Murray Bridge driver Ryan Jones' sharp eye has worked in his favour navigating Premier Speedway's new track surface.
In pursuit of the Victorian sprintcar title, Jones trialled fastest for his heat under the one-heat format on New Year's Day.
With a time of 12 seconds flat, Jones finished ahead of Warrnambool's Darren Mollenoyux and Tasmanian Tate Frost.
Jones said the new surface at Premier Speedway had been difficult to read early in the night.
"It's gone from the baby poo brown type colour to a black gumbo type now," he said.
"It's hard to tell the difference in conditions; we normally look to the colour change in the surface.
"In my qualifying I noticed there was some rubber in (turns) one and two, which I only found by mistake, so the next lap I moved down and we went faster.
"So it was getting faster as we went, which it's normally the opposite.
"But the shape's really nice and it races really smooth which is all we can ask for as a racer."
With an inverted six start in the heats, and chasing accumulative points, Jones said he felt he was in a reasonable position to clinch an A Main berth.
"Every time you're on the track, you need to make the educated guess and try make some moves and pass some cars," he said.
With his competition including James McFadden, who finished with the fastest time trial (11.754), Jones said race-fit rivals were hard to compete against.
"In terms of equipment and marketing partners, and race teams we're on par there," he said of his family-owned race team, Murray Machining Group.
"It's purely the matter of laps, and the more time you can be in the car, the better you'll be.
"But on our nights, if we can tick all the boxes, then I'd like to thing we are there or thereabouts."
Born-and-bred in Murray Bridge, South Australia, Jones has been racing for 32 of his 36 years starting with go karts.
Since opening his season in Darwin in August, Jones said the team's form was strong, with recent changes to the South Australia-Victoria border set to make upcoming race meetings easier to attend.
"I don't think we were out of the top five or six in our four nights in Darwin," he said.
"We won a race at home, and had four or five podiums in 10 races."
Meanwhile, Warrnambool driver Luke Weel was disappointed to be watching from the sidelines when a crash in time-trials ended his chances.
Weel, in his first sprintcar season after an illustrious Formula 500 career, hit the wall and flipped, the car landing on its roof.
He spent a short time trapped in the car before it was returned to its upright position but walked away unscathed.
"I just went too high, too fast," Weel told The Standard from the pits.
"That was all she wrote. It (the crash) wasn't as big as the last one butit probably wrecked a lot more stuff."
Weel competed in Max's Race at Premier prior to Christmas and the hit the dirt at Simpson and Avalon.
"We made the feature at Avalon and at this one we were hoping to do better than that," he said.
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