QUEENSLAND driver Warwick Hutchinson successfully defended his outright title at the historic Leyburn Sprints despite being forced to retire with engine failure before the end of the event’s 17th annual running on the Darling Downs on 18-19 August.

Hutchinson lost the engine in his specially-built Van Diemen single-seater after the fourth of seven scheduled runs against the clock on Leyburn’s 1.1 kilometre around-the-houses course.

His last run of 46.727 seconds was his fastest, but he had to wait while closest rival Grant Watson took three more shots at the mark in his ProSport Eclipse sports car, ultimately falling short by just 0.419 sec., before claiming the Col Furness Memorial Trophy at the end of a memorable weekend of grassroots motorsport.

Watson finished second, ahead of Garry Ford in a V8-engined Ford Escort.

A field of 199 drivers, a diverse line-up of classic, historic and performance cars ranging in vintage from 1926 to 2012, almost 100 Shannons Show ‘n’ Shine entries and perfect weather combined to attract a potentially record crowd.

“Although we haven’t completed a final count, the two-day attendance is likely to be more than 10,000 and we all feel this was probably the best crowd we’ve ever had,” Sprints organising committee President Ann Collins said.

“Everybody loved the event, whether they were spectators or competitors. The weekend went very well and everybody had fun.”

Leyburn’s good-natured country atmosphere saw a packed campground, front-yard spectator parties, pig races at the local RSL on Saturday night, Country Womens Association catering for the volunteer officials and a rollicking trophy presentation during which the prizes – varnished rocks varying in size for first, second and third – were distributed from the back of a ute parked outside the 1863-licensed Royal Hotel.

Rock recipients included the fastest Historic-category driver David Cross, who recorded a 49.313 sec. run in his 1976 V8 Bowin-Hay single-seater, fifth-best also in the overall classification.

The oldest car entered, Andrew Wilson’s 1926 supercharged Amilcar AC, beat many newer cars with a 107th-fastest time of 58.917 sec.

The honour of slowest time, along with a special prize recognising sporting spirit, went to Graham Shipton, who brought his 1936, 680 c.c. Auto Union sports car all the way from Adelaide to stop the clock at 1 minute 30.121 sec.

A further attraction was the appearance of Queensland racing legend John French, 81, making runs in the Centaur Waggot GT sports car in which he won the Australian GT Championship at Lakeside 50 years ago last month.

Proceeds from the not-for-profit 2012 Leyburn Sprints will assist Ovarian Cancer Australia, RACQ Careflight Rescue and numerous local community groups and projects.

A date for the 2013 Sprints has not been decided yet.


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