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Jul 31, 2014

FLASHBACK: FIGHT IN THE NIGHT 2013


First published in The Racing Magazine - click to view online.

SETTING THE SCENE: Each year, Queensland Raceway's Shannons Nationals round hosts the 'Fight in the Night' for the Australian Manufacturers Championship, for Production Cars. It features 2, 200km races with the Saturday one held under a lights Queensland Raceway. The 2013 stanza was voted our 'Race of the Year' in our 2013 awards. Here's why:

THIS was a terrific motor race, a race of pressure: commitment, preservation and endurance. It was captivating, compelling motorsport of the highest order.

Take away the fact that this was under lights and that it was between two incredible drivers – facts that always add to a show – and this would still have been the race of the season.

From pole position, Glenn Seton was in near complete control as he worked to extend an early lead in the Pro-Duct Mitsubishi that he would be driving, solo, that weekend; a potential victory in Sydney robbed due to mechanical issues still fresh in everyone’s mind.

The early laps were run at a frantic pace; Seton setting lap records out in front as Stuart Kostera chased him down in Dylan Thomas’ CXC Global Lancer. Holt settled in third place in the early running, keeping co-driver Ryan McLeod as the ace up his sleeve for later in the race.

Holt was the first to pit, ducking into pit lane on lap 26 for what would be the team’s only stop. McLeod rejoined in seventh place but would quickly climb the order.

The first domino fell a lap later, when Kostera pitted from second place on lap 27. The blue Lancer, sporting stunning blue neon lighting underneath, was back in the lane a lap later and then a lap later again for what would be the end of the race for the beleaguered team. An ECU issue forced them out.

Stealthy, Grant Sherrin had moved his Class B BMW to second place by lap 30 and, at ‘cruising’ speed could keep up with the Mitsubishi’s, but third would be the best the Sherrin team could hope for on this night. He pitted on lap 40, leaving Seton well in control of the race setting a relentless pace.

The two-time Touring Car champion returned to an abbreviated race lead following his stop, but now had McLeod chasing him down. From here, the pace only got better.

Seton began struggling with gearbox issues soon after his stop and this allowed McLeod to begin to draw in like a Shark hunting his prey. A series of four laps, between lap 45 and 48, within 0.1 seconds showed how high the Queenslander was operating in his pursuit of the leader. It was enthralling stuff.

And then, with 12 laps to go, McLeod struck: a good run out of turn two and a run down the inside at three – Seton’s gearbox issues giving him a straight line disadvantage at the top, top end of his Mitsubishi’s power band – and McLeod was through.

In pit lane, the Eastern Creek Karts team pumped their fists as Pro Duct shook their heads; but this was not over.

Seton’s response was immediate - stuff the fact the car was broken - and the next lap both leaders dropped into the 1m19s and henceforth the game lifted once more. By this point, the Pro Duct car was straining at the effort and sparks were flying from its exhaust under the strain. It seemed as if Seton would drive the thing to destruction if it ment beating their evo-wheeling rivals.

McLeod held on from whithering, relentless pressure from Seton for the next eight laps, the pair never more than two or three lengths apart, before Seton again struck; re-passing the similar Mitsubishi to take the lead back with another turn three dive-bomb. McLeod didn't much like this and on the next lap set the fastest lap of his cars’ race to the point where an hour and a half in, both were posting qualifying times. It was captivating, enthralling stuff and pressure motor racing of the highest possible order. But McLeod would have no response to Seton's final, definitieve move.

The pair finished exactly one second apart, Seton taking a gritty, determined, brilliant victory and Garry Holt and Ryan McLeod showing that they would fight for every point with second place which tonight far from made them losers. This night, they were the second winners out of a great, great show.

Points would prove important, later in the year, but for now the delight of an incredible battle beamed from the man they once called the Baby-faced assassin.

Yes - this was most certainly Glenn Seton’s night.

- By Richard Craill, fan of night racing.