Season 2022/23 was set to be a big one for WASDA and with thirteen shows on the calendar at three tracks, the thirty one drivers who contested at least one show certainly bought the action.
Kicking off back in October with the now annual Powerpalooza event, it was Kaiden Manders, back aboard the Graham Jones Racing #4 machine, who picked up right where he left off last season, winning the opening feature race.
Manders grabbed two second place finishes in the heats to lock in a pole position start for the twenty lap feature alongside Keenan Fleming, Kaiden racing into the lead quickly. Lee Redmond put a slide job on Fleming through turns three and four to grab second with two laps complete, with the move only just official as the red lights came on after Tom Payet went upside down after tangling with Matt Watkins in turn four.
Manders would go on to grab the race win from Redmond and Daniel Harding while Dan Golding and Fleming rounded out the five finishers.
Next up was the Neville Lance Twin 14’s event, with fierce rivals Kaiden Manders and Tom Payet walking away with one feature race win apiece!
In what would be a rough and tumble night for the Speedcar division, seventeen drivers would hit the track for qualifying, Daniel Golding fastest overall while the heat races would see the night end prematurely for both Vaughan Manders and Stuart Yates, both rolling heavily.
The opening feature saw a great battle, Manders finally grabbing the lead from Dan Golding with one to go by just 0.191 before it came undone, Golding spinning in turn two and making contact with the wall in the last lap to bring on the cautions and set up a green white chequer finish.
Payet utilised the restart to his advantage to grab second but in the end Manders was too strong, defeating Payet and Travis White.
The finishing order of feature race one would set the field for the second feature in honour of Neville Lance, and fittingly, fourteen cars would take the green.
A number of cars came together at the start, and through turn one cars moved to avoid a spinning Patrick Watson, with Matt Watkins touching him and other cars hitting, with Dan Golding and Corey Smith both going upside down, while Rob Golding and Gary Mann also came to a stop.
Mann, Smith and Watson did not restart, but Dan Golding, despite going upside down, was given the nod to resume, seeing eleven cars for the next attempt at a start.
Manders retook the lead and with five complete had streaked away from Payet, who in turn was a quarter track ahead of third placed Fleming but two restarts would bunch them up again, Payet eventually able to take the lead on lap thirteen.
The duo remained side by side through the remaining laps and through the final turn Payet was low and Manders was giving it everything on the highline to get back by Payet and in the end it would come down to the wire, the duo again side by side over the line, with Payet getting the nod by just 0.011 seconds in what would be the closest finish of the season.
Fleming would finish in third place while Dan Golding bounced back to finish fourth, Beau Doyle rounding out the top five.
After nearly a months break, Speedcars returned to the Perth Motorplex for the John Day Speedcar Classic, with twenty two cars fronting for the show.
Tom Payet and Daniel Harding would start on the front row for the thirty lap feature with the second row being filled out by Manders and American superstar Logan Seavey.
After a number of restarts in the beginning, the race finally settled into a rhythm with Payet leading away a tight battle for second between Alex Bright, Manders, Harding and Seavey.
The laps wound down and lap eleven saw Harding slow and then ultimately head infield, seeing Payet and Manders now by themselves fighting it out for the front position, while Bright and Seavey fought hard for third a distance behind them.
By lap fourteen Manders had passed Payet for the lead and would go on to win, while behind them Bright was holding off Seavey right until the last moment when Seavey used the outside line to perfection, sneaking around Bright to take third by just 0.102 seconds at the line.
A week later we would head to the Moora Speedway in what was another tough night for many drivers. Beau Rogers would suffer piston damage after the first heat (which was won by Daniel Golding) while Matt Watkins was also out after just one heat. The second heat would see a reduction in laps to give drivers the chance to make it through to the feature event, but Lee Austen and Gary Mann would also suffer issues, seeing just four cars lining up for the feature race event.
Dropped to ten laps, the feature event would see the Dan Golding race team cars of Harding and Golding on the front row, while the second row would see rookies Aaron Sharp and Declan Minchin.
Golding and Harding hit the line together as the race went green, with Harding just able to use his right rear wheel to touch the left front of Golding as they went through turn one, keeping him in front.
Sharp was also able to get in front of Minchin at the start and from here the field began to spread out. Try as they might, there was no change after a restart, but the field did remain close, Harding ultimately going on to record the win from Golding and Sharp while Minchin didn’t finish after spinning in turn three as the rest of the field took the chequered flag.
After a couple of weeks to recoup, drivers headed back to the Motorplex on Boxing Day, where Kaiden Manders grabbed his fourth feature race win of the season in what was also the opening round of the Esslinger Engineering Triple Crown, proudly presented by The Pool Shop Group!
It was a Grand Slam night for Manders, with teammate Alex Bright also having a good night, the two Graham Jones Racing team cars hitting the front together quickly as the feature race went green, with Manders leading Bright before Manders’ fellow front row starter, and fierce rival, Tom Payet snuck back by Bright, with Dan Golding right underneath them also looking for a way through after starting in fifth.
