2016: Round 4 Report – Wakefield Park
Race Report 2016 NSW Motor Race Championship
Round 4, Wakefield Park
27 & 28 August 2016
Wakefield Park The fourth round of the CAMS NSW Motor Race Championships for Formula Race Cars saw the cars back at Wakefield Park, where Nathan Gotch wrapped up this year’s championship and won the prestigious City of Goulburn Cup in the process.
The Cup, inaugurated by F3 Management in 2015 when it was fought out in an intense battle between Ricky Capo and Jon Collins, was run in 2016 under the FRCA banner as Wakefield Park was not on the National Series calendar. Despite the small field – the result of a large number of regulars nursing broken cars, broken bodies, or both! – the racing was as exciting as always and Goulburn turned on its winter best to spice things up on the Saturday. Tim Berryman in the Dallara F308 Qualifying Saturday morning’s weather cycled repeatedly through the two available options: ‘cold’; or ‘cold and wet’.
An early morning free practice session in the ‘cold and wet’ part of the cycle saw Tim Berryman (Ellery Motorsport Dallara F308 Mercedes) post the best time. The F308 was competing as an invited car for the Cup, but ineligible for championship points. Championship leader Nathan Gotch (AGI Sport Dallara F307 Renault) managed to park the car in the kitty litter before posting a competitive time, and that opened the opportunity for Phil Morrow (Reynard 923 VW) to show his credentials as best-of-the-rest in the rain and post the 2nd fastest time of the morning. When qualifying came around later in the day the weather looked to be clearing, before producing another shower as the cars sat up in the dummy grid.
The two professional teams were always going to be well placed to make a last minute change but the rest of the field needed to make a call. So at the start of the session it was 50/50: Berryman, Gotch, Morrow, Shane Wilson (Wiltec Industries Dallara F304 Opel) and Rodney Baker, on debut in a Ralt RT30 VW AF2 car, all on the ‘option’ (i.e. wets); and the rest of the field on the ‘prime’, or in some cases on the ‘no option’ (i.e. slicks) as the cars sat on the dummy grid.
As it turned out the session ended up having three red flags, so several competitors were able to arrange a mid-session change of tyres, but it was a session where almost everyone had an off, somewhere, with Lawrence Katsidis (Sydney Photo Booths Dallara F304 Renault) opening the proceedings on slicks spinning out of the fish hook and partly contributing to the first red flag; Berryman looping it an the top of the hill, ultimately bump-starting it in reverse but not before the second red flag; and Phil Morrow looping it at the final turn and parking it oh-so-close to the Berryman (again!) who had done the same thing moments earlier. At the end of a very entertaining session (if you were on the other side of the pit wall), Berryman had done enough between spins to edge out Gotch to claim pole by a tenth of a second. There was a fair gap to the rest of the field, with Wilson claiming third marginally ahead of Morrow. There was another sizeable gap back to Glenn Lynch (Eagle transport Dallara F397 Fiat), who had incredibly done the whole session on slicks, ahead of Baker, the under-powered Ralt seemingly more driveable in the wet than many of the F3’s. He may even have achieved 5th if the gaps between red flags had been a bit kinder. Katsidis, Ross McAlpine (Dallara F397 Toyota) and Ron Coath (Dallara F307 Mercedes) all changed to wets to at least post some sort of time and Andrew Wlodek (Dallara F307 Honda) battled through the session on slicks to round out the field.
Although the rain had stopped the circuit was cold and slow to dry and this was reflected in the lap times, nobody finding any confidence-inspiring grip and only Gotch’s lap times breaking the minute. But although Gotch had the pace it was Berryman who had the better of the race, jumping to the lead and taking advantage of a poor-starting Gotch, with Wilson, Morrow and Lynch all passing him as the cars left the line. Baker held 6th briefly before McAlpine and Katsidis both fired down the inside into turn 2. By the end of the first lap Gotch had made his way back to 3rd behind Wilson, with Morrow, taking the strategic approach and starting on wets, being shuffled back behind Katsidis and Wlodek.
By this time both McAlpine and Coath had spun, and the safety car was deployed. When things got underway again it was Berryman getting a jump on the field while Gotch took a lap to pass Wilson, and although Gotch closed the margin to under half a second in the closing stages Berryman looked in control for the win. Wilson led the rest of the pack for a couple of laps, with Lynch, Katsidis and Wlodek in a tight battle behind him and Morrow, who had managed to make a couple of places on the quiet at the deployment of the safety car, falling away on his wet tyres. Wilson looped it entering the main straight on lap 7, and that allowed several cars to move ahead of him, the Lynch-Katsidis-Wlodek battle as well as Morrow and Baker in the Ralt moving up to 7th. The battle for 3rd was the most interesting action on the track but Lynch had that in control to the flag ahead of Katsidis and Wlodek, with Morrow and Baker in the distance, the last car on the lead lap as both Wilson and McAlpine( with a late race spin) dropped a lap. Coath restarted but with only 6 completed laps was not classified.
Race 2 – 2016 City of Goulburn Cup
Better conditions greeted competitors in the middle of the day on Sunday, but it was still miserably cold for our feature race, the City of Goulburn Cup, over 18 laps. Somewhat controversially Berryman arrived at the dummy grid sporting ‘new boots’ and the Cup looked to be destined to continue its short but colourful history of litigation. Thankfully things were sorted out on the track.
