Shaw sweeps RX8 Cup series opener at Phillip Island
By: Steven Devries
Spectacular weather and a pristine Phillip Island Circuit greeted the Occsafe Australia RX8 Cup Series, as they kicked off their 2022 season during the opening round of the PIARC SuperSprint Championship on February 5th and 6th. 21 cars contested the opening round of the 6-round championship, with the most notable absentee being defending back-to-back champion Ryan Gorton, opting for a new challenge in 2022.
With only a small number of drivers having ever driven the circuit, it was clear from the early practice times that the words of series stalwart Ric Shaw to “respect the track” was being heralded.
What became clear following the practice and qualifying sessions was that Tom Shaw aboard his #21 Ric Shaw Racing entry would be the man to beat. His track time during PIARC’s Island Magic event in November proved invaluable, taking Pole Position by almost a second – a 1:51.6782. Justin Barnes and Matthew Chick were neck-and-neck for 2nd and 3rd behind Shaw, with only 7 hundredths between them.
With several other categories present for the weekend, it was a lengthy wait from Qualifying to the start of Race 1. A tardy getaway for polesitter Shaw would become an Achilles heel for him all weekend, surrendering the lead on the run to Turn 1 to Barnes. However, a great run out of the final corner on lap 1 saw him round up Barnes by the control line and cruise away over the next 9 laps to a comfortable four second win.
Some clean and spirited battling between Matthew Chick & Jack Pennacchia saw them come home for 3rd and 4th respectively, while several other drivers enjoyed close combat throughout the race. The hard luck story fell to Shannon Mclaine. The ZKL Asbestos and Demolition Services machine came to a halt after completing four laps and was retired for the rest of the weekend with mechanical failure.
Race 2 on Sunday morning saw a repeat of the poor starts for Shaw, with Barnes again getting the better start and leading lap 1. Shaw re-took the lead on lap 2, with Barnes doing his utmost to stay in touch, until errors on laps 4 and 5 saw him lose spots to both Chick and Pennacchia and eventually come home 4th. The race also saw several drivers push the limits a little too far – Stacey Vickers, Mark Alder, Jack Lougher and Jerome Nehrybecki all had gremlins that either ended their race or facilitated their recovery from various parts of the track.
A great start line reaction from Chick to begin Race 3 was undone immediately as he appeared to miss a gear change and sank back to 6th place by Turn 1. Barnes enjoyed a good start and threw down the gauntlet to Shaw in the early going, leading three of the opening four laps. Eventually, Shaw re-passed Barnes for the lead and marched to a 5 second win. Barnes’ lap times ballooned toward the end of the race, and he fell to fourth behind the recovering Chick, and Jackson Noakes who gained three spots to take third.
The final race of the weekend resulted in another win to Tom Shaw, with Barnes three seconds adrift in 2nd and Chick a further seven seconds behind in 3rd. Thus, Shaw took a clean sweep of the weekend with all four wins and pole, netting him the maximum 121 points for the weekend. Chick (108 points) and Barnes (104 points) occupied the 2nd and 3rd places for the round.
The series now has a short break before heading to Sydney Motorsport Park on April 8-10th.