By Daniel Powell
As the headline indicates, it was a case of so close, yet so far for Ben Atkinson and the Active Power Steering team in last Saturday night’s 2011/12 sprintcar season opener at Sydney Speedway.
After he had taken control of the feature race lead in the latter stages of the 25-lap event from eventual winner Daniel Needham, the defending Sydney Speedway sprintcar track champion came off second best in lapped traffic, when Needham fought his way back to the front. At the fall of the chequered flag, Atkinson was left to wonder what might have been after second place on the podium was where he finished up.
“My car was a bit too loose towards the end of the feature race and that hurt us,” admitted Atkinson, who had started from position eight in the feature race field after he was the highest point scorer at the completion of the heat races via second and first place finishes. “When I hit the front, there was a stoppage so I had to go back to second for the restart and then I moved back into the lead, but with a loose car and a misjudgement in lapped traffic Daniel [Needham] managed to go around me. I made a mistake in lapped traffic in the closing laps by getting caught behind a lapped car and that allowed Daniel to box me in on the outside, and from there he took that advantage and I wasn’t able to get back by him as we ran out of laps.”
The Darwin, Northern Territory based driver teamed up with the David Doherty owned NSW # 6 Active Power Steering supported Don Ott 410 cubic inch powered J&J for this season, and they have certainly made a pleasing start to their relationship.
“David [Doherty] and my crew chief Moth [Tim Gleeson] have a long history with one another, so when David decided to step back into the sport as a car owner, he decided to have me as his driver,” Atkinson explained. “The switch between teams has been made a lot easier with Moth remaining as my crew chief and also running the familiar J&J car. We were confident that we could be on the pace from the outset and our opening night result has proven that. We have made a great start to the season and it’s something that we can build on for the remainder of the season.”
Atkinson and the Active Power Steering team are committed to running the entire Sydney Speedway Track Championship and there is the possibility that they will contest the Grand Annual Classic (Warrnambool’s Premier Speedway in Victoria) and the Australian Title (Adelaide’s Speedway City in South Australia) later in the season.
Atkinson would like to thank Active Power Steering, car owner David Doherty and his family, and crew chief Tim ‘Moth’ Gleeson for their wonderful support.