2014 Radical Australia Cup SR3 champion Michael Shaw made his return to the popular sportscar series after a two and a half year sabbatical to claim pole position at Phillip Island’s third round ahead of a second placed finish in the opening race, defeated only by an off on the opening lap at turn one and reigning champion Peter Paddon.
Paddon meanwhile went on to claim his fifth straight win of the season, but in race two, that winning streak was to come to a dramatic end mere metres after the start, the #1 SR3 spinning off the circuit on the wet grass and backwards into the tyre wall, ending his long domination of the category and any chance of championship points from the second race.
Shaw made the most of Paddon’s early retirement to drive away from the field for the win, whilst Paddon’s 2017 title rival Oliver Smith was forced to work his way back through the field for a second day after an off at Honda corner early in the race, his third place finish bringing him to within 11 points of Paddon with two rounds remaining.
The threat for Sunday’s 100th anniversary round of the Shannons Nationals was for rain and lots of it, however despite heavy overnight falls, the day dawned clear and sunshine met the Radical Australia Cup [RAC] field for the 9:50am start, although off the racing line it was still very damp, but not damp enough for wet weather tyres.
Sadly it was damp enough to eliminate the reigning champion and points leader.. Peter Paddon was starting third once again behind Michael Shaw and Oliver Smith, but as the field approached the line, Paddon speared off into the infield as a result of a delayed start by his rivals in front, and by trying to gain maximum traction as they met the starter. That all contributed to the tail stepping out and throwing him off the circuit.
He did what he could to hang on to the car, but once on the wet grass he was a passenger spinning backwards into the tyre wall at relatively low speed, but that didn’t stop damage to the rear wing which ultimately forced retirement.
It was a crushing blow to the runaway points leader, but it was an opportunity for his rivals – most significantly the man second in points, Oliver Smith – to attack, but sadly for the man who was runner-up to Paddon in 2016, he suffered his own misfortune at Honda corner just moments later, spinning to the exit of the circuit and rejoining – as he did off the start of race one – at the rear of the field!
He was quickly back through the pack, but he could do nothing about Michael Walsh who took the opportunity to drive away from the field, just as Paddon had done in race one, on his way to a comfortable lead by the time the compulsory pit stop window opened – and just like Paddon, he was the first down pit lane when it happened.
By that stage the returning Peter Johnston was holding down second, and he too dived down pit lane for his compulsory stop leaving Tony Haggarty to lead the race after a strong start saw the Radical stalwart holding down third place.
Once the compulsory stops were all completed Shaw returned to a comfortable lead as Oliver Smith continued his recovery, taking first Tony Haggarty, and then the recovering Rowan Ross who was finally underway after an overnight engine change to alleviate an unusual low pressure oil signal which kept shutting his engine down in race one.
Smith was quick, but he couldn’t match the pace of race leader Shaw, although he was able to shut down Peter Johnston’s advantage after being almost 30-seconds down on the PJSAIR machine after he’d worked his way past Ross. Ultimately Smith would cross the line third, just over ten seconds down on Johnston, but 28 seconds down on Shaw.
Ross crossed the line for a valuable haul of points in fourth place, ahead of Tony Haggarty who was able to weather a late charge from David Crampton.
Chris Medland recovered from an unusual mid-race off at Honda Corner for seventh, the series veteran admitting he hadn’t quite been prepared for the car to snap sideways and throw him off the circuit as he braked hard for the iconic right-hander, but he was fortunate to avoid any damage and continue without losing track position.
Peter Clare recovered from his big off at Southern Loop during qualifying to snare eighth, just ahead of fellow RAC rookie Greg Kenny whilst Michael Whiting rounded out the top ten.
Geelong’s Gary Walker had been mid-field for much of the race, an epic battle with David Crampton kept the fans entertained, but within sight of the finish, the sole Victorian entry was off on the exit of Southern Loop after running wide onto the ‘marbles’ forcing him across the gravel trap on the outside. He came to a stop just shy of the tyre wall, but the wet grass made rejoining almost impossible, the former series regular losing a lap in the process, but he was able to extricate himself for an eleventh place finish, just shy of Sue Hughes.
A contender during the opening race, Kim Burke could have been expected to challenge for the podium in race two, but almost as soon as he completed Saturday’s opening race, he was forced to return to Sydney and unable to make Sunday’s grid.
For the Radical Australia Cup drivers, there’s now a ten-week break until the penultimate round of the championship at Radical HQ – Sydney Motorsport Park – on 8-9 July.
What the drivers had to say
1. Michael Shaw (Shaw Racing Radical SR3RS)
“I’ve been watching the series over the last couple of seasons since I stopped racing and watched the guys getting quicker and quicker – although the one thing that did work in my favour is that Phillip island is my favourite track. I think it might be a fair bit different at Eastern Creek because they guys have all dropped their lap times quite significantly since I was last there. The key for me is keeping the speed, especially at turn two, there’s a lot of time to be made there, hold it flat as long as you can and get on the brakes as late as you can especially as the cars don’t have a huge amount of power, it’s all about maintain the speed.”
2. Peter Johnston (PJSAIR Radical SR3RS)
“The great thing about this series is that it is so close, there’s really not much in it, when you’re stuck back in the middle of the pack, it’s really hard to get around anyone, but that’s the beauty of the category and that’s why we love it so much.”
3. Oliver Smith (RA Motorsports Radical SR3RSX)
“I had a couple of issues across the weekend. Mike [Shaw] and I had an off-road adventure at turn one yesterday, then this morning it was pretty tricky conditions and I had a bit of a spin, so in both races even though I qualified on the front row I started from the very back, but I got back to the podium so I’m pretty pleased. Peter’s [Paddon] demise is not the way I wanted to get back into the championship, I have to start beating him on the road, but I’m really comfortable with where we’ve gotten too with the new car, but now I need to convert it into results. Being at the front in qualifying and for the first lap is a big part of it!”