In the Modified Production series, the demolition reached catastrophic proportions in heat two at the Rockhampton Showgrounds.
In the Modified Production series, the demolition reached catastrophic proportions in heat two at the Rockhampton Showgrounds. Sharyn O'Neill

Derby becomes a 'cartastrophe'

BIG grounds, lots of cars and a succession of spectacular crashes were the key points for Saturday night's meeting at Rockhampton Showgrounds.

It was the final meeting in Rockhampton of the 2011/12 season and organisers planned to go out in style with an action-packed show.

They got their wish with the stands packed and large fields in all the major divisions.

While Rockhampton crowds enjoy their racing, they also love it when vehicles come together at speed.

Spectators got more then their fair share of disasters with enough damage done to bodywork to keep a squadron of panel beaters busy for the rest of the year.

In the Modified Production series the demolition reached catastrophic proportions.

As always, the locals loved to cheer on drivers from Central Queensland but unfortunately there was little to get excited about - at least not when it came to winning races.

Novice in the class Beau Saunders was tipped to improve on his last showing at his home track when the set-up of his vehicle ensured he would not be competitive.

Saunders always gives his best but on the night he gave a little too much of his car and was forced to watch most of the meeting from the stands after an engine failure.

Another local to get the crowd cheering was Warren Johnson but unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons.

Johnson spun out in one of the final heats and as the car came to rest a fire broke out in the cab.

Dramatic as the scene was, Johnson jumped clear and waved to the crowd in a bold display to prove the safety arrangements had prevented injury.

Joel Thomas was another local to end the meeting with a seriously redesigned vehicle after being involved in a multiple car crash. And while it looked pretty serious, Thomas escaped without a major injury.

"He was a bit sore the following morning," Rockhampton Saloon Car president Brendan Doyle said.

With mayhem going on all around, it was Toowoomba's Nathan McDonald who collected the checkered flag and the winner's payout.

When it came to naming a pre-race favourite for the Queensland Super Stocker title, the name of Michael Johnson failed to get a mention.

Not that Johnson was too surprised as he too thought Justin Smithwick would be the one to beat. "I hadn't raced for 10 months," Johnson said.

One of the problems with competing in motor sport is the expense and being a young family man, Johnson has been forced to put his racing ambitions on hold.

He said his car had suffered a couple of engine failures and that was too much for his budget.

"It puts a hole in your pocket," he said.

However he had planned his return for Saturday's meeting although he was unaware it was for a Queensland title.

On Saturday night his Falcon EL didn't miss a beat.

"It was all pretty good," he said, "I got a first, second and third in the heats. There were some pretty quick cars out there."

Johnson said his car knew its own way around the Rockhampton track.

"It used to be Darryl Etherden's car," he said.

The Super Stocker feature didn't last the scheduled 30 laps as the meeting was already running late before another smash brought proceedings to a halt.

Officials decided Johnson, who was leading, should take the win with Hayden Thomas and Danny Lennon second and third.

A part from the Queensland title, Johnson also collected the inaugural Aaron Smithwick Memorial Trophy. "Aaron was always a good driver," Johnson said. "I remember watching him as a kid."

Johnson now plans to show off his QLD number one plate at meetings in Blackwater, Gladstone and possibly Mackay before the end of this season.

The feature races for both the Fender Benders and Junior Sedans were cancelled due to the program being extended to accommodate restarts in the main categories.



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