Having won four straight Radical SR3 events at Mount Panorama, you could argue that Sydney’s Peter Paddon was the man everyone would be chasing to start the 2017 Radical Australia Cup season at Bathurst, the two-time champion wearing a significant target on his back heading to arguably the biggest stage in the country.
Whilst things began ‘perfectly’ for Paddon, it very quickly went pear-shaped in qualifying, forcing the First Focus pilot to start rear-of-field in the opening race, but that didn’t stop him turning in an incredible display of driving across the 13-lap journey, to claim the win from pole-sitter Oliver Smith and veteran John Morriss, in what was an impressive season-opener that saw no end of action, and some outstanding driving.
Paddon had started the day with an incredible run in practice that saw him fall just three tenths of a second shy of his SR3 lap record, punching out a staggering 2:12.567 – a full 2.5-seconds faster than 2016 rivals Oliver Smith and Kim Burke. It looked like being another Paddon whitewash, but no sooner had qualifying started, than the tables were turned, Paddon forgetting to pit during a red flag incident, incurring the wrath of the stewards who disqualified him from the session.
Starting rear-of-field with Kim Burke who – despite also setting some blistering times in practice – was forced to sit out qualifying after a technical issue with his engine, forcing a change between sessions to have him on the grid for the opening race.
Nicholas Stavropolous was another who would be forced to start from the rear, after an upright failure across the top of the mountain in qualifying saw him return prematurely to the paddock and retirement. Like Burke, he too was back on the grid to start the first 40-minute race.
No one though could deny Oliver Smith the pole. A quick lap early in the 20-minute session saw him shadowing Padden before a Safety Car intervention to recover Tony Haggarty from the Dipper after a spin – fortunately without contact. After the intervention, teams had just three laps to record a time, Smith making the best of it to punch out a 2:14.783 to claim the top spot, with John Morriss second, and the returning Peter Johnston third.
Off the start of the first 40-minute race, Morriss tried to take Smith in the run down to turn one, but the 2016 RAC runner-up was having nothing of it, to charge up Mountain Straight comfortably in front, with Morriss, Simon Haggarty and Peter Johnston in close pursuit.
The field got through turn one unscathed, although Tony Haggarty spent much of the run up Mountain Straight with two wheels on the grass on the inside, as he tried to hold position in his new SR3RSX.
Not surprisingly, Paddon was on a charge, the reigning title-holder seventh by the close of lap one, and fifth by lap two. By then though, Smith had checked out in front, posting a qualifying lap on his first flyer, then a run of consistent 2:17-laps to open up a strong early lead by the time Paddon had moved into third – 8.8-seconds down on the race leader..
On lap four though, Paddon was given a huge reprieve, with a Safety Car called out for an incident at the top of the mountain.
“I lost the rear of the car at McPhillamy Park and spun and clouted the wall,” Phil Anseline explained afterwards. Sadly the incident set off a chain of events that also eliminated series stalwart Greg Smith.
“I was locked onto the back of a group of cars, behind Greg Kenny I think, and they were traveling quite slowly, so I moved around them only to find Phil stopped on my racing line,” Smith explained. “With cars alongside and Phil in front of me, I only had one option, so I took to the wall..”
Sadly both cars were eliminated, but thanks to Smith’s quick thinking, nether driver was injured, although it looks likely he will sit out the second race after suffering some serious suspension damage to the rear of the #78 car.
After two laps behind the Safety Car, the field was let loose once again, with Oliver Smith charging away at the front of the field, whilst Paddon was caught up behind John Morriss. It didn’t take Paddon too long to get around the Victorian, but by then Smith was more than three seconds up the road.
Paddon focussed and punched out a succession of quick laps to close on Smith with five minutes to go, catching him on the run down pit straight to move into the lead at turn one to start lap 11, but what he hadn’t quite counted on was Smith’s determination.
Heading into turn two, Smith made an impressive move around the outside of Paddon to reclaim the lead, holding the #1 car out across the mountain and through the exit of Forrests Elbow. Paddon returned fire on the run down the legendary Conrod Straight, the two drivers side-by-side into the fastest corner in Australian motorsport – the Chase.. Then it was a battle of wills to see who would brake latest into the left-hander.
Unfortunately for Smith, Paddon held the inside line, and to give his rival racing room, he ran around the outside of the track and lost grip, spinning his YoungCare Australia RSX on the exit. He quickly regrouped, but there was no catching Paddon who went on to claim his fifth consecutive Bathurst victory, with Smith second and Morriss third.
Sadly though the action was still a long way from over, Sue Hughes and Rowan Ross making contact on the penultimate lap after Ross’ car stopped coming out of turn two, leaving Hughes with little option but contact. For Ross it was game over, and will leave the RA Motorsports crew a big job ahead overnight to repair the #88 car.
Ross though had started his race in a battle for a place in the top five, but was caught out in contact with Aaron Lewis who was enjoying his best run in the SR3 in years. Sadly the historic racing regular was suffering from a leaking crankcase, something which may have contributed to Phil Anseline’s demise, but ultimately contributed to his..