Berryman made another great start and Gotch, battling clutch problems, was again slow away from the line, dropping spots to Wlodek, Lynch and Katsidis. Wilson jumped up to 6th, ahead of Morrow, McAlpine and Baker, with Coath also having clutch problems again having difficulty getting away despite being penalised for jumping the start. Gotch needed to move early to have any hope of catching Berryman but was not having an easy time with the cars ahead, managing only to pick them off at a rate of one place per lap into the braking zone at turn 10. By the time he moved into 2nd place on lap 3 he was ten seconds behind Berryman and he set out determinedly to reduce the gap. Behind these two, Wlodek was busy defending his 3rd place, with Lynch, Katsidis and an increasingly frustrated Wilson all looking for a way around. Further back, Coath was the third quickest car on the track and quickly made up places passing Baker, McAlpine and Morrow, but possibly trying a bit too hard to make up lost ground managed to spin the car coming down the hill on lap 5, which brought out the safety car.
The restart saw Berryman and Gotch closed up in the contest for the lead, and allowed the four cars battling for 3rd a bit of a breather. Baker was in 7th thanks to some problems with the Morrow car and a spin from McAlpine, and Coath was restarted but two laps down. When the safety car pulled away there was still 10 laps to go, and Berryman had the advantage of a lapped car between himself and Gotch. He used this, and some great defensive lines to hold out Gotch for four laps, before Gotch managed to go past the long way around on the outside at Turn 10. Gotch then proceeded to peel off a couple of 56 second laps to open a comfortable lead, before managing the traffic over the last couple of laps to take the flag with a margin of around a second.
The battle for third was equally absorbing, with Wilson inspired to action at the restart and picking up a place a lap to move into third, posting some quick laps and opening up a sizeable gap. With the last lap board shown and Wilson being the last unlapped car he looked to have the minor place all but in the bag, but a momentary lapse of concentration at the ‘fish hook’ saw him turn the car around and, unable to get it moving again, gave up the place. This was all to the benefit of Wlodek, who had used every bit of that very wide Dallara (if you’ve ever been behind it you’ll know how wide it is!) to his advantage, driving a strong race to leave Lynch nowhere to go. Katsidis didn’t seem to have the same pace in the second half of the race, and despite hanging in there for a while trailed off behind Lynch in the closing stages. He was followed home in a respectable 7th by Baker who seemed to be coming to grips with the Ralt and put in some consistent laps despite a lack of company in the closing stages.
Morrow had to pit when he was ‘meat-balled’ for some oil over-flow, having struggled with oil pressure issues most of the weekend, a disappointing result after a promising qualifying. McAlpine finished behind Baker a lap down as a result of his spin, and Coath retired before the completion with a slipping clutch.
The final race of the day was a 10-lapper, and this time Berryman led start to finish. Gotch was again slow off the line giving up 4 seconds on the first lap. Despite posting the fastest lap of the race and closing to within half a second pressing for the win was secondary – the main assignment for Gotch was finishing, needing only a finish to secure the Championship with a round in hand – and so it was a very satisfied Gotch who crossed in second and sealing the Championship.
Wilson again spent several laps trying to work out a way around Lynch and Wlodek, but had made his way through by mid race and opened up a sizeable gap. Lynch completed another 10 laps stuck to the exhaust of Wlodek’s car, but still could find no way around it and had to settle for 5th. Katsidis had an uncharacteristically poor start and after that couldn’t find the pace he’d had earlier in the weekend, eventually finishing 6th. McAlpine and Baker both had lonely races but Baker finished the weekend by improving lap times considerably. Coath again retired with clutch problems and Morrow decided to park the car while the engine was still in a state from which it could be rebuilt.
Nathan Gotch 60
Andrew Wlodek 42
Glenn Lynch 42
Lawrence Katsidis 36
Rodney Baker 25
Class Based points:
Nathan Gotch 45
Glenn Lynch 45
Rodney Baker 45
Lawrence Katsidis 41
Andrew Wlodek 33
Outright Championship after 4 Rounds:
Nathan Gotch 220 (champion)
Andrew Wlodek 142
Lawrence Katsidis 103
Greg Muddle 92
Graeme Holmes 78
Ron bennet 73
Glenn Lynch 67
Class Championship after 4 Rounds:
Nathan Gotch 171
Lawrence Katsidis 145
Al Palmer 127
Andrew Wlodek 125
Greg Muddle 118
Glenn Lynch 116
Ross McAlpine 109
Ron Bennet 104
Graeme Holmes 100
Plenty of interest in wings and slicks from some of the Formula Ford boys over the weekend, expect to see some new faces in 2017. One ‘Forder’ who stepped up was Rod Baker, doing pretty well in the under-powered, under-cooled and wrongly-geared Ralt. One thing it wasn’t was underweight, Rod having taken the precaution of loading up 25 kilos of kitty litter on Friday (and then topping it up on Saturday for good measure). Good thing Team Muddle knows a thing or two about cleaning.
With the Outright championship wrapped up, interest moves to the minor places. Andrew Wlodek has a tight grip on 2nd, and Lawrence Katsidis looks fairly comfortable for 3rd, although 3 wins for Holmes might make it interesting (that’s possible) as would another car magically appearing in Muddle’s garage (that’s unlikely).
In the Class Championship Lawrence has a strong chance of overhauling Gotch for the championship, but Gotch looks likely to hold at least second (unless there’s an influx of late model cars Andrew Wlodek is probably limited to a further 45 points, leaving him agonizingly short). Should anything untoward happen to Andrew there are several drivers with a mathematical chance of snatching 3rd place from Wlodek or Al Palmer.