A number of Radical Australia Cup regulars shook off the winter blues at Goulburn’s Wakefield Park over the weekend, joining the penultimate round of the NSW SuperSeries for three hotly contested races, many of them preparing for the forthcoming RAC final at Sydney Motorsport Park in two weeks time.
Ultimately no one - not even returning RAC champion Peter Paddon - could stop SuperSports points leader Mitch Neilson from a trio of wins to all but put the state series championship out of contention ahead of the season finale in November.
Despite the colours of Spring in the surrounding region, the nearby snowfields were continuing to experience solid falls on the ski slopes, making ambient conditions at Wakefield particularly chilly, something which was making extracting tyre temperature a challenge for many of the teams, especially with qualifying scheduled for first thing Saturday morning.
Typically the faster Class 2 cars claimed the front row of the grid for the first of the 14-lap races, but Mitch Neilson showed impressive pace just a quarter of a second slower than Alex Kenny who would go on to win all three races outright, Neilson’s pace so good that he was half a second faster than three-time RAC champion Peter Paddon who was returning after a six month sabbatical.
The action started early in the opening race with Greg Kenny turned around on the formation lap, forcing the starter to abort their first effort and Kenny to start from rear of field.
Once the green was given the action continued at turn one with Paddon turning around the ‘First Focus’ entry after putting two wheels on the grass on the run into the corner chasing Neilson. That left Neilson clear in the Class 1 lead with the impressive Peter Clare second but in a tight battle with Chris Sutton, John Beck, Chris Perini and Peter Hills who once more was charging through the field from the back in the SR8.
Clare held on brilliantly until lap nine when Sutton and Perini were able to take advantage of a gap and drop the ‘Shared Runway’ driver back to fourth, Hills following through the next lap to take sixth at the line, Clare though hanging on for fourth in Class behind Neilson, Sutton and Perini. It wasn’t all bad news for Peter Paddon, the reigning RAC champion setting the fastest lap of the race for the Class 1 field three laps from home as he caught and passed Paul Braico ahead of the flag for seventh.
Chris Sutton was the big mover early in race two, charging past Neilson into turn one as Stephen Champion spun as he battled further back in the pack. A Safety Car intervention then allowed the field to tighten ahead of the restart which allowed the charging Peter Paddon up onto the tail of Neilson, Neilson though focussed on regaining the lead as they were given the green.
Sutton protected but ultimately couldn’t stop Neilson from moving back to the top spot in the final corner, the points leader extending his advantage across the remainder of the race as behind him, Sutton battled Paddon, Perini and John Beck through the middle of the race.
Paddon was ultimately able to get past Sutton on the main straight, but try as he might he couldn’t breach the gap to Neilson who crossed the line five seconds clear. Behind them though things were starting to get interesting..
Chris Sutton’s great run sadly ended coming out of turn two with four to go whilst still holding third, whilst Perini came off the track at the ‘Fish Hook’ filling the car with mud and water from the outfield, which ultimately contributed to a spin with two laps to go whilst he was third.
That handed the returning John Beck the final podium position behind Neilson and Paddon with Peter Clare locked under his rear win. Paul Braico was fifth from Greg Kenny whose consistency maintained his second placing in the Class 1 points, whilst Perini recovered to cross the line seventh ahead of Champion.
Ultimately the final race was relatively pedestrian in comparison to the two earlier races, the two Class 2 cars claiming a 1-2 finish, whilst Mitch Neilson claimed his third win of the weekend after weathering an attack from Paddon at turn one on the opening lap, from there he was able to pull away to another five second win. Peter Clare impressively crossed the line just two seconds behind the three-time RAC title holder and six seconds up on John Beck, Chris Perini fifth ahead of Paul Braico, Greg Kenny and Stephen Champion.
As a result of another strong weekend, Mitch Neilson has all but sealed the 2018 SuperSports Class 1 title heading to the season finale at Sydney Motorsport Park on November 17, his consistency so good that he’s also jumped into the SuperSports outright points lead with just three races remaining.
For the Radical Australia Cup regulars, they will return to action in less than two weeks for the final round of the 2018 season, at Sydney Motorsport Park (21-23 September).