Another massive field was entered for Round 4 of the 2016 V8 Superlaps Production Touring Car Championship at Sydney Motorsport Park, which saw a return to sprint racing after the MoComm Cup opener in Goulburn four weeks ago.
After an eventful Friday, the field was smaller than expected come Qualifying on Saturday.
Corporate Hill bit hard on Friday, claiming both Jayson Darke and Jacob Andrews in separate incidents, while Phillip Allen was also forced to withdraw from the event, due to a mechanical failure during Friday practice.
Darke’s incident in the morning session eventually put pay to his weekend. He lost the back of his car, sliding into the wall on the outside of turn 7, sustaining substantial, albeit repairable, damage to the back of the Subaru.
While the car was away at the Triple Zero Motorsport workshop for repairs, Darke faced another issue at the circuit – Due to his provisional status, Darke had to participate in Qualifying if he was any chance of being able to race on Sunday, once his car was repaired.
With that, David Bailey gave Darke the opportunity of posting a qualifying time in the #39 Toyota 86, before Bailey would post his own qualifying time in the second half of the session.
Sadly for Darke, he didn’t complete the minimum of three laps required to receive the special dispensation of the Stewards, and was not given the clearance to race on Sunday, which ended his weekend.
Jacob Andrews’ CXC Mitsubishi Evo was the other casualty in Friday practice, but the damage to that car was not repairable.
Andrews, on cold tyres, lost control of his car going through turn seven, and slammed into the wall at speed.
The damage sustained was not only enough to end Andrews’ weekend, but it left the car beyond repair, and the CXC squad was reduced by one for the weekend, as they had no choice but to write the car off.
Another bumper field was entered, and by the time we made it to Qualifying on Saturday morning, 31 cars would take to the track.
That would soon diminish to 30, with the withdrawal of Kyle Aubin. The Aubin Brothers Racing Renault had some dramas with their fuel pump early Saturday morning, that forced them out of qualifying, and despite their best efforts, Aubin would not start any of the three races across the weekend – he would however try his hand at commentary, offering expert comments in the trackside broadcast of Race 1.
As for those competing this weekend, Clay Skinner was a welcome return to the grid, after a standout performance here in May.
Despite the dramas for CXC Global Racing on Friday, things would improve dramatically across the course of the weekend, with the three remaining cars locking out the top three positions in Qualifying.
Dylan Thomas was exceptionally fast, clocking a 1:42.6598 – over half a second faster than Daniel Oosthuizen, who had a four-tenth advantage over his brother Jacques.
Further back, Clay Skinner (B1) and Matthew Holt (A2) made up the top five – topping their respective classes in the process.
Anthony Soole was unchallenged in Class B2, claiming 9th outright. Blake Aubin was again the top competitor in Class C, likewise Jimmy Vernon in Class D.
Zac Raddatz pipped Finley Hills in Class E, while James Herrington was the lone soldier in Class S.
With Kyle Aubin out of contention, the field was down to 31 for race 1. The Saturday afternoon affair was contested over nine laps, and off the start, Dylan Thomas continued on from his strong showing in qualifying, by leading the field into turn 1.
In the same way that Daniel Oosthuizen dominated Race 1 here in May, Thomas never looked back, and would be unchallenged on his way to a 9-second victory over the two brothers’, Daniel and Jacques Oosthuizen, as CXC claimed their first 1-2-3 of season 2017, much to the delight of Thomas, who quietly believed that Jacob Andrews would’ve made it 1-2-3-4, if he was out on the race track.
The battles throughout the rest of the field provided action aplenty. Clay Skinner was a clear and comfortable winner in Class B1 (4th outright), but behind him, the battle for class A2 was on between Symonds, Holt, Virag and Muggleton. Josh Muggleton had a rotten start, and was left playing catch-up – he would eventually finish in 8th position, just behind Symonds, but up ahead, it was a nose-to-tail finish between Tony Virag and Matthew Holt, with Virag taking it out by four-tenths of a second.
Anthony Soole was 10th, and unchallenged in Class B2, where he’s starting to rack up the victories, and really launch an attack on the outright championship.
Blake Aubin and Jimmy Vernon took out Classes C and D respectively, but in the process, spent the majority of the race locked in a battle for track position – a sign of things to come in races 2 and 3.
Zac Raddatz got the better of Finley Hills, in the battle of the 14-year old boys, in Class E, while James Herrington finished between the pair, and won Class S.
Track limits is always an issue at Sydney Motorsport Park, and in Race 1, both Nigel Williams (A2) and Matt Shylan (D) picked up five-second penalties for exceeding the track limits at Brock 05.
Unfortunately, Kevin Herben has had no luck in races at SMP so far in 2016 – he was forced to retire late in the piece with mechanical issues once more.
Herben made it one lap further than Graeme Muir, who also ran into trouble, and retired from the race.
Sunday, like the previous rounds of the series, dawned fine and sunny, and we were set fair for another competitive day of racing.
Race 2 would be two laps shorter than the first, but no less entertaining. Dylan Thomas and Daniel Oosthuizen led the field away, but Josh Muggleton was the big mover – going from 8th to 5th, and Matthew Holt got by Tony Virag at turn 1.
