Returning to Sydney Motorsport Park for Rd3 of the NSW Motor Race Championships, competitors were forced to pull out their winter woollies and umbrellas for day one of racing. Rain, wind and cool temperatures spoke to the fact that we are entering the winter racing season, after pleasant but unseasonally warm weather lasted through to the end of autumn.
This dramatic weather change tested race craft thinking and teams preparedness was being challenged. As well, qualifying and first races were run before the track dried out, which gave incentive to competitors to get clear of leading cars as water spray was an inhibitor to good lap times and poor visibility was a very real concern to reaction times. Several cars didn’t make it through this period. Peter Boylan (car #28) suffered a weekend ending heavy impact, so hard in fact that the door popped off on his Porsche 911. Lucky Peter always carries a spare (Porsche, that is!).
The early qualifying categories were affected the worst, especially the lightweight Formula Vee’s with Pearce, Porter and Pace all skating and losing the racing line in this session. Formula Vee Championship leader Ryan Reynolds had a start to the weekend he’d rather forget. After throwing an oil filter in qualifying and being relegated to the back of the grid, his engine blew up in race one. Working from well behind the eight-ball, frenetic activity in his garage and help from a bunch of people, Ryan recovered in magnificent style with a win and a second in races two and three.
Without the pressure of Reynolds in the first race, Dylan Thomas was able to take an aggressive race line and led from start to finish to keep his c’ship points ticking over. Not so easy pickings for him once Reynolds returned, and Thomas had to settle for a second and a third.
After winning rookie-of-the-year Aaron Pace had a splendid weekend. The young man got a “new” car over the summer, (ex- Darren Williams Jacer) and it seems to be paying off. Seasoned veteran and top-field competitor (and Dad) Simon Pace, said: “…its a bittersweet day for me. I’m so proud of Aaron, he’s driving so well, but he’s just beaten me for the very first time.” In fact, by the end of the weekend, Aaron had beaten his Dad in all four outings. Simon beamed with pride as he introduced his youngest son, and soon to be Formula Vee racing rookie, Daniel. Watch that name, as it seems that the Pace family is creating a formidable Formula Vee racing dynasty. In other Vee racing, Jason Thorne was clipped in race two and completely lost his nose cone, causing all sorts of aerodynamic issues for him to contend with.
Following a heady call-up to be the “Am” in the Pro-Am Carrera Cup two driver format, partnering with Nick McBride ( 2nd place on Championship ladder) several weeks ago, a busy Dylan Thomas also competed in Production Touring. This wasn’t quite as happy an excursion for him. Being used to being up the front of a field, Dylan had to be content with an 8th place start on the grid. Race one was forgettable as a valve stem let go and that ended up DNF. Following a couple of mid field finishes in races one and two, he finally exerted enough competitive pressure on the weekend dominant trio of Oosthuizen, Skinner and Symes (who between them owned eight of the nine available podium places) to take the final weekend top podium spot.
Superkarts had a four race meeting and got their first race done in a down pour. Open karts give you no respite from the onslaught of weather hurled at you, and with several recent Australian Kart champions vying to relive their past glory, it made for an exciting spectacle. These pocket rockets, elevated off the bitumen only by 4 inch diameter tyres scarily scream down main straight at over 225 kph. So you can imagine that losing one of your tyres would be a rather hair-raising experience.
This is exactly what happened to race one leader Ilya (Illy) Harpas. Coming into turn 16 on the very last lap, John Dunn moved across Harpas’ race line causing him to execute a fast “tank slapper”. Colloquially named, (Definition: Wobble, shimmy, tank-slapper, speed wobble are all words and phrases used to describe a quick oscillation of primarily just the steerable wheel(s) of a vehicle) for the action required to “get the hell out of the way” of a possible coming together of vehicles. Unfortunately his avoidance manouevre caused him to make contact with a curb throwing his tiny lightweight kart up and coming down hard resulted in it throwing a shoe. Now this would be fair cause for an “all-up” lift and return to the pits on the back of Rescue One, but no, these fella’s don’t give up so easily. As Harpas hit the deck he was still pointing forward. With incredible presence of mind, Illy jammed on the throttle and with two good steering wheels in the front he drove that sloppy jalopy all the way to the chequered flag with only three wheels for a second place finish. True professional or simply crazy? You be the judge…
Reigning Kart champ Russell Jamieson showed why he is the incumbent No. 1. With classy runs netting two wins and a second, he kept Pecoraro and McIveen in his mirrors all weekend. Harpas made a strong claim as he pushed Jamieson back down the podium with two strong wins and his amazing second place. It should be said that if the wheel incident hadn’t happened only 700m from the finish line he would have had a third victory and been the debutante of the ball with even more reason to celebrate. Stay watching this young Illy Harpas.
