Perini stands tall after epic Radical season finale in NZ
October 9, 2019
Radical Australia set to tackle The Bend for the first time
April 9, 2018
Rnd#2, The Bend Motorsport Park, South Australia
(13-15 April February, 2018)
It’s not often that a category with a storied history like the Radical Australia Cup gets to pave new territory, but that’s exactly what the 2018 title contenders will achieve this weekend with the very first running of the impressive new ‘The Bend Motorsport Park’ in South Australia.
At 7.7-kilometres in length, it is the second longest permanent racing facility in the world - behind the famed Nurburgring in Germany - however for the Radical Australia Cup competitors, the 4.95-kilometre variation will be employed, but either way the new venue will present more than a few challenges just coming to grips with the variety of corners, in a layout designed very much around testing drivers and their ability to adapt at speed.
It feels like an eternity since the opening round of the season presented us with what could well be a title battle that will go all the way down to the wire, with the emergence of Radical Australia Cup rookie Chris Perini who was a sensation on his debut at Mount Panorama back in early February, taking the fight right up to three-time champion Peter Paddon, a driver who won nine of ten rounds in season 2017.
Paddon opened his season account at Bathurst with his seventh consecutive SR3 win on the Mountain, but not before Perini had forced the reigning title holder to drive perhaps harder than he has at any stage across the last 12-months, although ultimately Perini fell just half a second short of the win.
Paddon’s experience saw him again lead the early laps at Bathurst in race two with Perini going from attack to defence with his mirrors full of a revitalised Kim Burke who’s team had transformed the setup of his car overnight.
New-for-2018 regulations saw Paddon stop longer than his rivals as the teams hit pit road for their mid-race compulsory pit stops, rejoining behind Burke who had assumed the race lead after Perini had ultimately retired after an off at the top of the mountain whilst trying to open up an advantage ahead of his stop.
In the end, Burke was too strong for the closing Paddon, ending a winning run Paddon had enjoyed at Bathurst for almost four years.
With Perini’s car repaired and motivation renewed, he and Paddon will no doubt carry on the rivalry that began brewing from opening practice at Bathurst, whilst Burke’s pace in the second race at Mount Panorama showed true title potential, the Sydney-sider admitting that season 2018 is all about the championship.
With a clean slate meeting the Radical competitors at The Bend, the bulk of the field will start without any prior experience of the new state-of-the-art circuit, however there is one high profile returnee that might just start with an advantage - one of the men behind the fantastic new facility - Yasser Shahin.
Shahin will form of a strong partnership, with the return of popular Radical driver coach James Winslow, who will make his return to competition after a big accident in 2017 during the Gulf 12 Hour in Dubai when brakes failed him in his LMP3 prototype at 240kph. That saw the Englishman hospitalised with a fractured spine, however he has been on the road to recovery ever since and will make a welcome addition to the field.
The second round will see the return of a number of teams, including Simon Haggarty who was a late scratching at Bathurst and a driver who likes the close combat of RAC, whilst 2017 Cup ‘Rookies of the Year’ Brad and Mitchell Neilson will be hoping that a new venue might just open up an opportunity for a return to the podium, just as they did during their cameo appearance at Sydney Motorsport Park last season.
Bill Medland is another who has shown an ability to adapt to new challenges quite quickly, his run at Highlands at the close of the 2017 season one of the highlights of the season.
With Tony Haggarty enjoying his second year behind the wheel of the new SR3RSX, Michael Whiting coming off an impressive run at Bathurst and reigning SuperSports champion Rowan Ross taking some time behind the wheel of the 2018 SuperSport season-opener at Sydney Motorsport Park recently, there will be a number of drivers ready to make an impression at The Bend.
Throw in passionate Cup competitors Sue Hughes, Peter Clare and Greg Kenny, and you have a great field of drivers that will be sure to take in the whole Bend experience on the Series’ debut at the impressive new facility, a facility for which former RAC regular Yasser Shahin played a fairly integral part.
Unlike Bathurst, the teams will get a good chance to turn laps at the new facility, with three 20-minute sessions scheduled across Friday, ahead of an early qualifying session on Saturday morning, and the first 50-minute race at 10:50am. The second race is scheduled for the cooler morning air on Sunday morning with an 8:00am start which will be streamed live on the Shannons Nationals website.
52. William Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX)
56. Greg Kenny (Radical Australia SR3RS)
68. Kim Burke (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX)
81. Chris Perini (GWR Radical SR3RSX)
88. Rowan Ross (Radical Australia SR3RSX)
Championship Points (after one round of six)
1. Peter Paddon (74-points), 2. Kim Burke (70), 3. Nick Kelly (51), 4. Nicholas Stavropolous (47), 5. Tony Haggarty (38), 6. Chris Perini (35), 7. Phil Anseline (34), 8. Michael Whiting (34), 9. Bill Medland (31), 10. Chris Medland (30), 11. Peter White (27), 12. Peter Clare (27), 13. Sue Hughes (24), 14. David Crampton (21), 15. Rowan Ross (20), 16. Greg Kenny (10)