2016: Round 5 Report – Sydney Motorsport Park
Race Report 2016 NSW Motor Race Championship
Round 5, Sydney Motorsport Park
17 & 18 September, 2016
The final round of the CAMS NSW Motor Race Championships for Formula Race Cars saw Graeme Holmes give a masterclass in how to drive a F3 in the rain. With the GKH Powdercoating Dallara F304 Opel Spiess untouchable in the wet condition he put 3 race wins on the board to finish the season in style and clinch 3rd place in the Outright Championship in the process.
Thirteen cars lined up on Saturday morning after Peter Warren’s beautiful March 82A BDA withdrew, having been rammed by a Radical on Saturday. 2016 Champion elect Nathan Gotch was an absentee and that opened-up the contest considerably, however it soon became apparent that pole would be a contest between Holmes and Rodney Brincat in the Glass Benders Dallara F304 Opel Spiess.
Holmes had the early running, and both cars steadily improved their times throughout the session until Brincat posted a 1:31.45 on his second last lap, a time that Holmes was unable to better, although the margin was only a tenth of a second. Behind these two, Andrew Wlodek (Dallara F307 Honda) got the better of Ron Coath (Dallara F307 Mercedes) in the battle for Class D honours, with Coath in turn holding off Ron Bennett in the ARB Bundaberg Dallara F301 Spiess by a very thin margin. The “Two Ronnies” put on an epic battle last time out at SMSP and it looked set to continue. Completing the 3rd row was Kevin Lewis in the ‘FOR SALE’ Dallara F395 Toyota. Given that he was just going to run in the motor this was a fairly pleasing effort and the car looked promisingly quick.
Lawrence Katsidis qualified the SYDNEY PHOTO BOOTH F304 Renault in a ‘safe seventh’ focussing his weekend on the points finishes required to clinch the All Classes championship. He was joined on the 4th row by a surprised Ross McAlpine in the Power Plus Fuels Dallara F397 Toyota – surprised because he fully expected to be a DNQ as a late arrival, only to find as he drove into the pit area that our session had been delayed and the rest of the cars were still sitting in the dummy grid. After a quick ‘Clark Kent’ into his driving suit, he was strapped in and drove out for 4 laps, and did enough to advance 3 rows on where he had expected start the race, and lead Class B into the bargain.
Behind McAlpine was Rod Anderson (Reynard 893 VW), who was slightly off his normal pace but quick enough to qualify ahead of John English (Van Diemen FR97 FF2000) in the first of the Class A cars. Both the cars on the 6th row were struggling for pace, with Dave Morrow (Richards 201 VW AF2) edging out Phil Morrow in the Reynard 923 VW, who was hopeful the oil leaks that had plagued him in the previous round had been fixed, but Katrina had plenty of degreaser on hand just in case… and just as well. Rounding out the field for the weekend was Rob Sviderskas, who spent the session trying (in vain) to get his Dallara F304 Spiess to fire, and subsequently was forced to start from the rear of the grid.
Race 1 on Saturday afternoon was run in clear sunny conditions and produced some excellent close racing. At the start Brincat had the better of Holmes off the line, but Bennet had the best of the start and made a strong surge around the outside as they headed through Turn 1, bettering both Coath and Wlodek. Katsidis was slow away from the line but made up spots in the Turn 2 scuffle, only to lose 6th place to Lewis with a ‘moment’ at Turn 5.
As the started lap 2 it was Brincat leading with Holmes right up his exhaust, opening a gap to Coath, who had taken the spot from Bennet, who was pre-occupied with both Wlodek and Lewis up his pipes. Katsidis led Anderson, McAlpine and English to complete the top 10. Sviderskas was pressing hard and made it to 9th before retiring with what seemed like ‘death rattles’ in the motor but was later found to be a rather less costly exhaust issue. Holmes continued to hound Brincat and on lap 3 he managed to throw it down the inside at turn 2 as most people, including Brincat, expected – Holmes’ braking at that corner being both late and legendary.
