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Apr 11, 2014

RAC ROUND 2 SANDOWN

Round two of the 2014 Radical Australia Cup saw our competitors rejoin the Shannons Nationals for their first event of 2014, at Melbourne’s historic Sandown Raceway. It would be horsepower of a different kind as the SR3 and SR8 competitors continued their championship battles from Bathurst’s round one.

The promise of a fantastic weekend of racing lay in store from the off, with established series favorites Neale Muston (SR8) and Michael Shaw (SR3) ousted to pole positions in each of the qualifying sessions. Tim Berryman began to deliver on the promise shown last season, snaring pole for both races by less than two hundredths of a second each time with last gasp runs. A resurgent John Corbett also looked strong from the outset, taking third for both races and less than .6 of a second off the leaders.

In SR3, the poles were shared by Oliver Smith, fresh off a disappointing weekend in Bathurst, and Kim Burke, who was elated to score his first career RAC pole position. Wily veteran Peter Johnson made consistent runs to qualify 3rd and 2nd respectively, while Peter Paddon and series rookie John Morriss did well to take the final top three spots.

Race one saw Muston establish his superiority from the off, leading into turn one after a quick rolling start. The battles however were being fought with a vengeance in the SR3 class as Sandown ’ s characteristic long straights and slow corners resulted in exciting slipstreaming battles right throughout the field. It quickly became one of the closest and fairest battles in RAC history, with pit stop time sure to be crucial in shaking up the order. Uncharacteristic mistakes saw Berriman lose time, with John Corbett and Chris Medland capitalizing on lap 9. On the same lap, series rookie Adam Newton collided with Michael Shaw, ending the rookie ’ s race and delaying Shaw as he battled to hold onto the leaders.

When the pit stop window opened they began thick and fast, with John Corbett, Peter White and Robert Baird playing the long game and being the last to pit. Controversy struck the SR3 race with pole sitter Oliver Smith penalized for a pit lane infringement - he would recover to finish 5th.

At the flag it was Neale Muston who finished a strong first in SR8, followed by exceptional performances from both Corbett and Medland. Berryman recovered to finish 4th followed by Peter White and Greg Smith.

In the SR3 battle it was Peter Johnson who emerged victorious, courtesy of a strong consistent run. Simon Haggarty bounced back from qualifying 10th to take an impressive second ahead of Peter Paddon. Other results to note include rookie John Morriss in 4th and series favorite Michael Shaw recovering to 7th.

Race two was to be very different from the full green flag run that characterized race one. Again Muston led from the off in SR8, but this time it was a much more composed Berriman that slotted in behind. Safe in the knowledge that Muston ’ s longer stop would aid him, he settled in for the long haul behind the #1 Excalibur Racing machine.

In the SR3 class, multiple front runners took big risks in the set up department, changing to low drag aero configurations to maximise the top speed of their machines. Coaches Josh Hunt, Karl Reindler and Nathan Antunes played a big part in these calls, increasing the top speed of the SR3 by up to 8km/h in a straight line at the expense of lower corner speed. It proved to be a strong call, with the two most extreme examples of Simon Haggarty and Oliver Smith competitive from the outset. Peter Johnson was a victim of first corner chaos, the race one winner spinning from the top three but was able to resume.

It was a race marred by two lengthy safety car periods that stretched into the pit stop window, bunching up the field and emphasizing the difference in pit stop timing. Tim Berryman showed that patience can pay off, capitalizing on a long success penalty for Muston to spring into the lead. Muston was on fire, closing on John Corbett who again was impressing with a strong podium performance.

Congestion on the pit entry delayed many drivers - among those affected were Shaw, Simon Haggarty and Peter Johnson. Robert Baird emerged from the pits in the SR3 class lead, though he wouldn ’ t have it easy with Oliver Smith closing in his low-drag configuration. After a couple of failed attempts, he found his way past on the long back straight and pulled into a very small lead. The surprise of the race however was Tony Haggarty, outpacing many more fancied opponents to emerge from the pitstops in third position. It was a return to form for the father of series front runner Simon, finding his feet for the final race of the weekend.

And that was how it finished, Tim Berriman taking the win in SR8 from series Champion Neale Muston, followed by a continually impressive John Corbett in third. Peter White retired a couple of laps from the end but that didn ’ t stop Chris Medland and Greg Smith from filling the top 5.

Oliver Smith won by less than a second from a resurgent Robert Baird, with a popular result seeing Tony Haggarty back on the podium with an excellent drive. Michael Shaw and Simon Haggarty finished out the top 5, with Kim Burke, Peter Paddon, Rowan Ross, Peter Johnson and Sue Hughes finishing up the top 10. Unfortunate retirements for the Richmond / Newton combination, Michael Whiting and John Morriss rounded out the field.

Overall, a weekend of excellent, tight racing which bodes well for round three!