Round 4 Report: O'Toole goes back-to-back
Four of the five places for the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany are all wrapped up after an eventful Round 4 of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Australian Championship in Sandown, Victoria on Saturday, September 17.
After a cold and rainy lead-up, the skies cleared for a day of competition that no one could have predicted.
The Springboard has long been dominated by Matt Gurr (TAS) but a new star has emerged in Laurence O'Toole (VIC), who claimed his second-straight win in that discipline. In front of his home crowd O'Toole went head-to-head with Australian record holder Brad De Losa. O'Toole artfully worked his way around a knot to turn first and beat De Losa by more than three seconds in a new personal best of 47.03 seconds. Young Queenslander Mitch Argent was the surprise package in 2nd (48.42 seconds), with De Losa 3rd. Kody Steers (TAS) was 8th after an unlucky run with three knots and a broken axe.
With plenty to prove after a sixth-place Stocksaw finish in Ipswich, Jamie Head (QLD) pulled through with a steady 12.39 seconds to win his heat against good mate O'Toole and grab some valuable competition points. Head led O'Toole by the narrowest of margins after the first cookie, holding on for a tight win to temporarily take the outright lead. Off stage, Head confessed he was nervous heading into the event and was relieved to be done with his two most challenging disciplines. Fellow Queenslander Brodie Dingle was 2nd and Brayden Meyer (VIC) 3rd. De Losa lost his balance on his upper cut, his 13.69 seconds putting him 7th of 8 competitors, while Gurr vented his frustrations about opening with two 4th places in in a heated exchange backstage with Meyer.
In the Standing Block, chopping specialist Meyer reaped the rewards of a new working and training regime. The World Champion faced off with O'Toole, who missed the start, allowing Meyer to come out point-three of a second ahead in 17.60 seconds to win the discipline. This was the start of a fierce rivalry between the two in-form Victorians, with O'Toole 2nd and Argent 3rd. Since Ipswich, Meyer has been driving trucks for his family's company, as well as playing Aussie Rules for his local team in Broadford which he said has boosted his fitness. Dingle was 4th with a new personal best of 19.71 seconds, but he believes he could have bettered if he had not used such a conservative chopping pattern.
VW AMAROK Leaderboard after 3 of the 6 disciplines:
1. Laurence O'Toole (VIC) – 18
1. Brayden Meyer (VIC) – 18
2. Mitch Argent (QLD) – 14
2. Brodie Dingle (QLD) – 14
3. Matt Gurr (TAS) – 13
3. Jamie Head (QLD) – 13
4. Brad De Losa (NSW) – 12
5. Kody Steers (TAS) – 6
The Singlebuck is a true test of competitors' fitness and gym junkie De Losa dominated by almost two seconds. Sandown was the first time since round one that the New South Welshman was free of injury or illness, giving him the chance to put his flawless technique to full use. It was the first peak on a rollercoaster day for De Losa, finishing 1st, ahead of O'Toole 2nd, with Steers 3rd. Steers was thrilled with the result, a personal best which he hoped would be the start of a more positive second half of the day.
Next up was the Underhand, which world record holder Meyer was always expected to dominate. Up against Head, Meyer was all business as he turned first and continued at a blistering pace to finish in 19.90 seconds, more than three seconds faster than the Queenslander. O'Toole wasn't far off the pace, finishing 2nd in a personal best time of 20.48 seconds, with Steers 3rd. De Losa was well back in 7th after hitting three knots for a time of 27.46 seconds, almost six seconds slower than his personal best.
With one disciple to come, O'Toole was on top of the ladder with one 1st, three 2nds and one 6th. Meyer was breathing down his neck with two 1sts, one 3rd and two 5ths, shaping up as Victorian versus Victorian for the Sandown bragging rights.
The sixth and final discipline of the day, the Hotsaw drew the crowds and delivered on the hype. Early in the season competitors were nervous about this event, but with three rounds of the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Australian Championship done and dusted they have had time to iron out the kinks and get their juiced-up chainsaws firing.
Gurr's new Hotsaw delivered for him again in his heat against his Tasmanian protégé Steers. Gurr debuted his saw in Ipswich, where he shaved almost three seconds off his personal best. The margin for improvement was slashed, but the wily lumberjack smashed out another quick time of 8.35 seconds, almost a second ahead of Steers' 9.29 seconds.
It was the battle of the Queenslanders in the next heat, as Dingle took on Argent and came out on top with a PB of 8.76 seconds. It all seemed to have been in slow motion, however, once De Losa asserted his mastery on the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS stage. The machine engineer topped the scoreboard with an incredible time of 6.03 seconds, a new Australia Hotsaw record. It was point-26 of a second faster than his previous Australian record of 6.29 seconds. De Losa revealed one of his goals is to go sub six-seconds, which certainly seems possible with one round to go.
The last heat of the day pitted Meyer against O'Toole, and they continued their duel until the last. Meyer (7.05 seconds) edged his more experienced opponent by just point-zero-nine of a second to finish with the second fastest time of the day, with O'Toole 3rd in 7.14 seconds.
Despite the close finish, Meyer couldn't get the jump on O'Toole, who went back-to-back after winning the round in Ipswich. The pair was well ahead of 3rd placed De Losa, who was still rueing his Stocksaw stumble at the end of the day.
The results gave O'Toole the outright championship lead, after he was co-leader with De Losa and Head heading into Round Four. De Losa is second, with Head and Meyer tied for 3rd. All four are a mathematical chance of claiming the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Australian Championship in Bathurst, however, O'Toole will be hard to stop. He needs a top-two finish to lift the trophy.
Sandown saw O'Toole, De Losa, Head and Meyer earn qualification for the Chopperoos to contest the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS World Championship in Stuttgart, Germany in November. They are chasing a third-straight title. Whoever wins the Australian Championship will be selected as the individual competitor.
The fifth and final spot on the Australian team is still up for grabs. Just three points separate fifth and eighth place on the Championship ladder, meaning any of the bottom four could snag a ticket to Germany.
It will all be decided in the fifth and final round of STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Australia, in Bathurst, NSW on October 7-9.
VW AMAROK Leaderboard – final standings:
1. Laurence O'Toole (VIC) – 38
2. Brayden Meyer (VIC) – 37
3. Brad De Losa (NSW) – 30
4. Jamie Head (QLD) – 27
5. Brodie Dingle (QLD) – 23
6. Mitch Argent (QLD) – 21
7. Matt Gurr (TAS) – 20
7. Kody Steers (TAS) - 20
Championship Points after 4 of 5 rounds:
1. Laurence O'Toole (VIC) – 28
2. Brad De Losa (NSW) – 26
3. Jamie Head (QLD) – 25
3. Brayden Meyer (VIC) – 25
5. Brodie Dingle (QLD) – 11
6. Kody Steers (TAS) – 10
6. Matt Gurr (TAS) – 10
8. Mitch Argent (QLD) - 9