Peter Ward demolishes field to win V8 Utes Championship
A 44-point championship lead coming into the final round proved Peter Ward had been the one to beat all season. Yet while Shane Dias and Brad Kroeff nibbled away at his lead in this final round at Hampton Downs race by race, the demolition man held on to win the RYCO 24•7 V8 Utes championship.
It all began with Saturday’s Qualifying as Brad Kroef upstaged the more-experienced Shane Dias by 0.17 second. But in Race One that afternoon, as the lights went out – Shane jumped out ahead of Brad to lead by turn one, leaving Peter Ward in 3rd place. For the first couple of laps, Brad stuck to Shane’s rear bumper like a magnet. “He obviously had some pace” Shane said in the post race interviews, “then he dropped off, so then I just tried to look after my tyres.” Further back, Nick Ross leapt from last to 9th after the first lap, then was 5th just a couple of laps later. At race end, the 3 title contenders crossed the line: Shane Dias 1st, Brad Kroef 2nd and Peter Ward 3rd. The championship was still anyone’s race.
With Race Two on Sunday being a reverse grid format, anything could happen. As Brad Kroef said the day before, “with the top 10 reversed, there’s always a bit of carnage, so I’ll just try and keep out of that.” Paul Fougere started the raced on the front row, Brad and Shane were way back at 9th and 10th. But by the end of the first lap, Shane had propelled his Holden up to 3rd place.
Up front, Simon Ussher was more of a challenge, taking a further 2 laps for Shane to overtake him around the sweeper and lead the race. Further back, the Ward Demolition Holden was overheating, and its driver was getting hot under the collar trying to get past Nick Ross in 2nd place. At the chequered flag, Peter Ward clung onto 3rd, but Shane Dias’ win saw him now just 28 points off the series lead.
It would all come down to Race Three on a damp track after rain earlier in the afternoon. But in the setting sun, a new contender was about to shine. Getting the better of the slippery track, Nick Ross sliced through the front runners to claim the lead, Peter Ward muscled his way around the outside of turn one to steal 2nd, leaving Brad and Shane heading the chase pack. As the laps unfolded, Shane threw everything he could at Peter – around the outside on some turns, ducking underneath on others. Common sense took a back seat as the front runners went hammer and tongs. On lap 6, Brad Kroef even ran wide into father Greg Kroef, then a lap later spun 180°, such was his commitment.
After the 10 laps were over, the day finished with a race win for Nick Ross, a round win for Shane Dias, but a championship win to Peter Ward.
As title hopeful Shane Dias commented post-race, caution went out the window in that final season decider. “It was too much fun not to go for it. Awesome.” The words of the champion echoed his sentiment. “That was really cool fun. I knew I had to finish. So I just talked to the old girl, to make sure she held together.“
And that’s how champions are made in the RYCO 24•7 V8 Utes.