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Jul 20, 2016

MID-YEAR REPORT CARD

We’re into the second half of the 2016 Shannons Nationals season, which means it’s time to dust off the report cards and get a feeling of who’s racking up the good grades and who needs work harder this year for seven key Shannons Nationals’ categories.

We sent our Speedweek commentator Richard Craill into detention to do his homework and download on the series so far via a succinct summary on each class.

 

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Pirelli

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The year so far:

It’s been a tale of two classes in the GT3 Cup Challenge. At the pointy end, it’s been an enthralling fight between young-guns Hamish Hardeman and Jaxon Evans and the rapid development of Porsche junior driver, Jake Klarich. Then there’s the Elite class fight, which has exploded this year: Tim Miles has been consistently strong, but Dave Ryan, Sam Shahin, Newcomer Anthony Gilbertson and huge improver Jim Campbell have all taken trophies.

Biggest winner:

Hard to call in a field with this many storylines but the job Jake Klarich has done is impressive. In his first full year of car racing his improvement has been staggering: taking track improvement into account, he was at least one second per lap quicker in the series’ second visit to Sydney Motorsport Park in July this year, compared to the earlier visit at Rennsport in April.

Needs a change:

Dave Ryan has been hugely fast but hugely unlucky this year with either damage or mechanical dramas hurting his championship charge. There’s no doubt he is quick enough to race Elite leader Tim Miles when luck goes his way.

Key moment:

Jaxon Evans Race 2 DNF at Winton could be the key moment in the championship. It enabled Hamish Hardeman to pull a big lead in the series and in a championship this close, that could be absolutely critical and possibly slightly too hard to rebound from should Hardeman finish every race from here.

What the future holds:

Eyes will be first on Queensland Raceway for what should be a cracking conclusion to the Jim Richards enduro trophy, then to Phillip Island where it is likely Evans and Hardeman will fight for the title.

The short summary:

There are two guys doing all the winning, but their last-lap exchange in Sydney recently is proof these two will give no quarter. A thrilling showdown awaits!

 

Australian Formula 3 Premier Series


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The year so far:

Like many racing series, the story on paper doesn’t quite tell the full story of how this year’s Australian Formula 3 series has played out – but it’s hard to argue when the winners list has Tim Macrow on 10 and Chris Anthony on two. Double champion Macrow has been dominant and his one-lap and cold-tyre race pace has been the difference. When Anthony and his car are switched on, he’s probably fractionally faster (as shown at Winton) but stringing a consistent weekend together hasn’t been easy.

Biggest winner:

There’s two: Macrow remains as fast, aggressive and committed as ever but young-gun Cameron Shields probably is the underrated story here. Much like the advancement of Jake Klarich in the Porsche’s, the young man from Toowoomba has improved dramatically this year with an approach and attitude belying his youth. Shields could be an upset race winner later this year.

Needs a change:

Roland Legge. On raw speed it would be reasonable to suggest ‘Lightning’, as his team calls him, could be the quickest guy on the grid but his storming drives have been blighted by mechanical dramas and unforced errors. When it all comes together he will be hard to beat as he and the car are fast enough. Also, Chris Anthony: the only way he’s going to consistently beat Tim Macrow is by getting off the line better: starts (or lack thereof) probably cost him two wins at Winton.

What the future holds:

QR’s round will be key: on home turf for the Gilmour team Anthony and Shields could be hard to beat. One bad round for Macrow will swing the momentum and then the remainder of the year is on tracks we’ve already visited once so there won’t be an advantage to either party. Ipswich will be critical for Anthony’s title hopes.

The short summary:

The pressure is on the pursuers and Macrow is old and wise enough to deal with it, but a home win for Gilmour Racing in Queensland could swing the story to their advantage.

 

Kerrick National Sports Sedan Series

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The year so far:

Swings and roundabouts; Jack Perkins dominated at Round 1 (Sandown), won the first race at Round 2 (Winton) and then twice failed to finish races to end his winning streak at an unlucky 13 wins. This of course, handed the title lead and all the momentum to ‘ol nine-time champ Tony Ricciardello, who now leads Perkins by 90 points ahead of the third round at Queensland Raceway.

Biggest winner:

Consistency is king and if you can finish every race across a Sports Sedan season you’re probably going to be in contention for a title – that’s why Tony Ricciardello is now on top of the standings. Perhaps more impressively (after all, having Tony on top isn’t new) Stuart Inwood sits second outright in his Corvette and Michael Robinson fourth in his Monaro, just two points behind Perkins, thanks to racking up the finishes.

Needs a change:

Aside from Perkins’ failed components from Winton? It’s hard to say in a field so diverse and open but it would be fair to say that the biggest addition to the year would be welcoming back the likes of David Wall (second at Round 1), five-time champ Kerry Bailey and another young-gun in Dean Randle’s Kerrick Saab ... or perhaps Dean himself!

What the future holds:

QR will be critical: it’s fair to say the Audi has the outright speed advantage over the Alfa now but Ipswich has always been a great track for Ricciardello so it should be a great fight on the paperclip. It looks likely that while Ricciardello holds the lead, the final three rounds will feature a determined Jack Perkins hauling in the margin to set up a winner-take-all finale at Sydney later this year. The return of the Tamasi boys from Round 3 also adds more depth to a good field.

The short summary:

There has been plenty of incredible Audi versus Alfa fights over the years and the scriptwriters indicate there’ll be more of them before this year is done. He may be leading, but if Tony wants title number 10, he’s going to have to work hard for it.


