When the last race was declared a no result on May 15 2021, we didn’t expect that it would be 279 days between the red flag that ended the 2021 season and the green flag that kicks off the 2022 season.
But that is what happened thanks to COVID bringing in restrictions shortly after the race ended and by the time the restrictions lifted another round couldn’t have been run as not everybody could participate due to remaining lockdowns and a lack of preparation time.
So here we are with a preview of Round 1 2022 action at Sydney Motorsport Park, we have all the drivers, their cars and a weather report too.
Showers are currently predicted to fall on Friday and Saturday, the odds are rising and falling by the hour so what will happen when the action is scheduled to start is anybody’s guess.
Stephen Chilby’s OzTruck will be sporting a new nose and there is no doubt that Stephen is hoping the new nose job will keep the OzTruck at the pointy end of the field like it has for the last couple of years.
Brett Mitchell is back in the #8 and the former champion will no doubt hope to reel in Stephen as the latter has dominated in recent years.
Brett won all five of the races at Sydney Motorsport Park in 2021.
Four time winner James Burge is back in the #711 OzTruck after being away from the category for almost two years, James could break up the monopoly that Stephen and Brett have on wins in the category.
Danny Burgess ended 2021 on a strong note with five Top 5’s from five races in the Thunder Sports Cup round at Winton Raceway and Danny will no doubt be hoping to score three Top 5’s from Saturday’s three races at SMP based on that form.
Robert Marchese usually brings the #48 OzTruck in for good finishes and will likely do so again this weekend, Robert had a good chance at winning at SMP last year when Danny, Brett and Robert were all in with a shot as race positions swapped around every lap so anything is possible for the #48 team.
Corey Gurney is entered in the #43 Pontiac and will no doubt be hoping for a repeat or better of his 2021 season opener adventure, you can’t miss the #43 with its majority yellow paint scheme, Corey has been anxiously awaiting the 2022 season and will no doubt be feeling relieved once it gets underway.
The #63 GTA has been entered with Peter Byrnes making his ASCC debut so it make take a little bit of time before Peter gets up to speed in the Pontiac but the good news is that Corey Gurney is no longer driving the sole GTA in the field.
Modified GTA Drivers
George Kulig from Queensland will arrive at SMP with the #9 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and is considered by some to be the vehicle to beat though George is very humble about such thoughts.
George competed against Lachlan Gardner when Lachlan raced an OzTruck in Queensland with the two hanging around fourth and fifth positions against a trio of MARC vehicles, George also had a round with Maria Mare, Greg Willis and Greg McIntyre in their OzTruck era so George has plenty of experience against vehicles that compete in the ASCC.
Stock Car Drivers
Morris Racing is bringing the #97 Pontiac Grand Prix to SMP for Greg Morris to kick off the season in, the #97 had mechanical issues in the covid shortened 2021 season but is at 100% strength for this year, the team recently tested at Sydney Motorsport Park and that test session could do wonders for them on Saturday.
The #27 of Zac O’Hara is of course in the field and the car was worked on during the long COVID delay that scrubbed out the majority of the 2021 season, Zac’s work to bring in more cars to the field has paid off and word is spreading that Stock Car racing in Australia is a real thing and not something that lives in the history books.
Mick Heppleston has climbed out of the #48 FJ Holden and has climbed into the #41 Ford Thunderbird, this is the ex Gene Cook raced around Australia from the late 1990’s and later on taken people around the Thunderdome for some high speed thrills before being purchased to be put back into competition.
Scott Nind is back in the ex Roush Fenway Racing #16 Ford Mustang, Scott’s debut in the category was last year at Sydney Motorsport Park marking the first ex Xfinity Series car to compete in the series and Scott was improving with each race so look out for the #16 on Saturday.
The #75 Chevrolet Monte Carlo formerly owned by Graham Booth is now in the hands of Aaron Hills.
Aaron has raced in Miniature Race Cars, Super TT, Production Touring Cars, CAMS NSW Production Touring Car Championship and others over the years so Aaron has plenty of driving experience.
The five Stock Cars that are entered could be the best Stock Car field in any category in Australia since four of them raced at Winton in 2002, a fifth car that went to Winton will soon be driven in the category by Adam Blattman.
Muscle Division Drivers
Rod Gurney will be at SMP with a GT Falcon to make two Gurney’s in the field to start off the year, a bit of trivia for you is that Rod first raced against OzTrucks when they were starting out and those OzTrucks were driven by Stephen Voigt, Michael Coulter, Steve Coulter, Graeme Struber and Chaz Mostert.
Laurence Mckinnon will be behind the wheel of the #83 XF Falcon, Laurence did turn some laps in Qualifying at SMP last year in the vehicle that also has been to Bathurst to participate in Challenge Bathurst’s Regularity Group B and C categories.
The four Cup cars and one ex Xfinity Series car looks to be the biggest Stock Car gathering in Australia race since the V8 Stock Cars had a round at Winton in 2002.
If you count the five Stock Cars, five OzTrucks, two GTA’s and one Modified GTA as being in the same family of vehicles, that’s thirteen Stock Car vehicles on the track, something you don’t see every day in Australia.
It has been awhile since the OzTruck numbers have been at five and with a few more out there, that number can increase.
Stephen Chilby would be considered the favourite for overall honours as the #226 OzTruck has won almost everything it entered in the last couple of years but Brett Mitchell is a former champion, James Burge has won four races, Corey Gurney has been close to a win and Danny Burgess and Robert Marchese have good OzTrucks and can swoop in and take a win.
Muscle Division will no doubt rise over the course of the year, COVID seems to be less of a restrictor compared to previous years so entries should be more easy to obtain especially when visiting Wakefield Park and Winton Raceway.
The weather is the wild card at the moment, there is as of Tuesday morning at 50/50 chance of rain from 10am on Saturday with racing at 11am, so we’ll have to see what will happen.
That’s our preview of Round 1, stay tuned for the Practice, Qualifying and Race results as they come to hand over Friday and Saturday.