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Jun 24, 2016

CRAILLSY'S PENRITE PREVIEW

 

Victoria, you’ve had your share! Sydney – it's now your turn for some Shannons Nationals presented by Penrite action for 2016.

It’s remarkable that; a) it’s basically already July, and b) we’re only heading to New South Wales for the first time this year but that’s the way the 2016 calendar cookie crumbled.

No matter – Sydney Motorsport Park is a great place and worthy of the big weekend of racing that should be delivered this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Ignore the critics: the 3.9km venue in the west is a terrific place to watch racing.

If it’s raining, you can sit in the fully covered grandstand and know you’ll not get a drop on you all day or, even better, you can sit in the ARDC’s excellent ‘garage’ café above the pits. Generally, if I’m not in the commentary box or the media room that’s where you’ll find me. The hamburgers are excellent.

And if it’s sunny, the old Eastern Creek delivers some of the better vantage points in the sport.

I think the most trick-place to watch from is at the back of the skidpan behind the pit and paddock area. Here, you can see the cars crest the rise over the infield tunnel and tackle the challenging change of direction that makes up turns four and five.

This flowing and deceptively quick bit of road has claimed some cars in its time and things like braking points, turn in markers and how you balance the change of direction mid-way through the complex seem open for interpretation by different drivers. Sometimes it’s spectacular to watch.

The different categories on offer at Round 4 make the turn four-five complex even more interesting.

Through Turn 4 a Production Car – for instance – is going to be a bit of a handful. It will slide, the rear-wheel-drive cars especially. Because the cars run a grooved tyre they don’t carry the mid corner speed of a Porsche or an open wheel car so it’s much more of a juggling act for the drivers to manage.

It will be different from car to car in the twin, 250km enduros too.

The front-drive cars with their tendency to understeer probably don’t like this complex as much as, say, a four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Lancer EVO: Those things point, squirt and go. It will be interesting to watch the contrast during the first few sessions.

The 20-car field for this weekend’s second APCS round is a corker. Watch for triple champ Stuie Kostera in an Audi TTRS, Aaron Seton in a BMW 1M and ‘The Dude’ Paul Morris in Luke Searle’s BMW, amongst some other tasty combinations like Rick Bates / Bob Pearson in an EVO and Dean Fiore / Mark Eddy in another Audi. Oh, and the omnipresent Sherrins in their BMW ... plenty of contenders in this one!

Meanwhile, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Pirelli represents an altogether different challenge through the quick right-left that brings you past the new pit and paddock area for the short track.

Compared to a Production Car, the purpose-built Porsche’s brake later and carry so much more corner entry into four – but its mid-corner where the Cup Cars find themselves on the knife’s edge.

The long exit of the corner coupled with the need to keep steering across to the other side of the road to position the car for Turn 5 means it’s easy to spin here – the pendulum effect takes place and the rear-engined Cup Car will send you firmly into the outside wall.

You can tell when that sharp, metallic ‘bwraaap’ from the exhaust is just a little too much and the tortured scream from the Pirelli’s take over as the car pivots backwards on corner exit.

A visit to Steve at the Porsche’ spares parts truck will be the next thing on the agenda.

Finally we bring ourselves to the cars with grip, traction and downforce.

Fans of these kinds of cars – both LeMans-style Sports Cars and wings ‘n slicks open wheelers – will enjoy this weekend because not only are the Radical Australia Cup cars on the program, so are both Formula 4 and Formula 3.

Now I’ve been around Sydney Motorsport Park in an ‘aero’ car – a Radical SR8 driven by double Australian Drivers’ Champion James Winslow – and I think my neck is still recovering, despite the ride occurring several years ago now. Just as you have your muscles tensed up to survive a 185km/h right-hander at Turn 4 your head is already tilted firmly the other way for Turn 5, such is the rapidity of the directional change. It’s very cool.

Aero cars are very cool here. It’s one of those great corners that isn’t ‘quite’ flat – but on good tyres and in qualifying trim the brave drivers have a proper go. But the most impressive thing is the point these cars have – the way they can flick themselves across to drivers’ right and get the entry into Turn 5 as wide as possible. Watching it from behind, standing against the wall, the quick dart across the road is like – well – I don’t actually have an appropriate metaphor to describe it.

Anyway, I hope this gives further reason to head out to the ‘Creek this weekend. Be it coffee in the garage, the amplified sound of a race start from within the gigantic boom-box that is the SMSP grandstand or watching racing cars and drivers work extremely hard through turns four and five, it’s a good place to go and watch racing cars race.

And there’ll be plenty of that this weekend.

Craillsy