Rice takes out thrilling TA2 season opener at Winton
Wodonga, VIC driver Jackson Rice has provisionally taken out Round 1 of the 2023 TA2 Muscle Car Series framed by Hytek after an action-packed final day of racing at the Hi-Tec Oils Super Series opener at Winton Motor Raceway.
Rice finished first, second, first and second in the four races, but the round victory remains under a cloud following an incident with Lee Stibbs in Race 4.
After his win in Race 1 on Saturday, Rice was beaten off the rolling start into Turn 1 by Stibbs. Drama behind saw 2022 Southern Series champion Zach Loscialpo make contact with Graham Cheney on the run between Turns 2 and 3 which saw Cheney rejoin down the field, with Loscialpo handed a 10 second post-race penalty for his role.
Chris Pappas went for a move on Chris Formosa at Turn 6 on Lap 2 which saw Formosa turned around and Pappas handed a ten-second penalty.
After an oil pressure issue in Race 1, 2022 Rookie of the Year Josh Haynes charged through from 27th to ninth. Following an overnight rebuild by MVA Racing for Brad Gartner’s #22 Castec Rural Supplies Mustang, Gartner pulled in during the formation lap but completed the race a lap down.
Stibbs hung on to score his first career TA2 race win by 1.6 seconds from Rice and Nicholas Bates.
Race 2 saw drama strike before the field reached Turn 1, with Paul Hadley tagged by Chris Pappas on the run to Turn 1, sending the IES Motorsport Camaro into the infield before it rolled over in spectacular fashion.
The Wollongong, NSW based former motorcycle racer climbed out of the car on his own steam was cleared by the circuit medical time of any injuries.
The race restarted on Lap 3, but Stibbs’ lead was short-lived when Rice passed Stibbs down the inside into Turn 11 on the following lap. Rice and was never-headed for the win, taking the chequered flag by 3.5 seconds from Stibbs and Bates.
Haynes continued his charge up the field from ninth to fifth ahead of Hayden Hume.
After a challenging start to the weekend, Brad Gartner charged his way from 27th to 11th to earn the Hyperco Hard Charger Award, with 2022 runner-up Graham Cheney moving up from 25th to 10th.
Stibbs got the holeshot into Turn 1 for Race 4 with Rice close behind. Haynes passed Dylan Thomas’ CXC Racing Mustang on the opening lap, before he jumped into third by Lap 2 with a move on Bates at Turn 9.
However, a game-changing moment on Lap 4 saw Rice’s Mustang tag the back of Stibbs’ Camaro at Turn 11, which spun the #66 Arrow Financial Services Camaro around. The incident remains under investigation following the conclusion of the race.
Rice maintained the lead, while Haynes closed-in on the race leader in the closing stages.
18-year old Hume closed in on the leading pack before he was slowed by a gearbox issue and turned by Thomas at Turn 8 which brought out the safety car on Lap 5. Following a great debut weekend to move up through the field, Hume scored the RaceTech Rookie of the Round for the Total Parts Plus Dodge Challenger.
The race resumed with five laps remaining as Rice defended Haynes for the race lead. Haynes piled on the pressure to the rear of Rice’s Mustang on the final lap, as the pair ran up the back straight side by side into the final two right-handers with Rice on the inside.
Rice went deep into Turn 11 which allowed Haynes to pull off a switchback move, diving down the inside into Turn 12 and winning the drag race to the line by less than two-tenths of a second in a classic finish, with Gartner charging home to third from 11th.
Haynes completed a dramatic turnaround after a DNF in Race 1 to win the final race, earning the Wilwood Big Braker Award for his efforts in the Beaches SeaDoo Mustang.
Provisionally, Rice took home the round win from Stibbs and Thomas. Nicholas Bates finished fourth outright and first in the Circo Masters Class, while Michael Coulter finished fifth outright in the new Kobelco Camaro which also won the Bowden’s Own Best Presented Award.
Round 2 of the TA2 Muscle Car Series framed by Hytek heads to the Northern Territory for the first time in the series’ history at Hidden Valley Raceway on 29 April - 1 May. The event will also play host to the first ever two-driver event for the series, headlining the second round of the Hi-Tec Oils Super Series.
Jackson Rice, #7 Pedders Suspension and Brakes Ford Mustang
“For that last one I was battling a flat tyre for the last four laps, so I was in damage control. All credit to Josh [Haynes] and his team. well done to them on the win.
"Apologies to Lee [Stibbs], we made contact early in that race, we are here to race hard and fair.
“I brought a trophy home for the cabinet and grabbed a heap of points in round one so it was a very good start.
“Josh raced me extremely hard so all credit to him and that is what we are here to do and put on a show for everyone watching at home and I think we did that so I am now looking forward to the challenge for the rest of the championship.”
Josh Haynes, #37 Beaches SeaDoo Ford Mustang
“So stoked to win the final race of the weekend with an awesome battle with Jackson on the last lap.
“Going into those final two corners, I was in a similar situation last year at The Bend with Jett Johnson where I made the switch-back on him, so that was the plan to try and get Jackson and we managed to pull it off and get the win on the last lap.
“What a way to end the weekend, from starting 25th on the grid in race 2 to coming first in the final race is such an award for all of our team. l’m so so grateful for my amazing team and support.
“We managed to grab a great bunch of points ahead of round 2 in Darwin!”