaro’s superior 9.382 on a 9.38 illuminating the win light and the championship was his. Denaro ended up wrapping up the event win as well over out-going champion Sean Maher.
It was an emotional day all round for Denaro after earlier releasing the ashes on a qualifying run of the dearly missed Kath (Nanna) Davis who worked as an official at Sydney Dragway since its opening.
David Matosevic took home the Super Street winner’s trophy in penultimate round defeating Peter Giddins in the final, but the two Cortina’ steerers were not featuring in the championship picture going into the final event.
Instead it was Jeff Goodwin who drove around the pack to snatch the Super Street championship in his nitrous snorting Monaro. Sitting in third going into the event, Goodwin watched Martin Stevenson and Mark Hopkins end up on the trailer in the early rounds as Goodwin pushed on to defeat a red-lighting Matosevic in the final to claim the win and track championship.
Into Junior Dragster, and Georgia Liefting raised the winner’s trophy in the penultimate round defeating Piper Bennett, the two young ladies were not in the championship battle, that was being led by Daniella Axiak. In her first season of racing Axiak was a demonstration of consistency all year as she built up a points lead despite not winning a championship round during the season. Axiak reached the semi finals at the Grand Final and that was enough to pocket the track championship in her rookie season.
The final was sibling warfare with Savanna Condello winning her first ever event in style over her brother Zayne, the final round points bumped Zayne into second in the track championship.
The Super Gas championship was between Joe Catanzariti and Vince Panetta all season, with Panetta earning the W in the final at the second last round. However, Catanzariti still had an uncatchable 50 point lead going into the Grand Final, and as it turned out there was not enough cars to make a field at the event and Catanzariti formally became track champion once again.
Even with two event left on the calendar, Street Fighter was essentially run and done from a championship perspective with Don Zammit only having to show up to win yet another title. Jack Matosevic took the win over Shaun Dartnell in the second to last championship event, this still left Matosevic too far in arrears to chase down Zammit with one event to go.
Zammit wrapped up the championship as expected with a semi final results at the Grand Final, but it was third generation racer Ryan Pettiford who had just graduated from Junior Dragster nailing the win over Nick Bennett in the Street Fighter final.
Due to the ongoing insurance issues Extreme Bike, Modified Bike, Street Bike were not able to contest the final three rounds of the championship, as a result the decision was made to award track championships based on the results to date.
Winning Extreme Bike was Brant Gilliver, Modified Bike was claimed by Lucas Neagoe and taking home the Street Bike track championship was Jessy Barnes.
The NSW Track Championship Series kicks off for 2024 on Feb 10 ahead 8 rounds of action.