Sports Sedans is like a motorised version of the Big Bash League. Big American cars, big engines, big speed and big sound! Following his season ending major accident late last year, Birol Cetin brought Billy’s Camaro v2.0 out and gave it a big kick in the guts. The weekend leader board bolted Cetins name up there in first place and left it there. That’s the way it ended. How it all unfolded was another story altogether. Laceys run of bad luck continued from 2015. Looking good and his Camaro ostensibly running well with good power and handling, Lacey fought Cetin throughout the whole race, the twin yellow Camaro’s side by side. Twice with passing opportunities thwarted due to parked cars on the side of his favourite overtaking spot, just out of turn 14 under the corporate hill bridge. Third time lucky and Lacey took Cetin and was enjoying the last lap lead up through turn 17. The ground commentator over the loudspeakers nearly barfed a lung he shouted so loud trying to egg Laceys slowing car down as it became apparent that there was a serious problem with the #1 car. Cetin sailed on by to reclaim his lead and the glory while McCready ran down the 16 second gap to the front runners as Lacey glided slowly with only momentum down the agonizing distance from turn 18 to cross the finish line, only to unceremoniously pull up alongside the pit lane track marshall’s cage suffering a broken axle. His inspired drive had gotten him enough of a buffer on the rest of the field for him to still claim third as a consolation prize, a far cry from the result he must have seen in his minds eye as he rounded that last bend before the sickening sound and no go under him.
Production Sports had their first Enduro of the season, with a Driver A and B race late on Sunday. A ding dong stoush between Matt Turnbulls Lamborghini and a gang of ten Porsches. Eventually the Porsches just outlasted the Lamborghini as it retired with gearbox issues, and Neale Mustons’ relentless pounding out the laps as he fended off fierce racing stalwart Geoff Morgans’ new 991 Cup car. After an hour race only 27 seconds split the single driver pair with the Cook/Meyer team one minute back. Young Andy Harris from Mittagong experienced massive disappointment as his newly purchased Mazda MX3 dropped a metre wide pool of oil from a blown engine under his stationary car. He’d been rotating in the top third of the field doing a good job in his first enduro.
HQ’s again featured the Baxter-Osborn show As reported before, these two guys are so evenly matched that again this weekends race finish times were as little as three-one hundredths of a second apart. With these two having locked up the two top spots, Molle shared third with King. Newcomer to HQ, but a regular around the local racing fraternity, Scott Walker acquitted himself admirably with a 4th place start off the grid, and a 4th place finish in race one.
In these difficult financial times for the racing industry, it was wonderful news to hear that Joe Lenthall (Improved Production O2L ) had secured sponsorship from MOTHERS care care products, who’s logos were emblazoned in huge white letters all over his red RX7 this weekend.
Last year John McKenzie Improved Prod O2L was in a quandry as to how to lighten his cars weight. His Commodore had plenty of straightline power, but was carrying to much weight to be nimble enough to dance through the turns and maximise his power advantage. It seems this year John has found, if not all, surely a part of the answer, as his front grid qualifying and two seconds and a third place have given his championship aspirations an excellent boost. Hounded by the fire breathing twin RX7’s of the Ingram brothers sandwiching McKenzie at almost every turn, it was like a “red rose between two thorns”. Graeme Watts didn’t have it all his own way, but did get a pair of convincing wins.
Words and pics by Rob Annesley