Saloon Nationals light up Hidden Valley

Tuesday 10 September, 2019
Photos: Tim Nicol Photography
The North Australian Motor Sport Club has held its inaugural Rightway Industrial Saloon Car Nationals with Grant Johnson and Nick Hanlon being crowned champions for 2019.
 
With 23 cars from across the country taking part in the national event at the Northern Territory’s iconic Hidden Valley Raceway, competitors took on a number of heats over an intense weekend of action. 
 
With both Johnson and Hanlon making it to the final of their respective Pro and Pro-AM classes, both drivers proved too strong for their rivals, picking up victory in the entertaining finals. 
 
The Pro-AM final was the first to be decided with 12 drivers behind classic cars and it was Hanlon who crossed the line five seconds ahead of Carl Fanderlinden, while Dylan Ritcher finished just one tenth of a second ahead of Chris Kneafsey to clinch third for the weekend.
 

It was an emotional maiden victory for Hanlon who had his dad on his crew for the first time after finishing second in the twice in the past four years.

“We’re very pleased because is my third time trying to win the title and it’s just a great feeling to finally win one,” Hanlon said.
 
“We have put in a lot of hard work over the last four or five years and having my dad there with me made it even more special – especially since he has helped make it all possible.
 
“Hidden Valley is definitely one of my favourite tracks now. I definitely want to go there again in the future and have another crack, but for the moment I am thinking about potentially moving to the Pro class to challenge Grant, but we will see how I go.”
 

For Johnson, the road to his triumph was a little less complicated, with the 2016 champion claiming a clean sweep of heat victories all weekend before taking out the final race, nine seconds ahead of Brock Bolley.

 

Bolley finished the race just two seconds ahead of third placed Jamie Furness, but it was heartbreak for Garry Hills who had trailed Johnson all weekend but could only manage one lap in the final race after failing to finish.
 
For Johnson, he was just relieved to be back on the top step after a number of years of coming close.
 
“It was a fantastic result for us, especially since the team has been working hard to try and replace the success of 2016, which we have finally achieved,” Johnson said.
 
“I have been racing a long time so we always go to these meetings confident of making a good show of it, but we also know that you need to make your own luck sometimes.
 
"The track is fantastic and a lot of local people came out in support of the event and made it a wonderful day. It always good when you’re racing guys from other states because it gives you an idea of where you are at.” 
 
Also taking place throughout the weekend as a support category was the TPS Traffic and Parking Commodore Cup Enduro with 11 local crews competing in the two part enduro race over the weekend.
 

With a number of a nationally renowned drivers also joining the field including current Dunlop Super2 Series leader Bryce Fullwood and reigning CAMS Australian GT Champion Geoff Emery – the event was always going to attract a lot of interest.

 

It was a weekend of contrasting tales for the two big names as Fullwood managed to win both Commodore Cup part one and two alongside Brad Fullwood, while Emery and teammate Garry Dempsey failed to finish the first part, but they bounced back in the seconds with Emery posting the race's fastest lap – his time of one minute and 20.9 second coming just short of the Commodore Cup track record.
 
Finishing behind the Fullwoods to claim second place outright were David and Steven Ling in another VH Commodore. HQ regulars, Peter Brown and Phillip Aitken rounded out the podium.
 
Following the popular event, the Saloon Car Racing Australia’s President, Justin Chaffey was thrilled with the proceedings, applauding the drivers, officials and supporters.
 
“Everyone had a really good time at the event and we had lots of people raving about it to us at the end of the weekend,” Chaffey said.
 
“Our officials did an incredible job all weekend so a big shout out to them, as well as all 23 Saloon crews who came around the country to put on a show for the NT fans.
 

“The best thing to come out of the weekend was how much the local supporters enjoyed the event and how they were enquiring with us after about getting involved, which is something we pride ourselves in motor sport.

 

"It wasn’t just our racing which made the weekend a success, with the motorbikes and drifting events also having a real positive effect on the crowd.
 
“We are looking forward to hosting the annual event in Queensland next year.”
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