Brad Kroef crowned champion of the V8 Utes
At the season finale at Hampton Downs, a new king was crowned as Brad Kroef won the RYCO 24•7 V8 Utes championship. His father Greg Kroef was a close second just 15 points behind. Third place however was a hard-fought battle, with Jake Stoneman just edging Phill Ross – and Sunday’s races proved to be the decider. Yet for the champion Brad Kroef, the weekend’s racing didn’t all go according to the script; his crew having to eeplace a brake hose then an oil cooler to keep the car on the track. So Brad’s win was undeniably a team effort.
It all began with Race Two on Sunday morning; a reverse grid affair where yesterday’s back markers started the race up front. It was a clean start, but on turn three, the dominos started to fall when Bruce McRae spun causing a chain reaction. Brad then ran into Dad Kroef, dropping them back in 7th & 8th respectively by lap two.
But up ahead, the deck was being shuffled. After starting near the back of the pack, Phill Ross had overtaken his way to 2nd place by the second lap, but Jake Stoneman was chasing hard. By lap four, Phil had found a way around Daniel Ludlam to take the lead. But Jake wasn’t going away, ultimately getting to the front by lap nine – a lead he held to the chequered flag. Phill was second. Greg Kroef back in 7th place posted the fastest lap, a blistering 1.16.964, close to yesterday’s qualifying time.
Jake pocketed maximum championship points for his efforts, Phill added 31 to his tally. That mean Race Three would prove crucial for the first four competitors’ championship aspirations.
Race Three got away to a delayed start after an incident in the previous race, with Jake Stoneman on pole. But Phill Ross was hot on his tail with Greg Kroef in close pursuit. There was plenty at stake – Phill need to get past Jake – his championship position depended on it.
Further back, the championship leader was working through the field. Having started 8th, Brad Kroef had worked his way up to 5th by lap five, and he was breathing down Simon Ussher’s neck.
The battle for the lead was just as intense, with Greg Kroef and Phill Ross weaving around each other corner after corner, until Greg finally secured 2nd place with just five laps to go. Not far behind, Simon Ussher and Geoff Spencer got up close and personal, traded paint and Phill Ross got tangled up in the mayhem, slipping back from the pack. And with it, his 3rd in the championship slipped away. Up front, the leaders held their nerve to the chequered flag, with Jake Stoneman notching up his second win for the weekend.
An intense mid-pack dogfight between Stu Monteith, Paul Fougere and Bruce McRae led Bruce McRae to admit after the race, “That was the best race all season.” For Brad Kroef, it was the best result he could have hoped for – his eventual 3rd place earning him enough points to win the RYCO 24•7 V8 Utes championship by a 15-point margin. He also notched up fasted lap of the race, a quick 1.17.422.
On the podium after the race, Jake Stoneman said “I’m pretty stoked to be where I am after doing just three rounds of the championship.” Greg Kroef admitted, “We’ve worked hard all season – a great team, with a great family behind us.”
Then as the sun set on the Horizon, Brad Kroef was in the limelight. The Heron Racing Team has worked for the win, with mechanical issues threatening to get in the way. “It’s been one of those weekends” he admitted, with a tear of emotion in his eyes. It’s also been one of those seasons for Brad Kroef, RYCO 24•V8 Utes 2023 champion.