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Nov 21, 2012

RACES OF THE YEAR - PART ONE

THERE has been some sensational racing across the eight rounds of the Shannons Nationals presented by Hi-Tec Oils this year, but we wanted to find out which ones stood out as the very best of the bunch before this weekend’s grand finale offers up any chance to add to the list.

So, we put our collective heads together, came up with a shortlist and then collated the nominations into the list you see here – a list of eight pretty sensational races that aren’t just good for a Shannons Nationals round;  they’d stand up at any race meeting in the world as great races.

Here are our first four – with the remainder to come tomorrow!

Compiled by Richard Craill, Garry O’Brien and Darren Smith. Photos by Nathan Wong.

KERRICK SPORTS SEDANS – Queensland Raceway, Race 3.


THIS was a great motor race between two great drivers and two great cars. As he had done in each of the previous races, Tony Ricciardello erupted into the lead at the start of the final race of the weekend, his Alfa GTV sweeping around the outside of Darren Hossack’s Audi on the run into turn one.

Hossack was, that weekend, the faster of the two but with track position Ricciardello was going to make it tough to pass. And tough he made it; In one of the best displays of close, hard, combative yet ultimately clean racing seen all season, the two arch rivals went at it in a battle that lasted for ten of the twelve scheduled laps.

Hossack would power alongside down the back straight but with Ricciardello on the inside it was always going to be tough for the two-time champ to pass the seven-time champ. They would then switch sides – running side-by-side to turn four before repeating once again on the run to six. For nearly one full lap – turns one and two aside – the pair were level. It was epic stuff.

Ultimately, Hossack was able to make his move but both were winners in a day that offered up one of the finest races yet seen at a Shannons National’s round.

AUSTRALIAN MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP – Queensland Raceway, Race One.


THEY say to make an exciting motor race, ‘just add water’. We say ‘just turn out the lights’.

In a Shannons Nationals first, the Hydraulink 400 ‘Fight in the Night’ for Production Cars and put them on Queensland Raceway once the sun had gone down. With the circuit in darkness and pockets of temporary lighting spotting the apexes of each turn, on spectacle alone this was a winner.

Fortunately the on-track product also lived up to expectation because this was also a sensational motor race. Garry Holt led early in his brand-new EVO X Lancer but was playing the fuel game this race, the always cagy Sydneysider rolling the dice on a one-stop strategy against the majority of his rivals’ two.

The Eastern Creek Karts entry stopped on lap 20, Holt handing over to Ryan McLeod who would once again showcase his substantial talent with a ripper drive. In a race that ebbed and flowed between the leading Mitsubishi’s, it all came to a head in closing 15 laps.

On lap 52 – of 65 – McLeod passed Dylan Thomas for the lead but the game wasn’t done yet - after conserving fuel to ensure enough in the tank for a sprint to the finish, Thomas charged and began to close on the lead the car had once had. Despite breaking the lap record on lap 62, they fell short by just one-point-five seconds. Garry Holt and Ryan McLeod had won the first ‘Fight in the Night’, and it was a beauty.

AUSTRALIAN GT CHAMPIONSHIP – Sydney Motorsport Park, Race Two


THERE is nothing better when a couple of very good racing drivers, in very good cars, have a very good stoush for the lead.

This is what occurred in the closing laps of the second AGT one-hour race at in July.

Oh, it was good stuff. John Bowe had taken over the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 earlier in the race (after a very strong opening stint from Peter Edwards) and had gone into Simonsen-mode, chasing down the leading cars in an effort to give Ferrari a rare win in Australian GT.

The Prancing Horse hadn’t won in Aussie GT since 2008, believe it or not, so the stakes were high; but it would be a challenge. In fact, it would be two challenges; one in the form of Klark Quinn and one in the form of Peter Hackett.

Klark was first and he wasn’t going to make it easy, no way. A great fight ensured between Porsche and Ferrari with the pair side by side for a sequence of four corners and right on the ragged edge.

However, ultimately, Bowe was through and in pursuit of Hackett, who had built himself a comfortable lead – but it would become distinctly uncomfortable very rapidly.

These were two very evenly matched cars and it wasn’t going to be easy for Bowe to work his way past the leading Merc, which is perhaps why he needed to make it a move that would stick.

So, John, what to do? Right: get a good run out of turn five and look for an opening, an opportunity at turn six with a car width on the inside of the bright chrome SLS. Late braking, turn in – contact.. don’t worry, it’s OK. Nothing too bad. The car’s fine. Throttle hard down. V8 sings. Hold on, just two laps left. Take the flag. Get a win!

Marvellous.

RADICAL AUSTRALIA CUP – Sydney Motorsport Park, Race Three.


THIS race is proof at how an ordinary, everyday kind of enduro can turn into a thriller in the space of just a few minutes.

For much of the opening round of the Radical Australia Cup, it looked unlikely that anyone was going to catch home-track boy Neale Muston. He had been dominant and looked the goods to bring home the bacon in the one-hour finale that completed the opening round of the 2012 championship.

But never bank on a motor race like that to end the way you expect.

Factor in some gear shift issues on Muston’s rig and a charging, flying and highly committed Ed Singleton (the reigning champion, remember), and you are set up for a cracking fight to the flag. It came down to the last lap, this race, with the two all but exchanging paint though turns 11 and 12 of Sydney’s 3.9km final lap. In the end it was Muston who held on – but this was a race that set the tone for an altogether extremely competitive RAC title this year.

Stay tuned to thenationals.com.au for Part Two, tomorrow!