Ben Barker broke through for his debut Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship race victory, crushing the field in the opening race of the Shannons Nationals Motor Racing Championships at Mallala Motor Sport Park today.
After a sudden down pour as the cars lined up on the dummy grid, more drama occurred when the starting lights failed, resulting in a shortened race that started under Safety Car.
On the fourth lap, pole-sitter and early race leader Mitch Evans fired off the circuit at the turn seven hairpin, allowing Barker through to the lead. It was a position he didn’t relinquish, with his eventual margin of victory being over 20 seconds.
“The guys were on the pit wall telling me to back off at the finish, but there was no way I was going to slow down,” said Barker.
“It’s a shame about Mitch, people make mistakes, I’ve made mistakes, and unfortunately it was his turn today.
“I’m really starting to click, get some consistency and I feel very comfortable in the car.
“It’s only my second year of circuit racing, it’s good to make it to the top step of the podium, and the plan is to keep it there.”
Championship leader Tom Tweedie fought back after a frustrating qualifying run, displacing Chinese driver Zhang Shan Qi despite a complete lack of visibility, and holding off a charging Evans in the run to the finish line.
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Mission Foods provided one of the more action packed races from the Shannons Nationals season to date, with series leader Matt Kingsley charging through the pack after a troublesome launch from pole position.
“I made a wicked start, but on the change into second gear the clutch slipped,” Kingsley said.
“After that we were running three wide into the first corner, and Roger (Lago) gave me a tap and sent me off; I fell right back to eighth.
“I had to keep my head and pick them off one by one.”
Many leading competitors fell foul of the slippery verges, as Jon Trende, Sven Burchartz and Mark Krashos all spun at various stages, with Krashos causing Kingsley to stop in an effort to miss the stranded machine exiting Clubhouse Corner.
“It was a bit of a case of playing cat and mouse out there and be patient, I think we can count our lucky stars after that one,” Kingsley said.
Tony Evangelou took out the opening race for the Shannons V8 Touring Cars, heading home Terry Wyhoon and Chris Smerdon.
Smerdon had earlier claimed pole position, but came to grief on the warm up, hitting the wall coming onto the front straight.
Racing finished for the day under floodlights, with the Commodore Cup National Series’ opening half-hour long encounter.
Tony Bates took the race win from Adam Beechey and Josh Hughes, as the compulsory pit stop playing a pivotal role in the final results.
The race finished under Safety Car in a driving down pour, after Matt Chick had earlier come into heavy contact with the car of Nick Parker at the Northern Hairpin.
Darren Hossack picked up the pole position in the Kerrick Sports Sedans, but it was last start winner Trent Young who scythed through the pack in his Mazda RX7 to take the win in the PPG Gearbox Dash for Cash.
Tomorrow the main focus at Mallala will be on the Sports Sedans with the 15-lap Clem Smith Cup at 12:40pm, with $5000 of prize money on the line.
Action commences at 9:30am, with gates opening to the public at 8:30am. Tickets are $35 each with children under 14 admitted for free.