Payet attempted to take the lead on a restart but Manders was having none of it, racing away while Dan Golding found himself under pressure from Keenan Fleming who had managed to pass Bright for fourth and was looking for third.
Bright quickly got back by Fleming for fourth, and from here, try as they might, the positions remained unchanged, Manders going on to grab his twenty fourth win at the venue, his twentieth in a Speedcar.
He would defeat Payet and Golding, with twelve of the seventeen starters finishing.
The next show would be the time honoured New Years Speedcar Derby, doubling as Round Two of the Esslinger Engineering Speedcar Triple Crown, proudly presented by Great Southern Fuel Supplies.
Team mates Alex Bright and Kaiden Manders would qualify themselves onto the front row while Keenan Fleming and Daniel Harding would come from the second row of the twenty four lap feature race, held in tribute to Geoff Pilgrim once again (12 + 12).
After a race long battle, Manders slid Bright for the lead in turn four on lap seventeen and just avoided contact, then did the same next lap but it didn’t pay off and gave Harding the chance he needed, diving by for second with six to go, but Manders was right back by once again.
Lapped traffic then came into the equation with four laps remaining, as again Harding slid Manders and stole second before Manders fought back again, somehow the lead duo avoiding a slowing Vaughan Manders as they battled out of turn four and down the front straight.
Manders hit the wall in turn two and Bright slid by lapped cars, seeing Harding pass Manders and right on Bright’s tail as he threw everything but the kitchen sink at Bright.
Unfortunately for Harding it just didn’t come off, Bright defeating Harding and Manders, with Glen Mears getting into fourth in the dying staged ahead of Keenan Fleming who rounded out the top five.
Next would be a show down at Bunbury, with Daniel Harding taking his shot at a Grand Slam night, winning both of his heats and the feature race.
Twelve cars would start the nights races, but a frightening heat race crash in the second preliminary would eliminate two cars. Joel Watson would finally get his #75 machine singing and was battling for the lead before he found the unforgiving back straight wall and would roll heavily, with the luckless Rob Golding left with nowhere to go, cannoning into him as the red lights came out.
This left eight cars to take the green in the feature race, and Harding would race away. The laps would tick down with no one gaining or losing any ground apart from Harding who was extending his lead each lap. Just as Lee Redmond looked like he was closing the gap on second placed Matt Watkins his car too decided it had had enough and he headed infield with just three laps remaining.
This would leave Harding to go on and claim a strong win, defeating Matt Watkins while Vaughan Manders would inherit third. Declan Minchin and Cory Smith would round out the finishers.
In what was one of the most epic feature races ever seen at the Perth Motorplex, New Zealand’s Michael Pickens did enough to outlast two of WA’s best at the next show, but it was his team mate Kaiden Manders that did enough to claim the overall Esslinger Engineering Speedcar Triple Crown!
Making things interesting prior to the feature was the overall points scenario: Manders went into the feature leading the points, but with second placed Alex Bright not in the field, third placed Keenan Fleming not making the show due to engine dramas and fourth placed Glen Mears withdrawing from the feature with mechanical dramas, it meant the podium positions were anyone’s!
As the feature race went green it was Manders who got the jump, moving high on the track with Pickens looking underneath but settling into second.
Daniel Harding moved into third followed by Lee Redmond and Patrick Watson who was having one of the best nights of his short career.
As Payet charged his way through the field after starting near the back, Pickens grabbed the lead by 0.003 seconds on lap eight, pulling away a bit on lap nine, both #4 cars running low as Payet persisted with the highline, right on Manders tail with eleven complete.
Manders had a half lose which allowed Payet by but he kept going just as Cory Smith spun to bring on the yellows, reinstating Manders into second for the restart. Payet pressured Manders hard on the restart, the duo touching and then going side by side, Payet moving around the outside and grabbing second on lap thirteen.
With five to go Pickens and Payet were now side by side with Manders lurking right behind them, Payet sweeping around the outside again in turn two and holding the lead with three remaining. Unfortunately for Payet, the yellows came on shortly after, seeing Pickens go back to the lead on the restart as the lap had not been completed.
This would set the stage for a thriller to the line and the trio certainly did not disappoint, Manders, Pickens and Payet fighting for the lead, Payet all of a sudden ahead of Manders, who then ducked back by to retake the lead and relegating Pickens to third.
With two to go it was Manders, Payet, Pickens and much to the excitement of the vocal crowd, they went three wide down the back straight, Pickens somehow leading again on lap nineteen from Manders and Payet.
The battle continued for the final lap but ultimately the order remained unchanged, Pickens going on to record his third feature race win at the Perth Motorplex in epic fashion, defeating Manders and Payet.
With the points then calculated it was Manders who took the overall Esslinger Speedcar Triple Crown win, with Beau Doyle (coming home sixth in the feature race) doing enough to claim second overall while Lee Austen (eighth in the feature race) was third overall, an exciting honour for the youngsters.
Back at the Motorplex and Manders would again claim the feature race win. With fifteen complete Manders had lapped fifth placed Declan Minchin, while behind him the battle between the visiting New South Welshman Kaidon Brown and Harding again continued, a lapped car giving Harding the opportunity he needed to race around the outside of Brown with three laps remaining.
