The Comeback Chris!

by Arin Der Vartanian
Round 2 of the Mini Challenge Series was held at Symmons Plains in Tasmania, and the competition promised to be a lot closer than last year. In 2008 Paul Stokell was the dominant winner; in 2009, enter the electrifying personalities of Chris Alajajian, Grant Denyer and Steven Bradbury. With Chris Alajajian now contracted to the Mini Challenge series for 2009, he is the favourite to challenge reigning champion Paul Stokell for that number one position. 

The practice and qualifiying races showed just that, with Stokell’s DecoRug Mini Cooper edging out Alajajian’s Standox Astuti Mini Cooper both times by 0.1 and 0.2 seconds respectively. However the surprise packet was 2002 Winter Olympics gold medallist, Steven Bradbury, in his first ever professional race. 

The 3 races were held on the final day of the weekend, with the front of the grid for Race 1 occupied by the two favourites Stokell and Alajajian, and all eyes were on the pair to fight it out to be the first past the chequered flag. However with a car making a passing manoeuvre around Chris, Alajajian attempted to make room for the driver but found his Mini Cooper slide on the ageing ripple strips of Symmons Plains, which caused his vehicle to flick around, with The Chris recalling it to be “one the weirdest spin outs I’ve ever experienced”. This gave the opportunity for Stokell to take out a comfortable win, with Jonathon Webb (Motorline Garage) and Grant Denyer (DecorRug Racing) taking out 2nd and 3rd respectively. 

Race 2 had The Chris start middle of the pack, and he didn’t make the chase any better for himself as he overcooked the steer into turn two and spun out; “I made a mistake and went in too hard on cold tyres” Alajajian lamented. The spin saw The Chris fall to dead last in the race, but with dynamic skills and sheer grit, he recovered from the spin in spectacular fashion and he instigated a remarkable comeback to finish the race in 4th place. Denyer and Scott Bargwanna (Bargwanna Motorsport) duelled for several laps with Denyer pipping Bargwanna at the post. 

The 3rd and final race of the weekend saw Alajajian stamp his authority and determination to avenge the misfortunes of the previous two races. “Starting in 5th position on the grid, it turned out to be an extremely difficult race, and I really battled it out,” stated Chris after the race. He took on all comers, with incredible racecraft and passing moves, The Chris sliced through his competition to take out the final race on top. “It’s great to win here,” he smiled, “we had good car speed and these cars are tremendous to drive. I’m please we could get the win.” 

After 2 rounds in the 2009 Mini Challenge Series, Alajajian is positioned tied 3rd with Scott Bargwanna on 207 points. Channel Seven personality Grant Denyer is currently in 2nd with 213 points, and Paul Stokell holds onto his lead after round two of the Series with 300 points.

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