Peter Johnston was an impressive fourth after a race-long duel with Simon Haggarty, whilst Kim Burke recovered for sixth, immediately ahead of the evergreen Richard Bloomfield. Michael Whiting finished eighth ahead of the recovering Tony Haggarty, with Simon Meade an impressive tenth after failing to record too many laps in practice after an electrical issue.
David Crampton was eleventh across the line, the Sydney-sider shaving an incredible six seconds off his best during qualifying, before claiming his best ever result on the mountain. Like Paddon and Burke, Nick Stavropolous had a good run from the rear-of-field after his suspension issue to claim 12th, just clear of Chris Medland, rookie Shane Barwood and Peter Clare.
For the teams, there is little time to relax, with the second race of the season underway at 9:10am on Saturday morning (4 February). That race will be streamed LIVE on http://www.bathurst12hour.com.au with live timing also available.
What the drivers had to say:
1. Peter Paddon (First Focus Radical SR3RS)
“I’m going to blame the fact I’m driving two different cars today [doing double duty in the Bathurst 12-Hour], I had a complete brain fade. I saw the red flags, and fully intended to go into the pits, but I just drove past the pit entry whilst I was playing out my day in my head. So the officials disqualified me, and I had to reapply to them to be able to compete in the race.
“The first lap was a bit of ‘close your eyes and hold on’. There were a few moments there but I knew if I was going to have any chance of catching Ollie [Smith] I’d have to make up a lot of spots very quickly. This is the kind of place where it’s easy to get stuck behind someone and lose a lot of time. I needed that Safety Car and that allowed us to close up but it took me a little while to get past John Morriss and then I caught Ollie and we had a great dice.”
2. Oliver Smith (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX)
“It was a great race, but I kind of expected Peter would be coming. I got a great start and was able to open up a gap, but history shows us that Safety Car interventions are almost a given at Bathurst, so it was only a matter of time. I wasn’t going to make it easy on him though and will be looking to turn the tables tomorrow!”
3. John Morriss (Motorsports Leasing Radical SR3RSX)
“That’s the best race I’ve had here actually, Bathurst has been a bit of a bogey circuit for us in the past – I keep crashing across the top of the hill, but I got through three sessions today without crashing, so I’m pretty happy [laughs]. The new car is quick off the line as Oliver Smith showed on that restart, but Peter Paddon was the class of the field, very quick!”
2017 Radical Australia Cup
Mount Panorama, Bathurst
3 February, 2017
1. Oliver Smith (Radical Australia 2017 Radical SR3RSX) – 2:14.783
2. John Morris (Motorsport Leasing 2015 Radical SR3RSX) – 2:16.452
3. Peter Johnston (PJSAIR Radical SR3RS) – 2:16.828
4. Simon Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RS) – 2:18.011
5. Tony Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RS) – 2:18.208
6. Rowan Ross (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 2:18.454
7. Aaron Lewis (Rover Coaches Radical SR3RS) – 2:18.626
8. Greg Smith (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 2:19.086
9. Michael Whiting (Taylor Collision radical SR3RS) – 2:19.699
10. Richard Bloomfield (GWR Okey Dokey Radical SR3RS) – 2:19.708
11. Phil Anseline (WT Partnership Radical SR3RS) – 2:20.613
12. David Crampton (Vantage Freight Radical SR3RS) – 2:20.831
13. Simon Meade (Strategy One HR Radical SR3RS) – 2:20.831
14. Shane Barwood (Radical SR3RSX) – 2:21.666
15. Peter Clare (Shared Runway Radical SR3RS) – 2:23.470
16. Chris Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 2:23.669
17. Bill Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 2:23.997
18. Greg Kenny (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 2:31.813
19. Sue Hughes (Hughes Motorsport radical SR3RS) – 2:33.469
DNC: Nicholas Stavropolous Radical SR3RS)
EXC: Peter Paddon (First Focus Radical SR3RS)
1: Peter Paddon (First Focus Radical SR3RS) – 13-laps
2. Oliver Smith (Radical Australia 2017 Radical SR3RSX) +10.744
3. John Morris (Motorsport Leasing 2015 Radical SR3RSX) +14.018
4. Peter Johnston (PJSAIR Radical SR3RS) +14.244
5. Simon Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RS) +14.418
6. Kim Burke (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX) +20.845
7. Richard Bloomfield (GWR Okey Dokey Radical SR3RS) +22.660
8. Michael Whiting (Taylor Collision radical Sr3RS) +29.795
9. Tony Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RS) +30.235
10. Simon Meade (Strategy One HR Radical SR3RS) +31.842
11. David Crampton (Vantage Freight Radical SR3RS) +32.094
12: Nicholas Stavropolous Radical SR3RS) +48.148
13. Chris Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) +53.244
14. Shane Barwood (Radical SR3RSX) +53.565
15. Peter Clare (Shared Runway Radical SR3RS) +1:03.462
16. Bill Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) +1:05.247
17. Sue Hughes (Hughes Motorsport radical SR3RS) +1:12.451
18. Greg Kenny (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) +1:45.248
19. Rowan Ross (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 12-laps
20. Aaron Lewis (Rover Coaches Radical SR3RS) – 9-laps
DNF. Greg Smith (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 3-laps
DNF. Phil Anseline (WT Partnership Radical SR3RS) – 3-laps
Source. Motorsport Media