Brincat was not easily shaken however, and remained within striking distance for the remainder of the race. He quickly enough to set the fastest lap, and almost profited from a small mistake and lapped traffic to close within a car length on the last lap, but Holmes had enough in store to take the chequered flag. Coath lapped consistently in 3rd building up a gap on the three cars behind who were locked in an epic battle before coasting through the last couple of laps. Behind Bennet and Wlodek, Lewis was fighting hard to stay with the later model cars, and doing a good job of pestering them until he threw it into the gravel at turn 2 on lap 8.
Lap after lap Bennet had his mirrors full of Wlodek, and when he wasn’t in the mirrors it was because he was alongside. On lap 6 the two cars were side by side through Turn 1 with Bennet holding the inside, and when they re-appeared in view through Turn 3 they were still side-by-side, a station they held all the way until they disappeared from view in the run up to Turn 6. Bennet held Wlodek for another 2 laps, but on lap 9 Wlodek again attempted a passing move at Turn 1 – this time on the inside.
Once again the cars were still side by side all the way to turn 4, and Bennet looked to have again held off the challenge until he ran wide at Turn 9, conceding the position to Wlodek. While Wlodek pushed hard chasing Coath he had to settle for 4th, some distance ahead of Rod Anderson, who had spent a good deal of the race chasing down Katsidis in a battle for 7th and making spots late in the race with Lewis’ spin and Bennet also throwing it around at Turn 6 on the last lap, eventually recovering to finish 7th ahead of McAlpine English and Dave Morrow rounding out the top 10. Phil Morrow brought the Reynard home to finish but it wasn’t operating at its optimum.
On Sunday morning the rain settled in quite decidedly, and the drivers prepared themselves for wet conditions. The field was reduced to 11 cars with Sviderskas’ car not repairable and Dave Morrow not having wets available. With all the ‘pit pundits’ in a upbeat mood (and why not? We didn’t have to go out in those conditions!!) the talk was the chance of an upset – the less power the better in these conditions and the two Reynards of Anderson and Morrow were highly fancied, along with the FF2000 of English on what looked like the newest and softest rubber in the field.
At the start Wlodek got a great jump from the second row as Brincat and Holmes struggled to get away. He led the field through the first turn with Holmes chasing and a magnificent start by Phil Morrow saw him surging around a large number of cars on the outside. As they came back into sight at turn 3 it was Holmes, Bennet, Wlodek, and Morrow, up from 11th. Morrow rounded up Wlodek through turn 4 and would have quickly accounted for Bennet if he hadn’t thrown it away at turn 9, sending him all the way back to the rear of the field again.
Over the line at the end of the first lap it was Holmes, already with a commanding lead, ahead of Bennet, Brincat and Wlodek, and then the not-at-all surprising pair of English and Anderson giving a good account of themselves in the wet. McAlpine led Coath, Katsidis and the recovering Morrow and Lewis pitted the F395 Dallara having decided his old tyres were not going to provide enough grip to keep it pointing in the right direction. With Holmes surging into the distance all the interest was in the minor places. Brincat followed Bennet around for a couple of laps before making his move, and after finding clear air he steadily opened a gap as he got familiar with how the F304 worked in the wet.
Behind Bennet, Anderson managed to move up into 4th and looked quick enough to challenge Bennet only to have a lose at the right-hander at the top of the circuit on. By this time Morrow was on a charge again, despite some hairy moments off the track at Turn 1, and was entertaining the crowd with a superb drive. Having moved back into 6th with a bold Turn 1 pass on Wlodek on lap 5 he chased down English on the following lap to claim 4th the final car on the lead lap at the end of the race. English finished 5th ahead of Wlodek, who was clearly finding the F307 a bit of a handful in the wet, ahead of McAlpine and Coath.
