WORLD MIDGET 50 LAPPER
After being rained out the previous night a better than expected crowd fronted for the running of the biggest race of
the international series, the World Midget 50 lapper. Track conditions were going to require some exploration on behalf of
the drivers as extensive track work was undertaken prior to the race commencing. Starting at 5pm was never going to be
ideal as increased sunlight hours took their toll on the racing surface. The top of the track was turned over and watered on
the outer half of the track. Grid for the feature was 1aus Michael Pickens on pole. 97usa Spencer Bayston on the outside.
10usa Zach Daum and 9a Michael Brunt were the second row. 5a Brock Maskovich and 91usa Tyler Thomas were the third row. Other
notables included 3usa Alex Bright on grid 7, 49aus Adam Clarke on grid 11, 7a Brad Mosen on grid 16 and 11a Shayne Alach on
grid 18. The race would be one of the better 50 lappers. 1aus Michael Pickens got the jump from the drop of the green, circulating
around the pole while 97usa Spencer Bayston and most of the other contenders immediately looked higher on the track for racing
lines. It would be a quick green flag period as a melee down the field saw 12a Mike Morrison, 87aus Aidan Corish and 21a Carl
Worboys requiring a restart. From the ensuing double file restart 87aus Aidan Corish flipped on the first corner. Worboys was also
involved and neither would take further part in the race.
The race finally developed a rhythym with 1aus Michael Pickens leading away, this time up high on the race track. 5a Brock
Maskovich persevered with a low line and it paid dividends as Brock moved into the third position courtesy of an inside
pass on Daum. However with the majority of the field circulating around the top of the track the higher line quickly
became the only place to be. 49aus Adam Clarke was the lone soldier down low and he was going nowhere. Also going nowhere
were Mosen and Alach who were struggling to make an impression. Back up front and 10usa Zach Daum was back into third. As he
chased down 97usa Spencer Bayston the battles raged throughout the top 10. There was some really good racing, particularly
through Pine Tree Bend. Daum had pace and caught Bayston but once caught Bayston found another gear, gapping Daum and
running down race leader Pickens. It was hard to assess the real pace of each driver as tyre conservation was the prevailant
Bayston closed the gap to Pickens and when Pickens made a small mistake exiting Town Bend, Bayston pulled alongside the kiwi
down the front straight. Pickens was able to fend off the move but make no mistake he was under genuine pressure for the
first time in the series. Just as things were getting interesting the right rear of 7a Brad Mosen disintegrated. A chunk
flew into the stands but nobody was hit. A souvenir for a lucky fan. The caution came with around 30 laps to go. The race
would run the remaining distance without a stoppage. As mentioned earlier tyre conservation was a large factor in the race
but from the restart 91usa Tyler Thomas decided to hit the go button. The body language of the car suggesting he was no longer interested
in conserving tyres!
Thomas shot into the third position before running down Bayston. Thomas launched a big slide job through Pine Tree Bend to claim
the second spot. Pickens was next on the list and Thomas would run him down and throw a big slide job through Town Bend. Pickens
tried to drive around the outside but an increasingly perilous high line exiting run 4 saw Thomas take the lead. Pickens seemed
content to let him go but must have been questioning his strategy a few laps later when 97usa Spencer Bayston put a move
on him to grab the second spot. Behind the front group there was still plenty of action but I was watching the front group as that's
where the excitement was at.
Bayston set about shortening the lead of Thomas as they both moved away from Pickens. A different strategy was required for
the 1au. Pickens tried the low line through Town Bend and it paid immediate dividends, halving the gap to Bayston. With the
lead trio in lapped traffic a 3-4 lap period took place like a scripted fantasy novel. There were passes almost every corner.
The action concluded with Pickens going up the inside of both Bayston and Thomas through Town Bend. What a move! Pickens would
choose the low line through Pine Tree Bend behind a lapped car. That gave 97usa Spencer Bayston the chance he needed. Utilising
a higher line Bayston swept around the outside of Pickens and the lapped car to re-take the lead. The charge of Thomas was
over, perhaps utlising too much of his tyre in making his inspirational mid-race charge. Thomas would fall into the
clutches of 3usa Alex Bright who had emerged from the pack as the best of the rest. 87a Leon Burgess had come out of
nowhere to run in the fifth position.
As the laps to go wound down to single digits it was clear the race was going to be between Bayston and Pickens. Pickens
was exclusively utilising the pole whilst Bayston was using a variety of lines as he tried to find the quickest way around
the track. From Pickens perspective the laps were winding down too fast. Bayston just had too much of a lead. As the white flag
unfurled Bayston's progress was slightly impeded by a lapped car. Suddenly Pickens was back into it with just one lap remaining.
Both went around the outside of the lapped car in Pine Tree Bend. It was all coming down to the final corner. Perhaps anticipating
Bayston would go high as he had in the preceding laps Pickens went low. Problem was Bayston went low as well. Pickens flat out
drove into the back of Bayston, spinning the 97usa.
Pickens would go on to take the chequered flag with Bright crossing in second. Bayston somehow kept his car going to cross
in third ahead of Thomas and Burgess. There were no customary donuts from Pickens, he knew what was coming. The officials
deliberation was relatively short. Einstein wasn't needed to work this one out. Pickens was relegated two spots. There
could be no argument except that Pickens might have deserved a greater relegation given the nature of the move. That elevated
an elated 3usa Alex Bright to take the World Midget 50 lapper having not even made the podium at any of the previous four
meetings! Bright drove a superbly timed race but one had to feel for Bayston. To his credit Bayston dealt with the situation
with maturity well beyond his 18 years. A class act and a driver who gained plenty of fans tonight.