IT was meant to be the showcase of a popular grassroots speedway class.
The Australian Wingless Sprints championship was something of a coming of age for the class — 97 entries and a three-night title at a prime speedway venue, Allansford’s Premier Speedway. It was time for the wingless to shine on the big stage.
But instead, a series of controversies tarnished the golden weekend and left organisers at the best track in Australia questioning whether the class was worth the effort.
Drivers were in uproar on Sunday afternoon over allegations some rivals might have used illegal engine heads in the preliminaries. This started after some engine inspections by officials.
Then Warrnambool’s Darren Mollenoyux was set for victory, needing to negotiate just four corners after leading for 29 laps. He ended up in the fence after he and defending champ Todd Wigzell made contact in turn one. While Mollenoyux’s race was run, stewards deemed the move unfair and disqualified Wigzell. Both drivers were aggrieved.
Then, a new champion was crowned, 27-year-old Queensland fitter and turner Dan Moes.
But late on Wednesday, it emerged his motor had failed to comply with strict rules governing the class, which is unashamedly controlled in a bid to keep costs down and create a level playing field.
Now second placegetter Brett Milburn is likely to be the winner. But his engine needs to pass an inspection this morning.
First thing’s first — cheating shouldn’t be tolerated. Moes has argued he was an innocent victim because he knew little about the motor and asked a builder to construct it within the rules. He has paid a heavy price — a 12-month suspension.
The issue here is that it should never have got to this. Stewards inspected cars last Thursday before the start of the title the following night. While some minor issues were detected, drivers were allowed to race if they corrected those problems. Fair enough. But those inspections were not as detailed as the ones ordered after the race.
It takes two to three hours to do a thorough check of a motor and it has to be dismantled. There wouldn’t have been enough time.
But that’s not the point. Engines should have been inspected and approved before any car took to the track. The motor should have been sealed and when the flag fell on the championship on Sunday night, that should have been that. Everyone would have known the winner deserved his or her victory.
The class now has its Victorian title on Saturday at Avalon. Will it be clean? No one knows. And that’s not fair to the drivers or the paying public.
There’s a simple fix here. All engines have to be tested and sealed before taking to the track. If that means a pre-season scrutineering day, so be it. Until this is done, the class will have a credibility issue.