Katsidis was fighting the urge to go faster in the knowledge that he needed a mistake free outing to bank precious championship points, and drove into the pits with a finish that saw him just one point short of the championship. So he’d have to do it all over again later in the afternoon…
Rain again, and in fact more of it. By the end there were streams across the track so it clearly wasn’t great weather for racing and only half the field managed to get to the finish. Off the start Wlodek again got away well, as did Ron Bennet, and had brief claims to second place before Holmes got going, but it was Phil Morrow who once again looked quick and jumped to the lead. Brincat bogged down on the line and fell to the back, with all cars passing him except McAlpine who also failed to get away with the car suffering electrical problems.
In normal circumstances McAlpine’s effort in rolling the car to the safety of the tyre barriers at the turn 1 run-off would have been laudable, however in these conditions it might have been a favour to everyone had he parked the car on the start finish line and brought out the safety car. At the front it briefly looked like we might have a race, with Morrow looking very quick, albeit behind Holmes at the end of the first lap, but unfortunately the Reynard aqua-planed off the circuit in the run-up to Turn 6, knocking the nose off the car and ending a season that was beset with problems, but sprinkled with glimpses of what Phil can do.
With Morrow off, Holmes was left to an easy victory, completing a clean sweep for the weekend. Coath parked his car at the end of lap 1 with nothing to be gained in the conditions, and Anderson did likewise at the end of lap 3, having had a large lose in the same vicinity as Morrow’s car. Brincat made his way steadily through the field, eventually passing Bennet to move into 2nd on lap 5. The other mover was English, who was doing a splendid job in the less powerful Van Diemen and had passed Wlodek before moving into 3rd place when Bennet spun on the last lap. Completing the finishers in a slow and lonely run was Lawrence Katsidis, who did everything that he needed to do to secure the All Classes Championship for 2016. Congratulations Lawrence!
Graeme Holmes 60
Rodney Brincat 48
Andrew Wlodek 36
Lawrence Katsidis 26
Ron Coath 22
Class Based points:
Graeme Holmes 60
Rodney Brincat 48
Andrew Wlodek 41
Lawrence Katsidis 40
Ron Bennet 26
Outright Championship for the year:
Nathan Gotch 220 (champion)
Andrew Wlodek 178
Graeme Holmes 138
Lawrence Katsidis 129
Rodney Brincat 102
Ron Bennet 94
Greg Muddle 92
Ron Coath 85
Glenn Lynch 67
Ross McAlpine 66
Class Championship for the year:
Lawrence Katsidis 185 (champion)
Nathan Gotch 171
Andrew Wlodek 166
Graeme Holmes 160
Ross McAlpine 131
Ron Bennet 130
Al Palmer 127
Greg Muddle 118
Glenn Lynch 116
Rodney Brincat 112
Ross McAlpine 109
Class D Winner: Nathan Gotch;
Class C Winner: Lawrence Katsidis
Class B Winner: Ross McAlpine
For the full tables see the website: www.frca.org.au
With 5 kills required to be an ‘Ace’ there must be a few new names going up on the Radical Roll of Honour this year. FRCA will be working closely in the off season with Ron Bennet to test the ARB Bundaberg prototype F3 bull bar kit to put us on a more level playing field, but until we can roll that out the best way to avoid Radicals is to make sure we put MORE CARS ON THE GRID each race meeting so that we don’t get lumped in with them in the future.
That might require some people to show a bit more commitment, like not going skiing in the middle of motor race season if you can’t manage to do it without breaking a leg. Lynchy was there on Sunday to drum up some sympathy but after his brilliant wet quali on slicks at Goulburn it would have been better to see him on the right side of the pit wall.
We need also need him back next year as our sole remaining active ’97 Dallara (plural, if he’d put Chris back in the other one) since the McAlpine car was sold not long after its Class B winning performance. Unfortunately it was sold interstate – unlike most recent departures its heading south rather than north but we’re unlikely to see it in our ranks any time soon.
We are however expecting to see at least one new car next year, with a certain successful driver likely to appear in a Dallara F3 two-seater. The ‘Driving Miss Daisy F3 Champion Experience’ will be taking passengers on ‘hot’ laps laps at each of our rounds next year with a faithful replication of the 2:56.000 lap that sealed the deal. Just jealous, well done mate!