It didn’t take the CXC stable long to assert their authority on the race, and within a few laps, it became clear that no one was catching them, as Thomas raced away to another victory, this time by five seconds, over Daniel Oosthuizen, who had a considerable margin over brother Jacques Oosthuizen in the battle for the minor placings, as the CXC Mitsubishi’s ran 1-2-3 for the second race in succession.
Just when you thought the day couldn’t start any better for CXC, Dylan Thomas smashed the lap record, held by Daniel Oosthuizen, twice within the seven lap race.
The pre-existing mark, belonging to Oosthuizen, was a 1:42.5303. On lap 3, Thomas recorded a 1:42.5129, before lowering the mark again on lap 5, with a 1:42.3030.
Outside of Class A1, Clay Skinner was again the best of the rest. The Class B1 Mitsubishi finished fourth outright, ahead of Josh Muggleton, who re-wrote the wrongs from Saturday with fifth outright, ahead of Matthew Holt and Tony Virag.
Anthony Soole (9th) was, again, the best of B2, with Blake Aubin (14th) continuing his unbeaten run in Class C at Sydney Motorsport Park, and Jimmy Vernon (15th) again had everyone taking notice of his class winning drive in Class D.
Vernon is, without doubt, a talented driver, who’s taking the fight to Chris Reeves within the Toyota 86 dominated class, in a way that no one has been able to in the last few years.
James Herrington (24th) and Zac Raddatz (25th) recorded class wins in Class S and Class E respectively.
Gavin Clarke, Clay Skinner and Nigel Williams were all hit with 5-second time penalties for exceeding track limits. It cost Williams two spots and Clarke one.
Sadly, just a lap from home, Geoff Kite had a massive tank-slapper at the hairpin, that sent him into the wall on the outside of the circuit. It’s believed he got loose on some oil or fluid that had made leaked onto the circuit, and the impact caused considerable damage – enough to rule him out of Race 3.
Sadly for Kite, the car simply wasn’t repairable in the few hours between races, and his car was on the trailer as the rest of the field headed for the starting grid for the 9-lap finale of Round 5.
There were no lap records set in Race 3, but it was an absolute cracker all the same, with Daniel Oosthuizen getting the jump on Dylan Thomas, and leading the boss into turn one.
Oosthuizen would hold the lead for the first two laps, but then Thomas made his move, and we saw one of the great duels unfold, as the team-mates went side-by-side through turn 11, and down the main straight. By that point, Thomas had the lead – Oosthuizen would get it back before too long, as the pair chopped and changed positions several times in the next lap.
Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ended for Daniel Oosthuizen, with mechanical dramas forcing him into pit-lane. After a quick look at the car, the team sent Oosthuizen back out onto the circuit – he didn’t drop a lap to Thomas, but he was well out of contention, and would finish in 21st position (4th in Class A1).
Sadly, the drama continued on-circuit, with the TLA Racing Holden of Josh Muggleton given a mechanical flag for a oil leak issue. He was given the same flag at the end of race 2, but in those circumstances, the rules and regulations allow a driver to complete a maximum of three laps before obeying the pit order, and in that case, Muggleton was able to get home in 5th place, without being in breach of the rules… sadly, no such luck came his way in Race 3, which was disappointing for, not only Muggleton’s championship aspirations, but also for the TLA Racing stable, led by Trevor Mirabito.
The team worked tirelessly between races two and three to sort the problem out, but sadly, it didn’t go to plan, and Muggleton recorded his first retirement of the season.
Thomas would go on to a comfortable win, to complete his clean-sweep, and giving CXC Global Racing six from six at SMP in 2017.
Clay Skinner managed to get Jacques Oosthuizen’s measure and claim 2nd in Race 3 (1st in Class B1), ahead of the younger Oosthuizen pilot.
Matthew Holt claimed victory, again, in Class A2, while Anthony Soole took it to the Holden’s in Race 3 – taking his BMW to a 6th place finish – again, it was good enough for victory in Class B2.
Again, Blake Aubin and Jimmy Vernon were separated by just car lengths, as they claimed victory in Class C and D, in 13th and 14th outright.
For Zac Raddatz, it was his first outing at Sydney Motorsport Park in the PTC Championship, and it was a near perfect weekend for him – he won all three races, ahead of Finley Hills, and was in the 1:55’s by the end of it, and finished the last race in 22nd position.
James Herrington, as the sole entry, only had to finish Class S to claim the weekend – and he did just that, crossing the line in 23rd position.
Quite a few retirements in the final race of the weekend – Kite was a non-starter, as we detailed at the top. Kevin Herben has had no luck with that new car of his, with another mechanical gremlin forcing him into retirement in Race 3.
There was one incident to make mention of, involving David Bailey and Matt Shylan – the two cars came together over the back of the circuit, and were both forced into retirement a short time later.
Graeme Muir and Robert Coulthard were also forced into retirement, while Muir was also awarded a 5-second penalty for track limits, as too were James Herrington, Dylan Thomas, while Tony Virag copped a 10-second penalty, which saw him relegated from 7th to 9th.
A clean-sweep – Pole Position, three race wins and a new lap record – all in all, a brilliant weekend for Dylan Thomas and CXC Global Racing at Sydney Motorsport Park, and it’s another tight turn around now, as the series enjoys a three-week break before the final sprint round of the season at Wakefield Park in Goulburn.