After a long off-season for the NSW SuperSports regulars, the 2019 season opener arrived at Sydney Motorsport Park in damp conditions with what would be the biggest ever field of SuperSports competitors in the history of the category.
Qualifying saw teams opt for varying tyre options in the drying conditions, some going with wets, whilst others felt the session would allow for slicks, an early red flag suggesting the former might have been the safer option.
By the close of the session though, David Barram in his Chiron LMP3 held the overall pole time, with former Radical Australia Cup champion Neale Muston fourth in Class-2 on his return to Radical SR8 competition, whilst Philip Hughes claimed the top spot in Class-1 over fellow Radical SR3 drivers Stephen Champion, Chris Sutton and John Beck, who had recovered strongly following an early spin.
Neale Muston more than made his presence felt off the line to be second early in race one, but despite his immense experience behind the wheel of an SR8, he was unable to match the leading Chiron for outright speed, but he stuck with Barram to cross the line just four seconds in arrears and comfortably clear of Darren Barlow and long-time rival Nick Kelly for second.
Philip Hughes held the Class-1 pole for the opening race but Chris Sutton very quickly took the lead off the start, Hughes though storming back to the front on lap four to take the win ahead of Sutton and the recovering Peter Clare who was forced to come through from the tail end of the field after a tough qualifying session in the slippery conditions.
John Beck was next ahead of Stephen Champion, Paul Braico, Peter Hills in the second of the Radical SR8s, Bill Medland, Max Medland, and Radical rookie Simon Bathgate.
Neale Muston got the jump on race one winner David Barram off the line to take the #41 Excalibur Racing Radical SR8 to the lead of race two before an early safety car intervention to recover the luckless Nick Kelly at turn five regrouped the field. Sadly for Barram he was out almost immediately after the restart leaving Muston at the front but under mounting pressure from reigning Class-2 champion Darren Barlow.
Behind them the Class-1 battle saw Hughes maintaining his race one advantage over Chris Sutton, whilst John Beck worked his way onto their tail by the close of the shortened eight-lap race. Peter Clare continued his strong pace, the Radical Australia regular enjoying valuable laps of Sydney Motorsport Park ahead of the Cup’s return to the circuit in mid-May.
Muston claimed the outright win in the end, crossing the line a second clear of Barlow with Mark Laucke third in the Wolf 08. Philip Hughes made it back-to-back Class-1 wins ahead of Chris Sutton, with Beck third ahead of Peter Clare and Paul Braico.
Stephen Champion was next across the line ahead of Bill Medland and Radical rookie Max Medland, whilst Peter Hills claimed fifth in Class-2 finishing just ahead of Simon Bathgate.
Barlow got the jump on Muston off the line in the final race of the day, the Stohr driver sprinting away to a comfortable Class-2 win, although his race two win and overall consistency gave Muston and the SR8 the championship points lead.
The great battle between Philip Hughes and Chris Sutton for Class-1 honours continued on into race three, but despite some brilliant driving, both drivers failed to finish, Sutton out on lap eight, Hughes making it all the way to lap 12 before he too was forced to retire handing John Beck a comfortable win, and with it, the championship points lead.
Peter Clare was classified second in Class-1 ahead of GWR’s Paul Braico, Stephen Champion and Bill Medland. Max Medland earned himself more valuable miles to commit to his next appearance in Radical Australia Cup with sixth ahead of Simon Bathgate in the #42 GWR/PSA Racing SR3.
For the Radical Australia Cup regulars, they will return to Sydney Motorsport Park on 17-19 May, whilst the NSW SuperSports Series will venture across to Wakefield Park the following week (Saturday, 25 May).
DNF. 35. Chris Sutton (321 Motorsport Radical SR3) - 7-laps
NSW SuperSports Series - Class 1 Championship Points (after one round of six)
1. John Beck (40-points), 2. Peter Clare (39), 3. Paul Braico (34), 4. Stephen Champion (33), 5. Philip Hughes (31), 6. Bill Medland (29), 7. Chris Sutton (28), 8. Max Medland (26), 9. Simon Bathgate (23)
NSW SuperSports Series - Class 2 Championship Points (after one round of six)
1. Neale Muston (46-points), 2. Darren Barlow (45), 3. Mark Laucke (35), 4. Daniel Gonzales (31), 5. Glen Stallbaum (30), 6. Nick Kelly (27), 7. Brenton Keogh (25), 8. Peter Hills (22)