The 2017 season of the SuperSport Series began at Goulburn’s Wakefield Park last weekend with a number of new Radical recruits making their competition debut in the open cockpit championship.
Chris Perini and Mitchell Neilson made their first Radical starts, Perini in the recently up-specced Radical SR3RSX of Radical Australia Cup front-runner Kim Burke, whilst Neilson was debuting his SR3RS, the pair joined by Peter Hills in his V8-powered SR8, the trio all looking to learn from the experienced RA Motorsports team led by former Renault-F1 engineer Chris Papadopolous.
Whilst practice gave the teams a chance to get a feel for the 2.2-kilometre 10-turn circuit - and their new mounts - qualifying provided their first big challenge, with Saturday morning dawning cold and damp, making the track surface just a little bit testy for the 9:00am session.
Reigning Series champion Darren Barlow took pole position in his Stohr from Chris Sutton in a non-RAC spec SR3, but it was the Radical newcomers who really excelled on debut. Neilson was an impressive third outright ahead of Peter Hills in the potent SR8, whilst Chris Perini was a conservative eighth, looking to save his push for the front until racing began.
Having not faced a standing start in his SR3 previously, Mitchell Neilson dropped back to fifth off the start, but he was very quickly back up to third with the fast-starting Perini right behind.
Peter Hills too was impressive, inheriting second from a spinning Sutton and pushing Barlow hard, but his impressive debut came to a premature end after a slower car on the final lap forced him onto the grass and he was unable to recover ahead of the chequered flag.
By then Sutton had regained P2 crossing the line just ahead of Neilson and Perini, both of whom had improved their lap times significantly, Neilson’s performance no doubt bolstered by a mid-race fight for third with the recovering Sutton.
Race two saw another Radical caught out early, this time rookie Chris Perini spinning on the roll-around lap before the start in an attempt to get some tyre temperature, dropping him from fourth to sixth.
Off the rolling start Barlow led early, with Mitchell Neilson impressing for third outright ahead of Peter Hills who finished without a rear wing after late race contact with a lapped car.
Arguably the highlight of the race was the battle between Neilson and Hills throughout the race, Neilson quicker in the 1500cc SR3 across the top, but falling to the might of the V8-powered SR8 on Wakefield’s two straights. Neilson ultimately made the decisive move a couple of laps from home, whilst Perini unfortunately struggled to find a consistent pace in the cool morning conditions, falling back to eighth at the flag.
Sunday afternoon’s ‘Trophy Race’ was the final event for the weekend and in warmer conditions Chris Perini excelled in the #68 SR3RSX storming from seventh on the opening lap to the podium on the final lap of the 15-lap feature.
Up front the experienced Barlow led the field away. Mitchell Neilson was initially third, having found the best way to keep Peter Hills behind him in the SR8, the SR3 rookie aided in the end by an error late in the race which saw Hills spin at turn three.
That brought out the Safety Car allowing the field to bunch up for a sprint to the flag and whilst that gave Neilson a chance to monster Sutton for second, contact with a lapped car damaged his left rear wheel and dropped him behind Perini for fourth.
Peter Hills ultimately recovered for tenth, with the new Radical drivers amassing some solid laps for the season ahead.
Round two of the SuperSports season is scheduled for RA Motorsport’s home venue at Sydney Motorsport Park on Saturday 29 April where a big field of Radical teams is expected to join the Series for valuable miles ahead of the Radical Australia Cup round at the circuit on 8-9 July.