COBDEN driver Jessica Moulden was the star of a fairytale script at Laang Speedway on Saturday night when she became the first female Australian formula 500 champion.
The 24-year-old survived the stormy Friday night heats, which were called off early, and the reorganised Saturday night program.
Starting from the outside position on the front row of the 35-lap A main, Moulden steered clear of an early pile-up and watched as her main challengers bowed out in surprising succession.
Taking a preferred high line around the track, Moulden’s V53 broke free with 12 laps remaining and never relinquished the lead. And she did it all in front of a roaring 3000-strong home crowd at Laang, where she won her Victorian title in 2008.
“It’s unbelievable,” Moulden said after jumping out of her eye-catching orange and purple machine.
“It felt like we were racing forever.
“But I’m so comfortable in this car (and) it was awesome to hear the cheers of the crowd. It’s crazy.”
The two-day championship was rained out after eight heats on Friday night, forcing organisers to start racing an hour earlier on Saturday.
Queenslander Brock Hallett finished his heats with 78 points to take pole position in the championship, with Moulden (77) alongside.
“I preferred to be out at (grid position) two than one,” she said.
Before completing the first lap Hallett spun in turn four, leaving followers Steven Ellement, Jye O’Keeffe and Thomas Davies with nowhere to go. O’Keeffe landed on his roof and Davies snapped a chain.
Hallett was sent to the rear of the the restart grid, while Moulden held her spot in second, and ambitious Bushfield teenager Will Carroll was third.
Liam Williams’ title defence ended just two laps later when he hit the turn-two wall, snapping his steering wheel.
Moulden resumed the race in pole, rearing up on her back wheels as she charged into turn one.
Carroll took the lead with 27 laps to go with James Aranyosi hot on his heels.
But after another four laps the teenager spun between turns three and four, triggering a yellow light and sending him to the rear of the field.
Queensland No. 1 Charlie Brown exited the race at the same time with a flat front-left tyre.
“When they went past I knew we were a bit loose,” Moulden said.
“I made a few mistakes and the stoppage really helped me.
“I had to tighten a few things up.”
Aranyosi got the jump on Moulden and streaked ahead, while Grant Stansfield shot from 14th to third.
But Moulden held her nerve, hugged corners, dodged lapped traffic and eventually pushed past Aranyosi with 12 laps remaining.
From there, she sprinted away headed for home.
“Anything is possible,” she said.
“You can do anything you put your mind to.
“I want to thank everyone in my family and my sponsors.
“Without them and my uncle David Stevens, I wouldn’t be racing.
Earlier in the night, Warrnambool’s Sean McKeever triumphed in the $1000-to-win wingless sprints feature and Purnim’s Dion Bellman won the junior sedans.
nMeanwhile, Mount Gambier’s Steven Lines went into the third and final chapter of the Easter Sprintcar Trail with unrivalled form at Premier Speedway last night. The 27-year-old, supported by his new Albany-based Halls Motorsport team, won at Avalon on Friday and Mount Gambier on Saturday.