Australian Production Car Series


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The year so far:

If you’re not in a BMW, it’s been rough going in the revamped Australian Production Car Series. Luke Searle and his mate Paul Morris have done a majority of the winning this year, taking the 4 Hour at Phillip Island and the second of two 250km races in Sydney. Meanwhile, Beric Lynton and Tim Leahey did the business in the first Sydney sprint, so it’s fair to say the Bavarians have done the business so far.

Biggest winner:

Clearly it’s the consistent performance of the Roadchill Express BMW. They’ve been stalwarts of the sport, the Searle’s, through Super Touring and now into Production Cars so it’s been great to see them get the success for their persistence. A tip of the hat also to the Lauren Gray Motorsport Toyota Echo duo of Ellexandra Best and Liam Thompson, who have two wins from three races to their credit in the smallest car in the field.

Needs a change:

When the Audi TTs get it all together, they are going to be very, very tough to beat – it just hasn’t quite stacked up yet for Mark Eddy and the Alfords. While it’s great to see the Karadimas Falcon out there and going better than ever … we need more Aussie muscle before it’s too late!

What the future holds:

All anyone could talk about at the end of the Sydney round that featured some inadvertent twilight running as the races ran into the Sydney dusk – was the proper night racing affair that is Queensland’s ‘Fight in the Night’. Now a staple of the season, the night race at QR has never-ever failed in the excitement stakes and always produces plenty of drama and head scratching in race control!

The short summary:

BMW drivers happy no matter the class. Class battles ongoing and if you’re in a Renault, Toyota 86 or Toyota Echo you’re probably happy.

 

CAMS Australian GT Trophy Series presented by Pirelli

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The year so far:

Greg Taylor has been impressive in his MPC-run Audi R8 LMS Ultra, while guys like Matt Turnbull (Lamborghini) and the MARC cars keep nipping at his heels. This is a growing category so it’s still establishing itself but a majority of the rounds so far have provided plenty of things to discuss.

Biggest winner

Whilst it’s hard to go past the performance of Taylor’s Audi, it’s great to see the MARC Cars competitive on an outright level. This all-Aussie Adventure has been a big factor in GT racing lately and the GT Trophy suits them to the core. Jake Camilleri’s outright win at Winton (admittedly after a Safety Car cost Taylor track position) was a superb result for one of the sport’s good guys and great teams, in Grand Prix Mazda.

Needs a change:

The brief, fleeting arrival of the Dodge Viper GT3 at Sandown was a tease! We want more of the big V10. It might be outclassed in the main classes now but GT Trophy is a perfect place for the thundering US car. More screaming Ferrari V8’s too, please!

What the future holds:

It’s hard to back anyone else other than Greg Taylor for this title but what will be interesting is to see how many more of the older-spec GT3 vehicles filter down into the Trophy series. It’s good bang-for-buck in terms of track time and exposure so hopefully we see more GT3Rs, 430GT3s and the like in the series. And the Viper. Definitely the Viper.

The short summary:

Building blocks this year for Australia’s third-tier GT category but it’s a promising start and will get better once the grids start to build towards 18-20 cats.

 

Australian Formula Ford Series


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The year so far:

Lots of change in Formula Ford this year thanks to a new calendar, a new tyre and an almost completely new driving roster – yet the competition remains the same breathtaking and thrilling kind of motor racing we’ve come to love over the decades. Jayden Ojeda leads the standings but is only five points ahead of Leanne Tander, who entering the half-way point to the series has been superb (as expected, if we’re honest) in her switch to Sonic.

Biggest winner:

Anyone who watched the final race at Sandown’s season opener would remember it was completely, utterly and brilliantly bonkers. That and the emergence of new talent like Ojeda, Boys, Vidau and Gibbons who have all been strong in places.

Needs a change:

The return to the Nationals at Round 3 will be great for Formula Ford as running with the state round in New South Wales saw it drop off the radar a little, but otherwise it’s hard to argue with what it has provided in terms of competition after just two rounds this year.

What the future holds:

The prospect of a bumper grid at QR for starters, not to mention the ongoing and rather compelling storyline of Leanne Tander taking on the youth around her in the championship fight. It’s not that Leanne is old (nor would we ever suggest that), but the tale of a mother of two taking on some 15 year olds for the championship is still pretty remarkable stuff.

QR is also a paradise for slipstreaming and four-wide racing in Formula Ford, too, so hold your breath.

The short summary:

He or she who is third is first: and he or she who is first may be third. But may also be fifth … or sixth. Such is the Formula Ford racing way!

 

Australian Sports Racer Series


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The year so far:

Sports Racer competition is a complete madhouse and that is its charm. There’s always so much going on at every single point of the circuit, and it’s hard to know where on earth to look. Roger I’Anson leads the standings ahead of Jason Makris and Radical racer Peter Johnston, but there really isn’t much in it. I’Anson will be hard to catch from here (if his newfound luck holds out) but otherwise, throw a blanket over ‘em.

Biggest winner:

Roger I’Anson. He’s been the fastest bloke in Sports Racer competition for years, but he had the worst luck of any driver in the last two seasons. His rebound at Winton where he dominated the weekend and swept to the championship lead was sensational.

Needs a change:

Defending champion Mark Laucke sits only 10th in the championship after two rounds and will need things to turn around quickly if he’s going to challenge for a second title this year.

What the future holds:

Last year at Queensland Raceway the Sports Racers produced perhaps the best final lap in the history of the Shannons Nationals, and it was one of about four thrillers the series provided last year. QR suits the F1000 cars perhaps more than any other track, so watch for more thrills and spills there.

The short summary:

Wests are 1-2, Radicals 3-4 and F1000 cars 5-6 in this year’s outright championship and it’s that diversity that makes the Sports Racer series one of the most enjoyable series to watch. Variety, if you’ll pardon the cliché’, really is the spice of life here.