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Jul 25, 2016

CRALLSY'S PENRITE PREVIEW

 

Around September and October each year the motor sport community sits down in a circle, holds hands and thinks universally good thoughts to the hopefully benevolent god of motor sport scheduling.

Now this particular deity has, quite understandably, a lot on his or her plate. Not only do they set our destiny for the following 12 months, they also work diligently to try and keep everyone happy by making sure we continue to head to Darwin and Townsville in Winter and places like Phillip Island when the weather starts to get a little warm.

Generally I think our scheduling gods make some good calls – going to Winton in the middle of Winter proves it has a sense of humour, too – and one of the things our holy calendar has done particularly well is the current two-week stretch of racing at Queensland Raceway.

Not only is a fortnight in the sunshine state a welcome respite from those of us from colder climates, it’s also a nice opportunity to slip down to the Gold Coast and spend a day or two in between events luxuriating on a sun lounge whilst sipping an amber-coloured beverage or two.

Of course, there’s the racing as well and QR tends to produce quite high quality levels of it.

It’s a simple layout the Ipswich venue, but the combination of slow corner into long straight into slow corner going the other way generates overtaking opportunities and I expect plenty of that at this weekend’s fifth round of the 2016 Shannons Nationals presented by Penrite.

There are seven categories on the schedule this weekend and at this race meeting more than any other on the entire calendar – Shannons round or otherwise – there’s a variety of racing cars like nothing else.

The last three years has seen one of the most iconic races on the Shannons Nationals schedule take hold, namely the annual ‘Fight in the Night’ for the Australian Production Cars.

Held on the Saturday evening into a usually clear if slightly cool Saturday evening, the ‘FITN’ (which is an acronym I have just invented) has become a staple of Australia’s production car year. It’s become iconic for a couple of reasons, the least of which is that it’s actually a proper night race – unlike the likes of the Abu Dhabi or Singapore Grands Prix for example. There’s no major lighting at QR, so small patches of light illuminating every corner break up an otherwise perpetually dark 3.1km circuit.

It’s also had a knack of producing incredible racing – the best of which was a few years ago when Ryan McLeod, driving Garry Holt’s Mitsubishi, and Glenn Seton (driving Bob Pearson’s) staged an almighty scrap in the closing stages.

This year’s race is longer than ever and with a growing Australian Production Car field it should be another great chapter in the history of the event.

As I said, there’s something for everyone on this weekend’s program and open wheel fans will get a treat as well.

Not only does the battle for the Australian Formula 3 series continue, but also this weekend the Australian Formula Ford Series returns to the Shannons Nationals program for the second time this year.

I’m told that an influx of FF1600cc cars will bolster an already strong grid to take the field to over 25 cars. QR is a slipstreaming paradise for the Formula Fords; so make sure you’re watching. It could be very intense indeed.

The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Australia presented by Pirelli gets a second milestone round in a month: having knocked up 50 rounds last time out at Sydney Motorsport Park the series will this weekend stage its 150th championship race – a great milestone for the Porsche series.

Ironically, that milestone race will also be the decider for the 2016 Jim Richards Endurance Trophy and in a scriptwriters dream, has Jaxon Evans and Hamish Hardeman tied on points going into the final one-hour sprint. Could be fun if they’re nose to tail going into the final lap if what happened last time is anything to go on.

Then there’s the CAMS Australian GT Trophy Series – where the locally-based MARC Cars Australia entries will continue to try and knock off the GT3 weapons – and the Australian Sports Racer Series that last year provided one of the best races of the entire season at QR, including three lead changes on the final lap.

The Kerrick Sports Sedans are back and offer up some compelling storylines, with Jack Perkins now looking to go on the offence after missing out in two of the three races at Winton and handing a nice championship lead to nine-time champion Tony Ricciardello.

The return of five-time champ Kerry Baily, an upgraded Mustang for Phil Crompton and a host of other strong cars should provide for some quality, if somewhat thunderous racing.

So there you have it. What will probably be the biggest round of the Shannons Nationals year and certainly one that offers up the most for all kinds of racing fans.

Whilst we’re at QR luxuriating in bright sunshine and ignoring messages from home about how bad the weather is down South, we have the gods of motor sport scheduling to thank for this wonderful two week winter stretch with our Banana bender friends.

Amen to that!

Craillsy