Heading into the third round of the 2018 NSW SuperSports Series at Goulburn’s Wakefield Park, the focus was very much on the emerging title fight between rookie entrant John Beck and reigning Radical Australia Cup ‘rookie-of-the-year’ Mitch Neilson for Class 1 honours.
Beck had been a revelation at Sydney Motorsport Park during the opening rounds of the season with some stunning qualifying efforts, and the Vantage Property SR3 pilot stunned the field again by achieving the same during qualifying at Wakefield Park on his debut at the circuit - although unlike many of his rivals, he prepared by spending Friday completing practice laps.
With three races scheduled across the weekend, Beck knew he had it all in front of him against the experienced Neilson who came into the round as the series leader, the two drivers though separated by just 11 points, with reigning Class 1 champion Rowan Ross just ten points further back, although the veteran would not be at Wakefield Park this time, paving the way for a new challenger to enter the title battle.
Despite cool conditions, race day dawned fine but sadly for John Beck, in spite of his outstanding qualifying effort, he miss-shifted on the exit of the fast turn one right hander off the rolling start and was swamped by the field on the exit of the corner, dropping to rear of field.
Up front Mitch Neilson had inherited second position, but was soon under fire from Peter Hills who started at the tail end of the field in his V8-powered SR8 after completing limited laps in qualifying, the faster Class 3 car ultimately working his way through on the main straight on his way to second, although not without his own issues. Sadly for Hills an oil leak emerged over the closing laps, a problem which would ultimately force an early shower and his retirement from the round.
Whilst Neilson spent much of the opening race in third, John Beck showed he’d lost none of his impressive qualifying pace to work his way forward and ultimately take Neilson for position a couple of laps from home, reducing the points deficit to the Class 1 leader heading into race two.
Paul Braico was an impressive fifth (and third in Class 1) ahead of Stephen Champion, Wakefield rookie Darren Kurzok and Greg Kenny who suffered an issue late in the race allowing race leader Barlow to lap him just ahead of the chequered flag.
The Class 1 title battle went up another notch off the start of race two, with Neilson and Beck making contact on the run through turn one, forcing both wide, which opened the door for Braico to leap into second place. With Barlow again leading the field around in the faster Class 2 car, Neilson and Beck closed in on Braico for second, whilst behind them, Kenny, Champion and Kurzok fought hard over fifth place.
Sadly for Beck, his run at the points leader came unstuck early, with a spin at turn four, the Vantage Property car stopped on the circuit forcing a Safety Car intervention and ultimately, his retirement.
Off the restart the field settled into a comfortable rhythm with Neilson ultimately taking the Class 1 victory ahead of Braico and Kurzok - who was impressive across the closing laps - Champion and Greg Kenny.
The field rolled out for the third and final race with the sun starting to fade in the west and the ambient temperature beginning to fall, with the race starting much the way race two had ended, with Neilson leading the SR3 field ahead of Braico and Kurzok, although the #29 Rode Remotes SR3 of Kurzok was quickly up to second with the recovering Beck not far behind after starting rear of field.
Unfortunately for Radical Australia Cup regular Greg Kenny, his weekend would not get any better, with a number of spins in the cooling conditions - valuable data to store away for future events - allowing Paul Braico and Stephen Champion to fight over fourth, Braico ultimately claiming the position in the GWR SR3, the pair separated by just four tenths of a second after 14-laps.
Up front though, Mitch Neilson enjoyed his second Class 1 win of the day to extend his championship points lead over John Beck to 26, with Darren Kurzok an impressive second in the final race on his Wakefield Park debut. Beck gained valuable championship points with third in the final race, whilst despite a tough weekend, Greg Kenny retains third in the outright points.
The fourth round of the SuperSports championship will see a move to Victoria on the famed Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit at the end of June (23-24), three weeks after the Radical Australia Cup regulars are there for the fourth round of their championship (June 1-3).
DNS. 99. Peter Hills (GWR/Poseidon Tech. Radical SR8)
NSW SuperSports Series - Class 1 Championship Points (after three rounds of six)
1. Mitchell Neilson (131-points), 2. John Beck (105), 3. Greg Kenny (92), 4. Stephen Champion (81), 5. Paul Braico (78), 6. Rowan Ross (66), 7. Darren Kurzok (44), 8. Mark Brame (40), 9. Chris Perini (35), 10. Peter Clare (35), 11. Chris Sutton (10)