Strong start to 2018 SuperSport season despite Sydney heatwave

Tuesday 20th March, 2018 - 11:59am

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Rnd#1 – SuperSports Series
Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW
17 March, 2018

The 2018 New South Wales SuperSports Series kicked off at Sydney Motorsport Park on March 17 in fine conditions that very quickly became oppressive as a northerly change drove temperatures to 100-degrees on the old scale, adding another element of challenge for the strong field of Radical entries.

Ultimately the returning John Beck claimed top honours in Class 1 across the three races, despite some spirited opposition from Mitchell Neilson and Mark Brame, whilst 2017 Class 3 regular Peter Hills was back in action in his SR8, claiming two second-placed finishes [outright] and a fifth despite qualifying rear of field.

The day started early with qualifying first up in warm and humid conditions. Reigning Class 2 champion Darren Barlow ultimately claimed pole position, however 2017 Radical Australia Cup ‘Rookie of the Year’ Mitch Neilson was impressively not far behind despite the performance differential between the two cars. Neilson was comfortably clear of John Beck who ultimately displaced reigning champion Rowan Ross by just eight one hundredths of a second, Ross just 35 one thousandths faster than sixth-placed Mark Brame, with Stephen Champion splitting the pair.. it was that close!

Sadly for Radical Australia Cup regular Greg Kenny a spin during qualifying on cold tyres, saw the Bluegate Property SR3 in the barriers, although some quick work by the RA Motorsport’s team had him back on track in time for the opening race.

Off the standing start for race one, Rowan Ross in his 2018 SR3RSX charged, storming past Beck into third early, before dropping a position in the closing stages of the race. The other strong opening lap came from Peter Hills who charged halfway through the field before locking in behind Neilson, Ross and Beck.

After his qualifying off, Greg Kenny started to work himself back into contention, but a spin on lap four saw minor damage to his rear wing prompting a replacement for race two, however he was able to finish the race without losing too much additional time, ultimately classifying eighth.

Up front though, Mitch Neilson took the Class 1 win, four seconds clear of John Beck who grabbed second from Rowan Ross with two laps to go, whilst Peter Hills crossed the line just clear of Mark Brame and Stephen Champion, Paul Braico rounding out the field behind the recovering Kenny.

Race two saw Peter Hills running at the front of the field in the SR8, closely shadowing race leader Barlow, whilst behind him, a great battle for Class 1 honours raged between John Beck, Mitch Neilson and Mark Brame, the latter ultimately battling a cracked brake disc which forced him to modify his efforts under brakes.

In the end, Beck was able to withstand Neilson’s pressure, the race coming all the way down to the last of ten laps, with the pair separated by less than a tenth of a second at the line, Beck claiming his maiden Class 1 win in the process.

Brame battled on for third, although well clear of Rowan Ross and Greg Kenny, with Paul Braico further back, whilst Stephen Champion was forced out at just over half race distance, rolling into pit lane with a technical issue.

By race three, ambient temperatures had climbed above 37 degrees making conditions a lot more testing for the drivers despite the open cockpits.

In spite of the heat, the final race was the best of the day with an epic battle brewing from lap one, to the 13th and final lap between Mark Brame, John Beck, Mitch Neilson and Stephen Champion, Brame the big mover going from third to first in class across the final five laps.

Sadly for Mitch Neilson, his strong form was thwarted on lap nine whilst looking to make a move on Beck at turn two, but a quick recovery allowed him to stay with the pack to cross the line under Beck’s rear wing and with Champion similarly placed immediately behind him.

Barlow again won outright to make it three from three in Class 2, whilst Brame’s strong run across the weekend netted him his first win of the year in Class 1, immediately behind Class 3 winner Peter Hills in his SR8.

Beck’s second place finish gave him top odds for the weekend, with Neilson not far behind. Stephen Champion’s fourth was a great recovery from his race two DNF, whilst Paul Braico worked his way forward to finish ahead of Greg Kenny, whilst reigning Class 1 champion Rowan Ross withdrew early suffering from the oppressive heat,

Round two of the SuperSports season will see the field return to Sydney Motorsport Park on April 28, before heading back to Wakefield Park a month later.

In the interim, the Radical Australia Cup field will head to the new ‘The Bend’ circuit in South Australia for the second event of the 2018 season on 14-15 April.

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Rnd#1 – SuperSports Series
Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW
17 March, 2018

Qualifying (15-minutes)
1. Darren Barlow (Stohr WF1) – 1:29.7925
2. Mitchell Neilson (RAM/Neilson Race Team Radical SR3RS) – 1:30.8654
3. John Beck (Vantage Property Radical SR3RS) – 1:31.3254
4. Rowan Ross (RA Motorsports Radical SR3RSX) – 1:31.4087
5. Stephen Champion (Champion’s Business Radical SR3RS) – 1:31.4101
6. Mark Brame (Focus Motorsport Radical SR3RS) – 1:31.4445
7. Paul Braico (GWR Radical SR3RS) – 1:31.9506
8. Greg Kenny (Bluegate Property Radical SR3RS) – 1:32.6502
9. Peter Hills (GWR/Poseidon Tech. Radical SR8) – 1:43.4095

Race#1 (9-laps)
1. Darren Barlow (Stohr WF1)
2. Mitchell Neilson (RAM/Neilson Race Team Radical SR3RS)
3. John Beck (Vantage Property Radical SR3RS)
4. Rowan Ross (RA Motorsports Radical SR3RSX)
5. Peter Hills (GWR/Poseidon Tech. Radical SR8)
6. Mark Brame (Focus Motorsport Radical SR3RS)
7. Stephen Champion (Champion’s Business Radical SR3RS)
8. Greg Kenny (Bluegate Property Radical SR3RS)
9. Paul Braico (GWR Radical SR3RS)

Race#2 (10-laps)
1. Darren Barlow (Stohr WF1)
2. Peter Hills (GWR/Poseidon Tech. Radical SR8)
3. John Beck (Vantage Property Radical SR3RS)
4. Mitchell Neilson (RAM/Neilson Race Team Radical SR3RS)
5. Mark Brame (Focus Motorsport Radical SR3RS)
6. Rowan Ross (RA Motorsports Radical SR3RSX)
7. Greg Kenny (Bluegate Property Radical SR3RS)
8. Paul Braico (GWR Radical SR3RS) – 1:31.9506
DNF. Stephen Champion (Champion’s Business Radical SR3RS) – 6-laps

Race#3 (13-laps)
1. Darren Barlow (Stohr WF1)
2. Peter Hills (GWR/Poseidon Tech. Radical SR8)
3. Mark Brame (Focus Motorsport Radical SR3RS)
4. John Beck (Vantage Property Radical SR3RS)
5. Mitchell Neilson (RAM/Neilson Race Team Radical SR3RS)
6. Stephen Champion (Champion’s Business Radical SR3RS)
7. Paul Braico (GWR Radical SR3RS)
8. Greg Kenny (Bluegate Property Radical SR3RS)
DNF. Rowan Ross (RA Motorsports Radical SR3RSX) – 4-laps

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2018 SuperSports Series
Rnd#1 – Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW (Saturday, 17 March, 2018)
Rnd#2 – Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW (Saturday, 28 April, 2018)
Rnd#3 – Wakefield Park, NSW (Saturday, 26 May, 2018)
Rnd#4 – Phillip Island, Victoria (Saturday/Sunday – 23-24 June, 2018)
Rnd#5 – Wakefield Park, NSW (Saturday, 8 September, 2018)
Rnd#6 – Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW (Saturday, 17 November, 2018)

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