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Nov 7, 2016

CRAILLSY'S PENRITE PREVIEW

 

SBS Speedweek commentator and good friend of the Shannons Nationals Richard 'Craillsy' Craill previews the final round of the Shannons Nationals presented by Penrite for 2016.

Isn’t it nice when you don’t know who is going to win a motor race?

That might sound like a silly line, given the variables that can occur throughout the heat of on-track battle, but a lot of motor sport this year has featured a lingering sense of inevitability that one of only two or three contenders are going to end up at the pointy end when the flag drops.

In Formula 1 it takes a miracle – or a fired up Daniel Ricciardo, at least – to beat the Mercedes-Benz duo. In the World Endurance Championship it’ll be an Audi or a Porsche and every now and then a Red Bull-like performance from underdog Toyota get them in front. Even Supercars, the bastion of open competition and the most competitive Touring Car grid in the world, has been something of a Triple Eight benefit in the second half of the year.

Fortunately this weekend’s Shannons Nationals presented by Penrite finale should deliver some unpredictability amongst the contenders in several key categories.

In a way, this weekend feels a bit like the end of a long-running TV series … there are plenty of plot threads still unresolved heading into the final episode, and you get the feeling that the main protagonists will be rushing about trying to put a neat bow on their particular storyline to ensure we don’t head into the off season on a cliff-hanger.

A stonking field in the Australian Production Car season finale is one of the big features of this particular episode.

With more than 30 cars on the grid, this field was already tasty but up the front there’s a real variety of potential victors that make this the most open enduro since Bathurst’s Easter affair earlier this year.

Firstly, it’s great to see Dylan Thomas and Stuart Kostera reunited and they’d be favourites, if it weren’t for the regular powerhouse combinations of Beric Lynton/Tim Leahey, Paul Morris and Luke Searle and the ever-present class B Beamers from Sherrin Racing.

But there is also some ring-ins who could prove very competitive indeed, starting with the rather excellent ex Adam Proctor Subaru-based combo of Carrera Cup ace James Abela, who will share with Formula Ford champion and 86 Series star Cameron Hill. A very good squad if there ever was one.

And speaking of the 6 Hour, how about the fact the mighty – seemingly ageless – 335i Turbo is back on track? It’s a great car, very reliable and still very fast and has a couple of handy drivers nominated too, in the form Leigh Burgess and one Matthew Brabham. And yes, before you ask, that Matthew Brabham, of Indy 500 fame.

Matty Brabs has proven his versatility this year, by tackling a 350kph IndyCar race one week and the next on a bumpy street circuit in a Jumpy truck, so the talented driver will be able to add another string to his bow this weekend by driving something completely different again.

Other names to watch are young-guns Kyle Alford (son of Tony) and Aaron Seton (son of Glenn) in a BMW 1M and Group A Sierra racer Carey McMahon joining Kyle’s Dad in the Donut King TT RS.

Of course there’s also the class battles throughout the field and also an underlying current of Family Feud, and I’m not talking about Grant Denyer’s TV show. I’m talking about the fact that this race is more family oriented than any other and if you don’t believe me, check the surnames on the entry list: Sherrin (Iain, Grant and Michael), Jarvis (Ashley and Paul), the other Jarvis’ (Rob and Alan), Seton (Aaron and Glenn) the Alford (Tony and Kyle) and finally, the Oosterhuizen clan (Daniel, Jacques and Roleof) and Heath (Graeme and Joshua).

Outside of the enduro there’s also plenty to discuss amongst the other grids.

While Tim Macrow has already clinched the Australian F3 Premier Series, the return of Jon Collins to the McDonald’s Gilmour camp is an interesting move. Collins has won plenty of races in his F3 career and along with young-gun teammate Cameron Shields has a very realistic shot at knocking off ‘ol three-time this weekend. Roland ‘lightning’ Legge has always been quick at SMSP in the past and should also be one to watch too.

In Sports Racers the return of Adam Cranston is the big story. Adam, of course, was the man sent skyward at Queensland Raceway earlier this year and has speedily recovered from his injuries to get back on the proverbial horse this weekend. He’ll actually have a good shot at winning, too, as he’ll drive Aaron Steer’s very new and very fast West LMP4 this weekend.

Tony Ricciardello has locked up title number 10 in the Kerrick Sports Sedans so can go about his business this weekend with no worries about points or title pressure – so expect to see the little Alfa unleashed at a circuit where it has always been competitive. Jack Perkins, meanwhile, won’t want to be aiming for second – but making up enough points to secure that spot in the standings will undoubtedly be his aim. Those watching on the other hand won’t care a thing about points and just want another Audi-versus-Alfa epic to end the year.

Finally it’s great to have the Superkarts back. It seems unfathomable how these things are so quick for their relative size and power but they’re always great fun to watch and proof that there are plenty of people – racing on two wheels and four  – who put more faith in leather onesies than I have the courage to!

It should be a good weekend and even though it’s the last episode of the year, there’s one thing for certain: as soon as the credits roll we’ll already be plotting the Shannons Nationals plot twists and turns for 2017!