Round 4 Preview - part 1
The battle at the top
Sandown, Victoria will be the battleground for one of the most anticipated rounds of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Australian Championships, with a vicious rankings battle on the cards.
With just two rounds remaining, there is an incredible three-way tie for the lead between Laurence O'Toole (VIC), Jamie Head (QLD) and Brad De Losa (NSW).
Head was the sole leader until round three at Ipswich in July, when O'Toole hit a purple patch of three personal bests to win the day and a share of the lead on the VW Amarok leader board.
O'Toole believes he has found the form to claim the top STIHL TIMBERSPORTS spot outright, after winning the standing block at the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, USA.
"I was really happy with my performance in the standing block over there. I have lots of things to improve on and it is hard to transition in a short time, but that win shows my consistent improvement," he said.
"I would like to think that I can win in Sandown, but I have always said if I am at my best I can win the Championship.
"Ipswich was fairly good for me but I had been that ordinary leading into it that it wasn't difficult to improve.
"I haven't had a good Stocksaw run in a while, hopefully I'm due for that in Sandown."
Co-leader De Losa has struggled with the standing block this year, but broke his hoodoo in the discipline with victory at the Royal Queensland Easter Show (Ekka), beating Head and fellow STIHL TIMBERSPORTS competitors Mitchell Argent and Kody Steers in the process.
Head is one of the most consistent competitors on the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS circuit, but says De Losa has emerged as the one to beat.
"Brad has had a bad run this year with injury and the flu but he's still kept pace with everyone," Head said.
"It is really too tough to call though, every one of us can win on our day – Laurence and Brayden are great too.
"It is more competing against yourself and getting everything right than looking at what the others are doing. I wasn't up to scratch at Ipswich."
World Champion of Champions Brayden Meyer (VIC) is fourth on the VW Amarok leader board, trailing the three leaders by just two points, but a bad finish in Sandown could force him into the 2017 qualifiers.
Also at stake is a spot on the Chopperoos team for the 2016 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS World Championship in Stuttgart, Germany.
The top five will qualify for the team, and while the O'Toole, Head, De Losa and Meyer can lock up their places with strong performances in Sandown, the fight for the final ticket is likely to come down to the wire.
Championship Points after 3 of 5 rounds:
1. Laurence O'Toole (VIC) – 20
Brad De Losa (NSW) – 20
Jamie Head (QLD) – 20
4. Brayden Meyer (VIC) – 18
5. Kody Steers (TAS) – 9
6. Matt Gurr (TAS) – 8
7. Brodie Dingle (QLD) – 7
8. Mitch Argent (QLD) - 6
Round four of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Australian Championships gets underway on September 17 and 18 at V8 Supercars Sandown 500 in Melbourne.