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SST: Darwin Recap

From Friday to Sunday, Hidden Valley Raceway hosted the Virgin Australia Supercars’ annual Darwin Triple Crown. As a support event, the SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks made their debut at the 6.2-mile circuit, running three races before the Supercars. In 2016, SST drivers Paul Morris, Toby Price and Brad Gallard hosted a demo at the track, though 2017 marked the first points race at the track in series history.

A shootout set the starting grid for Friday’s race. Robby Gordon led the way with a time of 1:32.588, followed by Matt Brabham (1:33.393), Jeff Hoffman (1:34.378) and Paul Morris (1:45.488). Bill Hynes (1:37.837) and Greg Gartner (1:39.916) started on the front row via an inverted grid.

Brabham and Gordon, who started 3rd and 4th, respectively, took the lead by lap two. On lap three, Brabham went wide, allowing Gordon and Morris to pass him. The top-3 remained the same by the time of the competition caution on lap four. The green flag waved on lap five with Morris taking the lead shortly after, but Gordon retook 1st as the two entered turn one at the start of lap six. The two battled for the remainder of the race, with Morris leading lap seven despite going off-course momentarily and Gordon passing him for the position a lap later.

2017 sst robby gordon darwin

The second competition caution waved on lap eight with Gordon, Morris and Brabham in the top positions. Green flag racing resumed on lap nine with Gordon as the leader until Morris took the lead at the start of lap ten. Gordon attempted to mount a late charge, but was unable to pass him as Morris held on for his second win of the season.

Morris and Gordon acknowledged each other with a wave and a thumbs-up, respectively. Behind them were Brabham, Gavin Harlien, Hoffman, Gartner, Craig Dontas and Hynes.

Once again, Hynes and Gartner started 1st and 2nd, respectively, for Saturday’s race. Hynes led the first lap, while Brabham (who started 5th) quickly moved up the field, taking 2nd from Garneter a lap later. Brabham took the lead on lap four. At the lower half of the grid, Dontas attempted to bump his way past his opponents, but missed a ramp in the process. Harlien eventually caught up to Brabham and attempted to make the pass at the start of lap six; the two made contact and went wide, which allowed Morris to take the lead.

Harlien recovered from the contact to close in on Morris as lap seven commenced, passing him in turn one and going off-course, though he was able to retain the lead. Brabham eventually passed Morris for 2nd. The competition caution came out on lap eight, with the green flag taking place one lap later. In turn five, Brabham’s pass on Harlien failed, but was able to overtake him shortly after to lead lap nine.

2017 sst darwin matt brabham

A lap later, with two laps remaining in the event, Morris got loose entering chicane leading to the start/finish line, causing him to hit the tire barrier. After driving a few yards with his truck still connected to the barrier, it rolled on its side. Track officials placed the truck upright again (though the right side landed on the barrier itself before it was corrected) and he continued racing. The caution was waved to slow the trucks down and allow Morris to catch up, meaning the green flag also served as the white flag in a one-lap race to the finish.

Brabham had a strong restart to allow him to pull away. Behind him, Gordon moved his way up to 2nd and was on Brabham’s tail for much of the lap. However, Brabham held off Gordon’s charge to take the victory. Meanwhile, Harlien pushed himself enough to take 2nd away from Gordon in a drag race to the finish. Hoffman, Dontas, Gartner, Morris and Hynes followed.

Race #3’s starting lineup was similar to those in the first two rounds, with Hynes and Gartner taking the top-2 spots. Hynes led the first lap, though Gartner passed him later on the lap. Early on lap two, Morris took the lead in turn one, with Hoffman and Brabham in tow. The three occupied the top positions by the first competition caution on lap four.

2017 sst darwin race 3 podium

A lap after the restart on lap five, Hoffman tried to make a move on Morris’ outside as they entered turn one, but could not pull it off. Two laps later, Hoffman fell to 3rd when Brabham bumped his way past in turn one. The second competition caution waved on lap eight. At the green on lap nine, Hoffman passed Brabham for 2nd after receiving a bump draft from Gordon. Afterwards, Gordon used the newfound momentum to pass both Brabham and Hoffman for 2nd. Hoffman tried to reclaim 2nd with a late-braking maneuver as they entered turn one, followed by bumping him, but was unable to do so. Instead, Brabham slid past Hoffman for 3rd, dropping Hoffman out of podium range. On the final lap, Hoffman attempted to pass Brabham in turn one via nudging him in the rear, though he could not make the pass. Hoffman and Harlien made contact later on the lap to spin the latter.

Despite Morris’ distance from the rest of the pack, Gordon remained in race win contention as he caught up to the Australian. As they jumped off the final ramp leading into the start/finish line, Gordon gave Morris a bump before moving to the outside to make the pass. However, the pass came too late as Morris crossed the line first to take the win by .118 seconds. Brabham finished 3rd, followed by Hoffman, Dontas, Harlien and Hynes. Gartner did not finish the race.

In a bizarre incident later in the evening, Brabham’s truck was stolen and taken through the streets of Darwin. The #83 truck was placed on a flatbed and driven out of the circuit to a location near a local bar, where it was then unloaded and began to perform burnouts. The truck was later found and impounded by city police. Northern Territory police officers confirmed they would be looking into who was responsible for the theft.

“We have CCTV of the incident and are currently investigating,” superintendent Robert Burgoyne stated.

The next scheduled event for the Stadium Super Trucks takes place in early October, with the first SST race in China at the FB Life Festival on October 6–7.

UPDATE: In an even more bizarre twist, the driver of Brabham’s truck through Darwin was revealed to be Robby Gordon himself.

He was ordered to a local court a day after the incident, where he pleaded guilty to various traffic offenses and was fined $4,150 Australian dollars for violating the city’s anti-hooning laws.

Judge Richard Coates stated he was not satisfied by Gordon’s defense that he was a professional racer and told Gordon that regardless of his background or if he was aware of what he was doing, it was illegal to do so in a public location.

“I wish it was within my capacity to take away your professional driver’d license because I think you should be punished by the organization which permits you to drive on a race track,” Coates stated.

“I asked [the security guards], ‘Hey, think I can whip a couple of doughies?’ and they said, ‘Hey, I don’t care’,” Gordon commented. “I spun two donuts and put it on the trailer.”

“I have to be honest, I’ve done stuff like this probably 200 or 300 times over my career, some cities promote it but unfortunately, here in the Northern Territory, they frown on it.”

“If we come back next year obviously no donuts on Mitchell St.”

Featured image courtesy of @SSuperTrucks

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