An impressive field of entries assembled for the opening round of the eleventh season of Radical Australia Cup at Mount Panorama, with no less than three former champions holding seven titles between them entered, alongside a rising star, a part-time racing driver - who holds one of Australia’s most coveted entertainment awards - and one of Australia’s next great international hopefuls, all lining up for a chance to do battle on arguably the world’s greatest circuit.
Race #1 (45-minutes)
A 7:00am start was a shock to most as the field assembled on the dummy grid ahead of the opening race of the 2019 Radical Australia Cup, a race which would deliver one of the most challenging Bathurst’s in recent years.
Off pole position for the rolling start, Chris Perini led the field into turn one with Peter Paddon locked in just off his right rear wheel, Perini though prevailing in the drag race to turn two.
Behind them Neal Muston held out Simon Haggarty, whilst Brad Shiels held out a three-wide battle between Phil Anseline, Ed Singleton and a fast-starting Greg Kenny, but it was further back where trouble would strike after Michael Whiting locked a brake as he turned into turn one, sandwiched between Rowan Ross and Joey Mawson, the ultimate result of which was déjà vu for Whiting as he spun on the exit dropping to rear of field (a similar result to Whiting’s opening race at Bathurst in 2018).
Behind Whiting it was mayhem as cars took avoiding action, Mawson, Chris Medland and Aaron Love lucky to avoid contact, although Medland was forced down the grass losing wholesale positions to have to work his way back through the field.
Perini held Paddon at bay as long as he could, but was ultimately forced to relinquish the position to his rival, and then very quickly Brad Shiels who was charging through the field, the local driver working his way to the front, but with co-driver Grant Denyer unable to make the circuit due to on-air commitments, Shiels would be faced with a number of time penalties post-race by virtue of completing the distance alone as a Pro driver.
Unfortunately the team would be excluded post-race for a weight infringement, overshadowing an epic drive by the local star, who on the way he had also reset Peter Paddon’s 2017 lap record to a 2:12.0, the time though ultimately disallowed after the penalty, but for the local PMF Motorsport team of David and Stuart Pennells, they had shown they would be serious challengers for the win in race two.
Teenage rookie Aaron Love was having a great start to his maiden event in an SR3, the West Australian at one stage up to fifth before an intermittent electrical issue saw the car drop down the order, before being part of an incident with Michael Whiting at the final corner at the end of lap four. After passing Whiting for position, Love had dramas again with the electrics shutting things down as he came into the final corner, at the same time Whiting had a lurid spin on the exit and stalled sideways across the circuit. Love managed to refire the car and continue, whilst Whiting became the first retirement of the race.
That brought out the Safety Car, but the field lost just a lap before they were able to continue, and with the pit stop window now open, and under immense fire from Shiels, Paddon elected to immediately pit, as did Brad Neilson who would hand over to son Mitch who amazingly had arrived at Bathurst at 3:00am that morning after returning from overseas.
It was at this stage of the race, that returning 2011 champion Ed Singleton had a drama at the top of the mountain whilst holding down sixth position, the now heritage touring car competitor coming unstuck at the Dipper, damaging the right front of the car.
Just prior, Rowan Ross had suffered his own technical troubles coming down the mountain, the series veteran pulling the car to the inside of the circuit on the exit of Forrest’s Elbow, leaving officials two vehicles to recover.
With Paddon and Mitch Neilson having conducted their compulsory stops, and the bulk of the field left to complete theirs the lap after the second Safety Car period, they were the two teams in a box seat to take home a podium result, with Paddon the one most likely to add another SR3 victory to his already impressive tally of seven wins.
Sadly though fate would soon intervene despite Paddon driving comfortably off into the distance, a broken hose clamp on the cooling system dumping water which saw the engine temperature rise forcing the ECU to shut down the engine, handing a surprised Mitch Neilson an incredible lead of almost 60-seconds over Chris Perini.
With just a couple of laps to go, Perini charged gaining on Neilson at more than five seconds a lap but time was against him, although he initially crossed the line believing he’d won, having not realised the #38 had made the decision to stop immediately after the first Safety Car.
Neale Muston was ultimately classified third on his return to the Cup, although lamenting that a lack of recent miles in a Radical kept him from attacking the leaders, although he promised to make amends in the second race, whilst for Radical rookie Brenton Griguol, he started the event in fantastic form, taking an impressive fourth place despite having to pit twice, the first time by mistake, outside of the pit window.
After his early setback avoiding Michael Whiting, Chris Medland turned in one of his best Bathurst performances to be sixth ahead of Greg Kenny, whilst Simon Haggarty’s eighth was as a result of a 60-second penalty for pitting outside the window, a radio failure on the grid, and a subsequent setback with a backup system to advise him to pit, seeing him drop from inside the top four.
Bill Medland was ninth, a good recovery from a rear of field start which came as a result of being underweight at the end of qualifying, whilst Peter Clare and Joey Mawson were tenth, a result more reflective of the play of Safety Cars than the real pace of the #47 Shared Runway entry.
