Sydney Motorsport Park hosted Round two of the NSW Motor Racing Championships on May 1-3rd during some of the worst weather conditions NSW has seen in recent months. Qualifying was conducted under grey and wet conditions, however Saturday’s racing was wet and windy. The black top never completely dried out and standing water was the enemy of all who ventured out. The ground was moist and in some cases downright sodden on exposed corners so anyone running wide onto the grass verge was at the total mercy of momentum as understeer and wheelspin were the order of the day. Tony Virag ( HSV GTS) experienced this firsthand with a lose at turn 3.7 as he careered drivers right onto the grassy verge just over the hill and left a 100m deep gouge in the soggy turf ending up broadsiding into the wall in a shower of grass and mud resulting in two broken rims.
Although conditions were not ideal for lap records, driver skills were on show and made for a nonetheless exciting spectacle. Rain and vapourised water spouting off rear tyres mixed with steam and smoke from engines and exhausts added to the visual excitement of the weekend’s racing.
The Supersports category copped the worst of it with all three races conducted on Saturday. In a cagey move, Neal Muston went out slow in qualifying getting a really good look at the track conditions. Last on the grid for race one, he blitzed the field making up all sixteen places to take the chequered flag in race one and completed the trifecta with wins in all three races for the day. John Corbett and Rob Baird collected second and third place trophies in each of the three races. It was interesting to note that as the weather deteriorated during the afternoon the lap times increased dramatically with a full 20 sec being added to the Supersport final race times.
Dylan Thomas was a busy chap over the weekend competing in both the Production Touring and Formula Vee categories. Getting an early feel for the speed of the track Dylan took pole position in Prod Touring with a good qualifying result and proceeded to podium finish in all three races with his best being a win in race one. Luke Searle handled the very disrupting conditions with a win and two seconds and Daniel Oosthuizen rounded out the champagne spraying list with a first, second and third across the weekend.
A very large field of Formula Vee hardy stalwarts weathered the awful conditions in open wheelers with nowhere to hide from the downpour on Saturday. With rooster tails of water spray coming off all four wheels of this large field it was a massive effort just to be able to see one car length in front of you. Dylan Thomas managed to get passed Ryan Reynolds with a 2 sec faster lap time to clinch race one. Michael Kinsella edged out Reynolds by half a second to take race two with a fine hole shot off the line from fifth spot on the grid. Reynolds fought tooth and nail with Kinsella in race three with a gritty effort over the 10 laps but ended up 1/100th of a second short as they crossed the line in an almost photo finish. James Horne qualified strongly in third spot but found himself coming off second best to the conditions with strong contact into a wall forcing him out of any further racing.
Improved Production started with a smaller field than usual with only eleven cars competing. However this category is always fiercely fought out and the trio of Miller, Watts and Posa were in the thick of the action. Qualifying in that order race one went to plan for the successful qualifying triumverate. However the script got torn up as Watts took advantage of Millers engine trouble to grab the race two win and Mick Hazelton pounced from a handy mid field position to scoop second place honours. Millers problems forced him out of race three and four so Watts and Hazelton made the most of his absence. Watts added 3 race wins to his championship tally and Paul White rounded out the second spot on the podium with a clean run in his Mazda RX-7 in races three and four.
Commenting on Saturdays qualifying result in Sports Sedans Steve Lacey said”….I had a spin at turn two and got in with the wrong crowd which left me with a lot of work to do off the grid.” Further commenting on the conditions, Steve said “…Saturdays conditions were not conducive to dive bombing in order to make up places as everyone’s visibility was obscured by so much wheel spray. It was like thick fog out there.” A spirited and gutsy run saw Steve make up three places to finish third in race one. Spouting crowd pleasing flames from his VZ Commodore, Warren Millett grabbed first spot in race one followed by Steven Shiels big blue 6 Litre Camaro. One Sunday, Grant Doulman lamented “…one of the problems for us during rain delays is that we were stuck sitting in the pouring rain on the dummy grid for 50 minutes on Saturday. Our car has no windows and so water just flooded down into our car and caused an electrical gremlin. We had to completely relocate and replace our MSD”. This obviously didn’t adversely affect the SINOCO team performance as Grant went on to win races two and three, closely followed by Birol Cetin with two second places. Darren Steeden chose to sit out race two as the conditions were to so wet and he didn’t have any wet rubber. Fred Axisa exited the weekend during qualifying with a straight through slide out of turn six into the concrete wall destroying his suspension and suffering a cracked gearbox to boot.
Formula Ford action was again wet and sloshy for these open wheelers ( and open cockpits). Visibility was difficult as the spray from 15 closely grouped cars with no mudguards had drivers squinting to see and everyone trying to get a clear space in front of them to acquire some vision. Hence contact was inevitable and at one point Rod Baker and Andrew Crawshaw touched and spun leaving Baker stopped in the middle of the track awaiting assistance. Duratec racing was a three man show, with Luis Leeds taking maximum points with a third and two firsts, Tom Maxwell grabbed a first and two seconds and Andrew Kahl settled for a second and two thirds. Andrew ran all weekend with a faulty alternator. Not surprising as water and electrics don’t play well together.
Formula Ford 1600 series was completely controlled by Will Powers with three straight wins. Jason Liddell gave Powers an excellent run for his money and an exciting finish with only half a second between them after ten laps. Liddell finished with a second and third and Simon Hodge likewise.
2014 rookie Caitlin Wood was impressive over the weekend bettering her times and position with each subsequent race finally ending the day only two seconds away from a podium finish.
The Superkarts came out with a mighty onslaught on Sunday. Having all their races on the one day the very large field of 40 karts swamped the track and was a great spectacle. On lap one of race one an interesting set of circumstances came to pass. Firstly, Mark Robin tagged the rear tyre of Matthew Wark just short of turn two causing Wark to get sideways and as Robin went passed him, Wark’s loss of control repaid the compliment to Robin, sending him and Aaron Cogger to the sidelines for a DNF. Secondly, at the same time, only 20 metres further on at the entry to turn two, too many karts were trying to fit into the corner at the same time and this caused Chris McKeon, John Dunn and Paul Degan to have a coming together with only Degan escaping the altercation. Watching it live was a vision of total chaos but it eventually cleared itself and Aaron Steven went on to win with Matt Bass and Russell Jamieson taking the minors. Starting near the front of the grid in race two was too much advantage to give Jamieson, the 2013 Australian Champion, who went on to win with a comfortable six second margin. The race was hotly contested however with the reigning Aussie Champion Gary Pegaroro starting in grid position six, but had too much length to catch up and finished in a credible third. This was what Pegoraro had wanted, to be within striking distance of Jamieson. Race three was a thrilling eight laps, however the flying Jamieson was never headed and went on to claim his second victory of the day with a twelve second win from Pegoraro and Bass. Bass had a trifecta of podiums for the day with two seconds and a third.
Improved Production U2L was a mixed affair with last year’s champion, Dave Crighton, not represented this weekend. This years championship leader Justin McClintock had a slow start but gained momentum with a fourth and third result before his campaign ended on the back of a flat bed truck in race four on Sunday afternoon. With no championship points recorded before this weekend, Jordan Cox made up for that with podiums in all four races over the weekend with two wins and two seconds on the back of pole position qualifying. Daniel Burton similiarly hadn’t worried the scorer before this weekend however amassed a great tally of points also with four placings over the weekend with one race win, two seconds and a third. Peter Pauling took the other race win.
Words and pics by Rob Annesley