After a crushing retirement whilst more than half a lap up on the Radical Australia Cup field during the opening race of the 2019 season, former champion Peter Paddon responded in flawless fashion during the second race, to record his eighth Bathurst SR3 victory in one of the most competitive fields in recent seasons.
A field of 19 cars presented one of the strongest ever fields at Bathurst, but more than that, there was a buzz around the paddock all weekend, with the arrival of new drivers, the return of some seasoned veterans and the addition of some well-credentialed ‘rock stars’..
Paddon is a renowned superstar around Mount Panorama, but even he had collared 16-year old Aaron Love as the driver to watch across the weekend, and so it was that the former Formula 4 race winner charged through from the rear of the field in race two to close to within 14-seconds of Paddon at the flag having taken Neale Muston for position late in the race. Three-time champion Muston though claimed the round win ahead of race one winners Brad and Mitch Neilson, with Love and fellow Radical rookie Brenton Griguol sharing third overall.
As he had in the opening race, Chris Perini led the field away off the rolling start, holding Peter Paddon at bay on the run up Mountain Straight, but by turn two, the three-time champion was already leading and looking to break away from the field.
Behind the two leaders Neale Muston again started strongly holding out Simon Haggarty, Grant Denyer - who was having his maiden race in an SR3 - Brenton Griguol, Michael Whiting, Phil Anseline and Ed Singleton.
Sadly for 2011 RAC champion Singleton, he would again fall victim to the mountain, this time on the run into the Chase with a fast-starting Mitchell Neilson already into the top ten after starting rear of field [by virtue of not having been able to qualify] as they braked for the left-hander.
Embroiled in a battle with car-owner Phil Anseline, Singleton was close behind the #16 and looking to hold position as they went into the apex. Sadly for Neilson, he went right as he braked hard at the end of the flat-out right-hander, then immediately jumped left to try and dive up the inside of Singleton, but misjudged it to tag the left-rear of the #4 entry, spinning Singleton deep into the gravel trap and retirement.
That brought out the Safety Car to recover Singleton’s stricken SR3, whilst Neilson was able to regroup and join the pack although with missing right front bodywork, the contact though ultimately incurring a drive-through penalty soon after.
Off the restart Paddon again led the field away with Perini in pursuit, the race one runner-up staying close to Paddon’s tail to dive into pit-lane on lap six right behind the multiple Bathurst winner, eager not to make the mistake which cost him his maiden Bathurst win just 24 hours earlier by not pitting when Paddon had - a move which ultimately saw him lose wholesale ground with an early Safety Car intervention.
Perini wasn’t the only one to mirror Paddon’s early stop, Muston, Simon Haggarty and even Grant Denyer making their compulsory stop, Denyer handing over to fellow local Brad Shiels who was intent on taking the #216 PMF Motorsport SR3 to a new Bathurst lap record.
Having assumed the lead of the race, Aaron Love was in the next lap around to make his compulsory stop, the Team BRM driver finally able to show what he was capable of, the team having overcome electrical gremlins which had plagued him through qualifying and race one.
That left Peter Clare at the front of the field ahead of his stop, the Shared Runway driver unable to pit until he had completed more than 50% of the race to ensure that highly-rated team-mate Joey Mawson completed no more than half the race [RAC regulations don’t allow Pro drivers to complete more than 50% of race distance without incurring a penalty of an additional 15-seconds for every extra lap they circulate].
Whilst everyone was watching the fight for the lead, further back Brad Shiels had taken over the #216 entry from Grant Denyer and he was charging through the field searching desperately for clear air to go after the record, and within a couple of laps he was able to push. It started with a 2:12.4 - just shy of Peter Paddon’s 2017 race record of 2:12.2280, then fell to a sequence of sub-2:12s.. 2:11.9, 2:11.5, 2:11.5 then finally a 2:11.5252 on the 16th lap before hit pit lane again to hand back to Denyer, the team explaining that they wanted to ensure there was no chance Shiels had exceeded his 50% lap quota and lose them their new record (for the second time!).
With Mitch Neilson making the final pitstop, Peter Paddon returned to the lead, his DNF in race one ensuring that he was in to pit for just the minimum allocated time, whilst the Neilson’s incurred an additional 20-seconds for their race one victory, and Chris Perini 15 - leaving Paddon with an insurmountable lead, although with a charging Aaron Love in second, looking to make an impression.
Another driver charging was Chris Perini, the 2018 Cup runner-up trailing closely behind Neale Muston, but with Aaron Love approaching fast. Sadly for the race one second-placed finisher though, an electrical failure sidelined him on the main straight as he crossed the line to start lap 14 leaving him to retire and ponder what might have been - in shades of 2018..
With Love now third he made short work of Muston to move into second, the teenager putting in an incredible drive to close down Paddon’s lead, although with more than 30-seconds on his side of the ledger, he was more than safe enough to cross the line for his first win of the year and his eighth Bathurst victory in his last ten starts!
Muston crossed the line third with enough points to claim the round win, with Peter Clare earning fourth alongside Joey Mawson who set an impressive 2:12.8387 on the final lap.
Simon Haggarty was fifth having lost fourth to Mawson on the final rotation, whilst Michael Whiting was an impressive sixth, a strong recovery after an early spin costing him another strong run in the opening race. Adelaide’s Brenton Griguol was seventh, his result snaring him a share of third for the round on debut, with Bill Medland, Greg Kenny and Chris Medland rounding out the ten.
Anthony Davis was all smiles after claiming 11th, crossing the line clear of Grant Denyer, race one winner Brad Neilson and Rowan Ross.
“That was an outstanding way to start our eleventh season,” Radical Australia’s Chris Medland admitted afterwards. “From the racing, to the entries and the whole Radical pit area, the mood was very upbeat, something which also impressed Craig Jones from Radical UK who was on hand to see the Australian championship for the first time.
“The event also gave us an opportunity to talk with Supercars about our return to The Bend Motorsport Park alongside them on the program in August, that will be a fantastic opportunity to again showcase the category to the fans and give them a chance to see exactly what these cars are capable of. All in all it was an exciting weekend, and we go in to the next round at ‘home’ at Sydney Motorsport Park on a high.”
“I had a brilliant weekend and enjoyed being back in the Cup after a few years away, I’d forgotten how much fun these cars were to race around Bathurst. It’s a great group of people and we had as much fun off the track as on it!”
2. 38. Mitchell Neilson
“First of all I’d like to apologise to Ed [Singleton] for what happened, I thought I’d given him room but we made contact - I never want to see anyone suffer an end result like that. To that point it had been a fantastic weekend after our race one win, so I’m surprised we were able to come away with second-placed points for the weekend.”
3. 78. Aaron Love
“I’m stoked to have gotten second in that race and third for the round. I had a really bad day yesterday and the day before but to come back like that I’m really happy. It was great fun going over the top of the hill flat out.”