Despite his setbacks, Aaron Love was classified 11th with the fifth fastest time of the race, with the second of the PMF Motorsport entries of David Pennells and Matthew Windsor 12th, whilst Anthony Davis was classified 13th after coming down pit lane on the roll-around lap with a technical issue, losing almost a lap to the leaders in the process.
Race #2 (45-minutes)
As he had in the opening race, Chris Perini led the field away off the rolling start, holding Peter Paddon at bay on the run up Mountain Straight, but by turn two, the three-time champion was already leading and looking to break away from the field.
Behind the two leaders Neale Muston again started strongly holding out Simon Haggarty, Grant Denyer - who was having his maiden race in an SR3 - Brenton Griguol, Michael Whiting, Phil Anseline and Ed Singleton.
Sadly for 2011 RAC champion Singleton, he would again fall victim to the mountain, this time on the run into the Chase with a fast-starting Mitchell Neilson already into the top ten after starting rear of field [by virtue of not having been able to qualify] as they braked for the left-hander.
Embroiled in a battle with car-owner Phil Anseline, Singleton was close behind the #16 and looking to hold position as they went into the apex. Sadly for Neilson, he went right as he braked hard at the end of the flat-out right-hander, then immediately jumped left to try and dive up the inside of Singleton, but misjudged it to tag the left-rear of the #4 entry, spinning Singleton deep into the gravel trap and retirement.
That brought out the Safety Car to recover Singleton’s stricken SR3, whilst Neilson was able to regroup and join the pack although with missing right front bodywork, the contact though ultimately incurring a drive-through penalty soon after.
Off the restart Paddon again led the field away with Perini in pursuit, the race one runner-up staying close to Paddon’s tail to dive into pit-lane on lap six right behind the multiple Bathurst winner, eager not to make the mistake which cost him his maiden Bathurst win just 24 hours earlier by not pitting when Paddon had - a move which ultimately saw him lose wholesale ground with an early Safety Car intervention.
Perini wasn’t the only one to mirror Paddon’s early stop, Muston, Simon Haggarty and even Grant Denyer making their compulsory stop, Denyer handing over to fellow local Brad Shiels who was intent on taking the #216 PMF Motorsport SR3 to a new Bathurst lap record.
Having assumed the lead of the race, Aaron Love was in the next lap around to make his compulsory stop, the Team BRM driver finally able to show what he was capable of, the team having overcome electrical gremlins which had plagued him through qualifying and race one.
That left Peter Clare at the front of the field ahead of his stop, the Shared Runway driver unable to pit until he had completed more than 50% of the race to ensure that highly-rated team-mate Joey Mawson completed no more than half the race [RAC regulations don’t allow Pro drivers to complete more than 50% of race distance without incurring a penalty of an additional 15-seconds for every extra lap they circulate].
Whilst everyone was watching the fight for the lead, further back Brad Shiels had taken over the #216 entry from Grant Denyer and he was charging through the field searching desperately for clear air to go after the record, and within a couple of laps he was able to push. It started with a 2:12.4 - just shy of Peter Paddon’s 2017 race record of 2:12.2280, then fell to a sequence of sub-2:12s.. 2:11.9, 2:11.5, 2:11.5 then finally a 2:11.5252 on the 16th lap before hit pit lane again to hand back to Denyer, the team explaining that they wanted to ensure there was no chance Shiels had exceeded his 50% lap quota and lose them their new record (for the second time!).
With Mitch Neilson making the final pitstop, Peter Paddon returned to the lead, his DNF in race one ensuring that he was in to pit for just the minimum allocated time, whilst the Neilson’s incurred an additional 20-seconds for their race one victory, and Chris Perini 15 - leaving Paddon with an insurmountable lead, although with a charging Aaron Love in second, looking to make an impression.
Another driver charging was Chris Perini, the 2018 Cup runner-up trailing closely behind Neale Muston, but with Aaron Love approaching fast. Sadly for the race one second-placed finisher though, an electrical failure sidelined him on the main straight as he crossed the line to start lap 14 leaving him to retire and ponder what might have been - in shades of 2018..
With Love now third he made short work of Muston to move into second, the teenager putting in an incredible drive to close down Paddon’s lead, although with more than 30-seconds on his side of the ledger, he was more than safe enough to cross the line for his first win of the year and his eighth Bathurst victory in his last ten starts!
Muston crossed the line third with enough points to claim the round win, with Peter Clare earning fourth alongside Joey Mawson who set an impressive 2:12.8387 on the final lap.
Simon Haggarty was fifth having lost fourth to Mawson on the final rotation, whilst Michael Whiting was an impressive sixth, a strong recovery after an early spin costing him another strong run in the opening race. Adelaide’s Brenton Griguol was seventh, his result snaring him a share of third for the round on debut, with Bill Medland, Greg Kenny and Chris Medland rounding out the ten.
Anthony Davis was all smiles after claiming 11th, crossing the line clear of Grant Denyer, race one winner Brad Neilson and Rowan Ross.
“That was an outstanding way to start our eleventh season,” Radical Australia’s Chris Medland admitted afterwards. “From the racing, to the entries and the whole Radical pit area, the mood was very upbeat. All in all it was an exciting weekend, and we go in to the next round at ‘home’ at Sydney Motorsport Park on a high.”AUSTRALIA CUP