From here the order would remain unchanged, Manders going on to win ahead of Harding and Brown, with Doyle, Minchin, Cory Smith, Aron Sharp and Joel Watson rounding out the finishers.
After a break from racing in WA for the National Title, Speedcars returned the Motorplex on the 11th of March as part of the Ampol Legends Night, where Charlie West was honoured.
It was a historic night in more ways than one though, with Daniel Golding not just winning the Speedcar feature race, but also going on to claim the Sprintcar feature race on the same night.
As the race went green it was Harding who shot into the lead ahead of Payet with Dan Golding locking into third.
From here, there were no more positional changes, with Harding racing away and lapping the majority of the field, only the top three remaining on the lead lap.
Next time out would be the big one, the WA Speedcar Championship and with fourteen cars on hand it would be Kaiden Manders who claimed his third WA Title crown in what was also a record time in the twenty five lap feature.
One of the pre race favourites in Tom Payet, along with Cory Smith, was involved in a big rollover in the opening heat which ended their nights early, while in the beginning stages of the feature race Vaughan Manders also went upside down, but he was able to restart.
Back under green flag conditions Manders and Harding were side by side across the line, Harding just getting the advantage through turns one and two. Manders persisted low, but Harding remained high and led the first lap by 0.043 seconds.
Dan Golding at this point was third but by lap six Manders had moved into the lead and begun to pull away from Harding. All of a sudden the Harding machine slowed and pulled straight to the infield with a terrible lean to the left hand side, Harding’s race now over with twelve complete.
With twenty laps complete Manders had lapped fifth place and was right behind his father, fourth placed Vaughan, with third placed Watson a quarter of a lap ahead while second placed Golding was over six seconds behind him.
The final few laps would wind down, with Manders going on to record a convincing win in record time, knocking off nearly six seconds off the old mark set in December 2021.
Daniel Golding was next best, some seven seconds behind him while Patrick Watson was the last car on the lead lap and would round out the podium, his first ever top three finish in a feature event.
The penultimate event of the season was the Gold Cup, and when the chequered flag flew, it was Daniel Golding who finally broke through for his third ever Speedcar feature race win.
Golding qualified from position one in the twenty lap feature after recording two second place finishes in the two heat races while Vaughan Manders would join him on the front row courtesy of a heat win and a sixth.
As the race went green it would be Dan Golding into the lead with Vaughan Manders using the high line to drive right around him coming out of two.
Rookie Cody Nash, who started from position five after racing through from the rear in his heats, moved into third shortly after, while behind them Kaiden Manders, who started near the back of the pack after a DNF in his opening heat, was quickly into fourth and with six complete was beginning to pressure Nash.
Back up front, Kaiden’s father Vaughan was also coming under pressure, with Harding catching and then passing him to lead lap seven.
Vaughan would then come under pressure from Cody Nash, Nash passing him for second just as Kaiden Manders began to slow, the yellows coming on with eight laps complete.
The race resumed and Vaughan piled the pressure on Nash, but Nash raced away and almost stole the lead from Golding through turn four as Golding hit a bump that unsettled the car.
Golding was able to recover, with Vaughan’s Speedcar experience also giving him enough to get back by Nash for second with eleven laps complete.
After a restart the top three pulled away but this time they were in very close quarters, Nash going high to sweep past Manders and then look for a way behind Golding, sitting right on his tail tank with one lap to go.
Despite his best efforts though, including a last turn lunge, Golding did enough to hang on, Nash, in his debut Speedcar meeting, coming home in second place while Vaughan Manders was third.
The final meeting of the season would see Patrick Watson get his first ever heat race win, while Daniel Harding would go on to record his second Speedcar feature race win of the season.
Harding would start on the front row alongside teammate Daniel Golding for the feature while the Pool Shop Group Perth Motorplex Track Champion elect Kaiden Manders would quickly make his presence felt from the second row, almost coming from nowhere to join the battle at the front, the trio of Manders, Golding and Harding going three wide across the line to complete lap one.
The three continued to battle hard, Manders getting the nose in front on lap two. The laps wound down and Manders and Harding were able to pull away, and then as third placed Golding found his way into traffic, Fleming also closed the gap on him and on lap fifteen he was 0.017 seconds behind Golding, a lap later he then had the position.
With three to go Harding threw his car under Manders in turn two but the move didn’t come off, just 0.2 seconds between them again with two laps to go. Harding then dove underneath in turn two once again and just grabbed the lead by 0.152 with one lap remaining, while on the final lap Harding was able to race away and grab the win ahead of Manders and Fleming.
With the nights results tallied it would be Manders who recorded a huge 247 point win in the Pool Shop Group Speedcar Track Championship, his six feature race wins enough to defeat Beau Doyle and Daniel Golding in the overall standings.
This would also bring the season to an end, so we thank everyone for their efforts this season and look forward to an even bigger and better 2023/24! In the meantime, stay tuned for the full stats from the season to be released, as well as a full wrap up from our awards night in a few weeks!
Release by DTN Media.