The 2017 Radical Australia Cup will see the penultimate round of the series play out at ‘home’ at Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend with valuable points on the line ahead of New Zealand’s season finale in November.
Currently two-time winner Peter Paddon leads the points after a stunning start to the season which netted the reigning title holder five consecutive wins to kick off the new year, but last time out at Phillip Island his impressive points tally fell victim to a DNF off the start of the damp second race to allow title rival Oliver Smith to close in on his maiden title.
Coming into Radical Australia’s home circuit in Sydney, Paddon holds a slender 11-point lead over his long-time rival, and Smith could well start favourite this weekend after some solid preparation in Sydney last Saturday. Taking part in round three of the SuperSport Series for open cockpit sportscars, Smith was the standout SR3 driver, even out-qualifying much faster cars including a pair of V8-powered Radical SR8s.
This weekend the RA Motorsports supported driver will be looking to take advantage of that preparation to close down Paddon’s points lead, and potentially take advantage of the slight performance advantage his 2017 SR3RSX has over the points leader.
Paddon meanwhile will enjoy his own performance step up, the First Focus-supported driver giving his aging SR3 a ‘birthday’ after the disappointment of Phillip Island, which included a chassis and engine freshen, but whilst Paddon and Smith will start amongst the favourites so too will Phillip Island pole-sitter and runaway race two winner, Michael Shaw.
Shaw came back from a two-year sabbatical to rejoin the RAC field at Phillip Island, the New South Welshman throwing the series regulars a real curve-ball on his return, his pace in race two incredible at the front of the field and he starts in Sydney as a former round winner in the SR3 (2014).
Paddon too has tasted success at SMSP in the past (2015/2016) as has Oliver Smith alongside his father Greg in the 50-minute race 12-months ago, so all are well versed with the tricky Gardner Circuit layout.
So too Rowan Ross, who has been a podium finisher in the past in Radical Australia Cup, whilst for Kim Burke, he too will be looking to carry on his strong season form, the Sydney-sider expected to take advantage of driver-coach and part-time driver James Winslow who has just returned from a competitive stint in the 24 Hours of Le Mans to help him set up his car for the weekend ahead.
Frustratingly business and mid-season personal commitments has robbed us of a number of series regulars, but it’s pleasing to see that a number of SuperSport and drive-day regulars have joined the fray for the Sydney Motorsport Park weekend.
Leading the charge is the impressive Chris Perini in his SR3RSX, the 2017 SuperSport front-runner was impressive last weekend, and is expected to be on a steep learning curve against the best in the business. So too father-and-son combination Brad and Mitchell Neilson, the local drivers are regulars at SMP and have shown impressive pace during rounds of the SuperSport Series and could well be in the mix for a top five finish. Greg Kenny and Peter Clare – two drivers who have shown significant improvement across their maiden campaigns in RAC this year – will also enjoy a run at a circuit they are more experienced with to provide both a solid benchmark to compare their current pace against.
Radical Australia Cup veteran Phil Anseline too will return this weekend, the local driver suffering a big hit during the opening round at Bathurst in February, forcing a brief sabbatical ahead of his SMP return, whilst RA Motorsport’s Chris Medland and Greg Smith will certainly use their extensive local experience to put the new recruits to the test across the two 50-minute races over the weekend.