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Sep 16, 2013

LAP RECORDS CHASE SET FOR PHILLIP ISLAND

AN ALL-OUT fight for lap records is expected between some of Australia’s fastest racing categories during round seven of the Shannons Australian Motor Racing Nationals this weekend, at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit in Victoria.

Amongst a packed schedule featuring seven different classes, the three fastest national racing categories in Australia feature on this weekend’s program; the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship, Radical Australia Cup and Kerrick Sports Sedan Series.

Twice Gold Star champion Simon Wills holds the outright lap record at the island but the Formula 3 cars – and possibly the Radical Australia Cup racers - may have a shot at challenging his 1m24.2215s benchmark, set way back in the year 2000, if the weather and conditions suit.

A complete track resurface prior to the 2013 season has seen lap records tumble this year, five lap records falling in five categories on the Shannons Nationals first visit to the track this year in May.

Wills, who also tasted success in V8 Supercars, fondly remembers his record-setting speed at Phillip Island.

“In a Formula Holden, Phillip Island was an incredible place,” he said.

“We were doing over 260km/hr into turn one and with the aero those cars had, it was flat out. We would be averaging over 190km/hr each lap and it took a lot of commitment to go that quickly.

“It was pretty special to go that quickly at such an awesome circuit and after Bathurst, Phillip Island’s lap record is probably the most talked about in Australia. Because it’s such a challenging, fast circuit you know you’ve done a good job if you can hold onto a record there.”

Wills says he will be keeping a close eye on lap times this weekend to see if the latest open wheelers can challenge his impressive benchmark.

“We had had about 150 more horsepower than the F3 cars do now and were much quicker in a straight line, but the latest aerodynamics and more downforce mean they are probably quicker through the corners. I hope they don’t beat my time – but they should come close!”

The Formula 3 championship – the natural successor to Wills’ Formula Holden he raced to the outright mark 13 years ago – is the most likely to close in on the outright record as the series has been on a lap record-setting spree this season.

Across their five rounds contested to date, the ‘wings and slicks’ racers have set qualifying records at each event and set race lap records at four of the five – only missing out at Mount Panorama due to inclement weather during their main race.

The F3 lap record stands at 1m26.90s (held by Leanne Tander) however cars have gone quicker than that benchmark in unofficial testing already this year.

Former F3 champion James Winslow set the Radical Australia Cup benchmark at 1m25.92s in May this year on the debut of the V8-powered SR8s at Phillip Island, however F3 cars have proven to be slightly quicker than the more-powerful Radicals this year.

At Sydney Motorsport Park, a circuit with a similar high-speed nature to Phillip Island, F3 cars lap three seconds faster than the Radicals however that gap is expected to be smaller this weekend thanks to the Radicals horsepower advantage – key to fast lap times at the Island.

Most are predicting times in the low 1m25s for the Formula 3 cars this weekend, the cars already averaging in excess of 180km/hr across the 4.6km lap.

As well as Australia’s quickest open wheelers and sports racing cars (Radicals), the nation’s fastest ‘tin tops’ will also target stunning speed at Phillip Island this weekend.

Like Formula 3, the intensity at the top of the Kerrick Sports Sedan series this year has driven the category to set new lap records at many circuits this year – Darren Hossack and Tony Ricciardello re-setting the Queensland Raceway benchmark five times between the two of them in the series most recent round.

Hossack (Audi A4) holds the Phillip Island Sports Sedan lap record at 1m29.88s, a full 3.5 seconds faster than the V8 Supercars’ quickest ever race lap there.

In fact, the Sports Sedans join Formula Holden and Formula 3 – and an old-school Indy Car – as the only racing cars to lap under the 1m30s barrier in the circuit’s history.

This weekend’s seventh round of the Shannons Nationals is filled with speedy racing categories, the Australian Superkart Championship (1m32s), Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge (1m36s), Kumho V8 Touring Cars Series (1m37s), and the not-quite so fast yet always entertaining Australian Saloon Cars (1m50s) completing a massive, seven-category program this weekend.

Official practice, qualifying and racing gets underway this Saturday (September 21) with tickets available at the gate for $35 (weekend pass).

Sunday’s racing will be streamed live and free on the internet via www.thenationals.com.au