Wintery temperatures and heavy rain greeted the 27-strong field for the third round of the NSW Improved Production Championship, held at Sydney Motorsport Park in late June. The 2024 season’s only day/night meeting combined both the Over Two-Litre and Under Two-Litre fields, ensuring a stacked grid with action throughout.

Two Victorians also made the trek north to Sydney’s west; Wayne Twist has been a regular NSW runner of late in his E46 BMW, while multiple IPRA Victoria State Champion Luke Grech-Cumbo rolled up in his terrifyingly fast HSV Senator. Along with the return of two-time NSW Champion Michael King in his newly updated Mitsubishi EVO, round three was set to be a ripper.

Qualifying Dramas

There was a sensation in a yellow flag-interrupted qualifying session, with Matthew Birks (Toyota Corolla) outqualifying the favoured O2L boys in wet conditions to snatch a sensational pole, ahead of fellow U2L driver Matthew Giuntini (Honda Civic).

The second row was an all-Holden affair with Grech-Cumbo and the 2nd round O2L winner Ben Sheedy (Holden Commodore) in fourth. An issue before qualifying meant King would start from the back for race one.

JLM driver, Joseph Lenthall (BMW M3) looked quick and confident in qualifying until a loss of traction and subsequent off-road adventure in Turn 1 nearly cost him the round.

“After two very gentle laps, the car felt pretty good and I started to push harder for lap three. That was not the best idea, which resulted in a huge spin at Turn 1, the fastest corner on the track with a 200km entry speed.” 

Joseph Lenthall – JL Racing BMW

“Luckily, I was able to sneak through the very long gravel trap and back onto the grass, where I hoped to continue with qualifying until I heard a very loud bang and lost drive. The bang turned out to be the driveshaft removing itself from the diff, leaving the M3 stranded in the extremely wet grass and mud.”

Joseph Lenthall – JL Racing BMW

Race 1

Treacherous and changeable conditions greeted the field for the first stanza, with several first-lap spinners including Mark Hawwa (Mazda RX-7), Steven Engel (Mitsubishi EVO) and Michael Ricketts (Nissan Pulsar), who missed several competitors by mere millimetres as he spun back onto the track.

Giuntini took race honours, beating home a fast-finishing King who came from the back of the grid. After stalling on the start line, early favourite Sheedy drove steadily up to fifth.

Over 2L championship leader Joseph Lenthall (BMW M3) took sixth, while U2L leader Tim Molesworth had a race to forget, finishing well down the order.

“After the mishap in the qualifying, the crew scattered to various parts stores and workshops for supplies and parts. Performing a minor miracle, the crew got me out for race 1, with only a couple of minutes to spare where I lined up in 13th position from 27 cars.”

Joseph Lenthall – JL Racing BMW

“A good start and a clean race meant a championship-saving sixth outright and 3rd in the NSW Over 2L title. A huge relief!”

Joseph Lenthall – JL Racing BMW

Race 2

Race two started on a mostly dry track before the heavens opened again on lap four. King and Lenthall got the jump on the field in the drier conditions, pushing out to a ten-second lead before the rain hit.

Several competitors found the quickly changing conditions tricky, with Kees Delhaas (VL Commodore) and Graeme Shea (Mazda RX-7) both stranded off track. King would lead home Lenthall, Grech-Cumbo and Engel, becoming the third different O2L winner this year.

Birks got the better of Giuntini for Under 2L honours, with Danny Castro Junior (Nissan Silvia) taking third ahead of a recovering Ricketts and the ever-consistent Matthew Wildridge (Ford Escort).

Race 3

Held at night and in freezing temperatures, race three presented the pack with the trickiest conditions of the weekend, with the rain setting in as the race progressed. A lightning start saw Engel lead early, but Giuntini, revelling in the appalling conditions, sprinted away from the pack to remain untroubled to the flag, sealing his second victory with a stunning wet-weather display.

Over 2L contenders Grech-Cumbo, Sheedy, Lenthall and Engel all scrapped hard for second, with Sheedy sneaking ahead of Lenthall.

“After the King Evo withdrew with a dodgy wheel bearing, I inherited the Pole position. A great initial leap off the line was undone as the car broke into wheelspin through the first three gears and I got pinned on the inside of turns one and two, dropping back to fifth position. A race-long battle for second place started, with a last-lap move that pushed the M3 into fourth outright, and second in the Over 2L class.”

Joseph Lenthall – JL Racing BMW

Giuntini would claim the Under 2L round win ahead of Castro and Ricketts, while Grech-Cumbo took the Over 2L round honours despite not having not won a race, with Sheedy second and Lenthall third. Max Robson (Honda Civic) would claim rookie honours for the weekend, despite a small bingle with Mike Fitzgerald in the last race.

Molesworth would do enough over the course of the day to retain the Under 2L championship lead going to round four in August, while Lenthall holds a slim margin at the top of the Over 2L table.

“After the morning dramas, finishing third for the round and second in the NSW results was terrific and increased my lead in the championship. A ridiculously great result, considering at 9:00 am I was standing in the mud watching my mates qualify and wondering which pub to go to for lunch!”

Joseph Lenthall – JL Racing BMW

The next round of the NSW State Championship will be held at Sydney Motorsport Park on the weekend of August 3-4, before a three-month break and the category’s long-awaited return to One Raceway in Goulburn. Find out more about improved production racing by visiting

JLM Lubricants is a proud sponsor and supporter of the NSW Improved Production Association.

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