Report by Vince Johnson and photos by Bob Taylor and Grant Sims
The Clipsal 500 Adelaide 2011 was held 17-20 March at the 14-turn, 3.22 km Adelaide Street Circuit in South Australia.
Fifteen years ago the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix headed interstate from South Australia, but Adelaide still echoes to the sound of race engines each year. The Clipsal 500 is actually two 250 kilometre races around the streets of the state capital. Over the weekend, twenty eight five-litre Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons battled the weather and each other in the 4th round of Australia’s V8 Supercars Championship. The 14 race series visits each state of the continent, New Zealand and also Abu Dhabi. While these four door V8s can’t be called sports cars, they certainly stretch the laws of physics around the unforgiving 3.2km circuit.
Over four days the program also includes six other categories of racing. An innovation this year for the first round of the Australian GT Championship was an hour-long twilight race on Friday evening. A blazing setting sun made the entry into turn 4 on Wakefield Street an extra challenge for drivers as headlights became necessary. Klark Quinn’s Mosler led from start to finish, but not before withstanding the determined efforts of Mark Eddy in the Audi R8 LMS with Greg Crick’s Viper in third. Quinn’s father Tony had become a spectator after his Aston Martin touched the wall. He made amends in the second race, following the same trio home for fourth on Sunday, as Eddy and Crick swapped steps on the podium. Brothers Damien and Adrian Flack brought their Porsche GT3 and Ginetta G50, in its race debut, home 1-2 in the GT Challenge class on both days.
Friday’s feature race was run for the inaugural Murray Walker Tourist Trophy. The veteran race commentator also gave his name to the display of ‘Extreme Machines’ housed near the GT paddock. Alongside the European exotics was the 1220kg rear-engined Alan Jones ‘Fusion’, its 450hp 6.2 litre V8 giving it a claimed top speed of 320kph.
Much smaller in capacity but no less impressive were the Aussie Racing Cars. Looking like a cross between a V8 Supercar and a go-kart, and powered by a 1200cc motorcycle engine, the 450kg screamers provided some of the closest racing of the meeting. Kyle Clews finished with two wins and two seconds from the four races with Peter Carr taking two victories.
The ‘development category’ for the V8 Supercars, identical in specification but a few years older, is the Fujitsu Series. Race winners were Andrew Thompson and Jason Richards. Local driver Nick Percat, with second and third placings, took the points lead from Tim Blanchard, consistent with two fourths. But the Clipsal meeting is not just about tintops. In the Formula Fords, Tom Williamson improved from his third place in race 1 behind Cameron Waters and Nick Foster to a win in race 2. He led home rookies Jesse Fenech and Nick Cassidy, the trio heading the points table after the Adelaide round.
Almost as popular to race fans as the new V8s, the Touring Car Masters showcased tail-happy Camaros, Holdens, Fords and Valiants from the 1960’s and 1970’s along with nimbler Porsches, a lone Alfa and an Escort. John Bowe’s 1969 5.8 litre Trans Am Mustang showed its driver’s class with two wins, following his fourth place behind Brad Tilley’s Falcon in race 1. Eddie Albenica (1974 Ford Falcon XB coupe), Jim Richards (1964 Falcon Sprint) and Steve Mason (1969 Chev Camaro) shared podium places with Tilley over the weekend.
Thirty two Holden and Ford utility vehicles lined up four times for the V8 Utes races. Entertainment was the original intention when this category was introduced a decade ago. These ‘utes’ bear little resemblance to their farm workhorse origins and the racing is entirely serious. David Sieders took the honours in race 1 but the top 18 placegetters were reversed for the start of the next race. He managed to work his way back up to 6th, the race going to Gary Carson. Ryal Harris followed Sieders home in the third race, as he had in the first and he held second in race 4, behind Grant Johnson. The wet conditions played havoc with grip, Sieders limping home on three wheels in 7th place to take the points lead.
But it was standing room only when the V8 Supercars took to the streets. Saturday’s race saw the safety car out front for 14 of the 76 laps, altering race strategies and fuel stops. Jamie Whincup had to be content with 2nd behind Garth Tander, winner of last year’s two races. He was followed home by team mate Craig Lowndes. A downpour just before the start of Sunday’s race made the opening laps a case of try and stay out of trouble, but as the track dried, Whincup and Rick Kelly asserted their superiority, running 1-2 from lap 44 to the finish.
Clipsal 500 Adelaide 2011 – Photo Gallery (click image for large picture and description)
[Source: Vince Johnson; photo credit: Bob Taylor and Grant Sims]