Despite a strong challenge from title rival and race one winner Chris Perini, and a setback in qualifying which forced the championship points leader to start both 50-minute races from the rear of the field, Kim Burke has prevailed to claim his maiden Radical Australia Cup title at Sydney Motorsport Park, as reigning champion Peter Paddon closed out his intermittent season just the way he had started it - with a race victory.
Burke came into his home round with a 62-point lead over 2018 RAC sensation Perini, a seemingly insurmountable advantage, but by the close of qualifying Perini and the GWR team could dare to dream after Burke suffered a technical setback with a sensor which allowed him to complete just one flying lap, sadly it was a lap that would see him start the penultimate race from last position.
Perini put in a flawless opening race to claim his second outright win of the year, with Burke a seemingly safe fifth, but a post-race penalty for contact with Peter Clare meant that Burke was still a solitary point clear of sealing the title.
The final event of the year saw another dominant win by outgoing champion Peter Paddon with Burke classified sixth, and with Perini striking trouble mid-race, the title was all Burkes, the local driver though rewarded for his speed, consistency and strategy across what had been a tough season.
Qualifying on Saturday morning in almost perfect conditions saw a terrific battle between the returning Paddon and rising star Chris Perini. Both had been at the circuit earlier in the week turning laps on a drive day, and both were well and truly dialled in.
In the end it was Perini who prevailed with the fastest two laps of the session to claim pole for both races, but with the Cup’s most successful SR3 export - Peter Paddon - starting right alongside.
2016 and 2017 RAC runner-up Oliver Smith was back for the weekend too in the car he’d used to challenge Paddon throughout last season, but sadly for the long-time SR3 campaigner, he was sidelined part-way through the opening race with a technical issue, the team repairing the car, but Smith elected to sit out the second race with new car owner Phil Anseline having withdrawn pre-event due to business commitments.
Off the start of the opening race it was Perini who held the top spot under immense pressure from Paddon, whilst behind them Kim Burke was the big mover, the champion-elect up six places by the second lap and pushing hard. Sadly though his impressive pace ultimately cost him, after making contact with Peter Clare at turn two, Burke ultimately penalised post race for the incident.
Despite that he was up to fourth by the time he hit pit lane for his compulsory stop, and fifth across the line ahead of his post-race penalty which dropped him back to sixth behind Clare who was enjoying one of his best rounds of the year.
For John Beck - who was making his first start in Radical Australia Cup - the NSW SuperSports front runner was out after just five laps with a mechanical gremlin which necessitated an overnight engine change, he’d been holding down an impressive fourth at the time.
The returning JP Drake too was in the mix by the compulsory pit stops although sadly Aldous Mitchell’s stint would be hampered by a return to pit lane in the closing stages after a tyre failure due to some big lockups during his session. They would ultimately be classified last of the 11 finishers.
By virtue of his podium finish at Phillip Island, Chris Perini was always going to stop longer than Paddon during his compulsory stop which allowed the three-time champion to emerge as the race leader, but such was Perini’s pace that he was able to haul Paddon in and move past for the win on the final lap, crossing the line two seconds clear to add to his win at The Bend earlier in the season.
Brad and Mitch Neilson were third across the line, the pair consolidating their push towards a championship podium, Mitch emerging clear of Tony Haggarty after a spirited battle for position mid-race. Clare and Burke were classified fifth and sixth, with Bill Medland prevailing over Simon Haggarty.
Greg Kenny was next admitting he was not 100% comfortable with the car, whilst the returning Michael Whiting claimed tenth ahead of Drake and Mitchell.
Sunday’s season finale again saw points leader Kim Burke starting rear of field where it was clear he was going to play things safe as he stared down the barrel of his maiden championship.
Up front though the battle between Chris Perini and Peter Paddon continued, the pair going toe-to-toe through the opening laps before Paddon took the advantage at turn 15 on lap seven to lead the field into the compulsory pit stops.
Behind them Mitch Neilson was hanging on strongly, whilst further back John Beck was fourth ahead of Simon Haggarty.
Paddon and Perini almost made contact on the run down pit road, the two stopping together, but Paddon was back out first due to his shorter stop time - Perini stopping longer by virtue of his race one win. Sadly for the round nine winner, his weekend came to a premature end not long after leaving pit lane, a technical fault leading to locked rear wheels and a spin at turn 15 - it was game over for the #81.
That ultimately brought out the Safety Car with the field bunched up behind runaway leader Mitch Neilson who was yet to stop. Unable to effect his stop during the Safety Car intervention, he lined up to come down pit lane immediately after the Safety Car pulled in and was set to lose his advantage, but a spin by Tony Haggarty as he tried to avoid son Simon at turn two on the first restart, saw the Safety Car intervene once more, dropping Brad Neilson to the tail of the pack.
The drama didn’t end there though, Simon Haggarty, Michael Whiting, Kim Burke and Brad Neilson making front-to-rear contact on the run into the final corner whilst still under Safety Car conditions after the former came to a stop, much to the instant surprise of his rivals.
Ultimately the field was let go with just over seven minutes on the clock, Peter Paddon going on to claim his second win of the year over RAC rookie John Beck, with Peter Clare an impressive third.
Greg Kenny was fourth after holding out Clare over the closing laps, with Kim Burke a safe fifth to claim the 2018 Radical Australia Cup title. Bill Medland was sixth ahead of the Neilsons, with Simon Haggarty and Michael Whiting rounding out the field.
Sadly for Aldous Mitchell he was involved in contact with Tony Haggarty mid-field in a battle for position through turn three which saw the #66 entry forced into the barriers across the top of the rise on the run to turn four, ending their race on the spit with heavy damage to the left front.
As a result of winning his maiden title, Burke will be awarded an all expenses paid entry into a round of the 2019 the Radical European Masters Championship, an award which has seen past RAC champions go on to build their reputations in Europe - Peter Paddon one of those who stunned the European regulars with his pace to win on debut in 2016.
So that’s it for Radical Australia Cup’s tenth season, the eleventh season will get underway once more at the Bathurst 12-Hour with a strong list of drivers already entered for the first round of the 2019 season. It’s not the end of Radical competition though, Mitch Neilson has a SuperSports title in the cross-hairs at Sydney Motorsport Park on Saturday, 17 November.
1. Kim Burke (301-points), 2. Chris Perini (236), 3. Brad/Mitchell Neilson (199), 4. Simon Haggarty (171), 5. Peter Clare (157), 6. Peter Paddon (150), 7. Tony Haggarty (149), 8. Yasser Shahin/James Winslow (122), 9. Bill Medland (109), 10. Sue Hughes (105), 11. Rowan Ross (96), 12. Michael Whiting (93), 13. Chris Medland (87), 14. Greg Kenny (83), 15. J-P Drake (72), 16. Jon Collins (55), 17. Nick Kelly (51), 18. Nicholas Stavropolous (47), 19. John Beck (35), 20. Nathan Kumar (35), 21. Phil Anseline (34), 22. Peter White (27), 23. David Crampton (21), 24. Aldous Mitchell (12)