Season 7 of Monday Night Lights kicked off in style with a total of 4 splits worth of drivers turning out for the opening round. Certainly the opening week of the series and the well known, free Okayama track contributed to the fantastic turnout. But, with a Strength of Field of 3,288, the third highest for the week, the popularity of the weekly Monday night fixture once again shone through.
Returning series Champion Enzo Canta once again lined up on the grid for what he no doubts hopes will be his 4th series victory. There were a few new faces amongst the field taking part in their first venture Down Under along with a cavalcade of returning regulars making for a great on track atmosphere.
Dekota Fripp made a welcome return to Monday Night Lights, snaring pole position by under a tenth of a second from Canta, with newcomer and Italian compatriate Valerio Pianezza in third. Daryl Ridley was the leading local driver in what was a fantastic qualifying result in fourth, closely followed by Luke Whitten, Luke Page, who also made a welcome return to the series and Ben Furhoff. The four local hopes separated again by less than one tenth of a second. It was clear that the racing was going to be tight and action packed.
The action started with the green lights when Fripp suffered mechanical failure at the off, his car completely immobile sustained two heavy hits from other drivers trying to navigate their way past his stricken vehicle. This forced Fripp to the pits and put him a lap down on the field, robbing the race of what was shaping to be a classic battle between he and Canta, akin to the fantastic spectacle they put on for the final race Season 6.
From there, the Italian flag was flying as the crowd saw Canta and Pianezza go on to take a solid one, two finish with Whitten rounding out the podium. Page and Furhoff were the other ANZ club members in the top 5 with Ridley coming off second best in an unfortunate incident with Furhoff at the turn 5 hairpin after running strongly in the opening laps of the race. In answer to the question posed by Ridley moments after the incident, yes, your car is definitely yellow!
With Bernie and RRtv on a well earned break over the festive season, I had a crack at solo commentary and camera work using the replay of the race as I was driving in the event myself. You can see the outcome of that effort below. It really highlights what RRtv bring to the series with their ongoing support. The tools of the trade don’t really play nicely with replays, rather than the live event, but, realistically, it’s a two man job and Bernie does it extremely well.
Full results and current standings for the series after round one can be found on the Monday Night Lights page on this site. So until next week, enjoy the show!