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Sep 5, 2016

CRAILLSY'S PENRITE PREVIEW

 

It is kind of hard to believe that we’re already at the penultimate round of the 2016 Shannons Nationals presented by Penrite season, isn’t it?

It seems just moments ago that we were in the bright Autumnal sunshine at Sandown for the opening round of the nationals and a very busy race meeting. Now we head to Phillip Island for the second time this year and an event that will feel more like Sandown than our first trip to the Island in May.

That’s because this weekend is crammed full of races – 24 of them in fact – whereas our first trip was all about the long-distance stuff. None of the races this time around are more than 50 minutes long and a majority will be rushed through as quickly as a Formula 3 car goes through Turn 1.

Because there’s eight categories on the program, and because I type with two fingers and therefore agonisingly slowly, I’ve decided this column will feature the key drivers to watch in each category this weekend.

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Pirelli

The obvious names to watch are Jaxon Evans and the series leader Hamish Hardeman. Obvious because not only have they battled for the title lead all year, but on Saturday this weekend they’ll battle for the overall series crown.

Hardeman leads Evans 406 to 383 points heading into the three final races and should be very evenly matched at Phillip Island.

Evans will need to win outright to have any hope of snaring the title, but at the same time Hardeman can ill afford to be conservative. It’s hard to bet against the Sonic driver on home turf ... but with one-make Porsche racing, you just never know.

Australian Touring Car Masters Series

The Touring Car Masters make their Nationals return this weekend and amongst a grid of drivers all worth watching, the one I’ll be keeping an eye on closer than others will be local hope, Eddie Abelnica.

The Ford Falcon driver has quietly worked his way into second in the series coming into this weekend and has been on the podium three times from the five rounds so far this year. What’s more, Eddie was on the podium in all three races at Phillip Island last year, has twice finished second at the circuit and has been the most consistent driver on the grid for the last three years.

Eddie’s last TCM race win came at Bathurst in 2013, and he’s been on the podium 20 times in the 64 races since his last win. He is well due.

Australian Formula 3 Premier Series

I’ll be keeping a very close eye on the 15-year-old sensation that is Cameron Shields. He stormed to his first F3 victory at Queensland Raceway and, in the process, wrapped up the National class title.

With that out of the way, there’s no doubt that his focus will now be on sealing a few more outright victories, perhaps at the expense of outright title contenders Tim Macrow and Chris Anthony. Should be fun.

Kumho Tyre V8 Touring Car Series

The V8 Touring Cars are also back on the bill this weekend and it will be interesting to see if anyone can stop runaway series leader, Taz Douglas – who is re-setting the record books so far this season.

So it will be good to watch guys like Joshua Smith from Brad Jones Racing continue to show improvement and take the fight up to the former Bathurst 1000 podium finisher. The young man from Townsville has been very quick this year and as he builds race experience should morph into a regular podium contender, so keep an eye on the white-and-blue BJR VE.

Kerrick National Sports Sedan Series

The Kerrick Sports Sedans continue to be about the fight between the Alfa and the Audi at the pointy end, so instead I’m going to be watching local ace Michael Robinson on his home turf.

The Holden Monaro driver has been able to sneak his way into second in the series thanks to his consistency this year, but knows Phillip Island better than most. If Ricciardello’s luck turns, it could be Robinson, rather than Perkins, who takes the biggest advantage in terms of the series calculations.

Australian Sports Racer Series

It will be interesting to watch the progress of the Victorian-based Radical SR3s against the Wests at the pointy end, so on that note keep an eye on John Morriss. The heavier Radicals have struggled compared to the more nimble West’s at the tighter tracks, so Phillip Island should suit them just a little bit more.

CAMS Australian GT Trophy Series presented by Pirelli

After highly impressive results for the MARC Cars Australia entries in Australian GT Trophy, Phillip Island’s high speed and aero-favourable nature should see the GT3 vehicles in the field, with all their downforce and grip, back to the front of the grid.

Energised from his visit to the Spa 24 Hour with Audi earlier this year, it's likely Greg Taylor will make up for missing the round at Queensland Raceway to re-start his series tilt this weekend.

Superkarts Australia National Series

And finally, there’s the Superkarts, who make their first Nationals start this year.

It’s hard to pick one driver out of this grid, so instead I’ll name the guys likely to be at the front in their flying 250 international entries – guys like Russell Jamieson, Gary Pegoraro and Ilya Harpas, amongst several others. It’s always frenetic racing at Phillip Island so these races will be worth watching.

So, there you go. If you’re in Victoria head down to one of the world’s best circuits to catch the action.

If you’re not, get the live stream fired up on Sunday and interact with us on social media to join the fun.

Should be a cracker.

Craillsy.