Report and photos by Vince Johnson
The Aussie V8 Supercar series kicked off its 2012 season on 1-4 March around the streets of the South Australian capital in Adelaide. Supported by seven categories of racing, the event has Hall of Fame status, usually reserved only for champion drivers. Two 78 lap races of the unforgiving 3.22 kilometre circuit make for 500km of close racing over the weekend. Little room for error exists with the concrete barriers creating stiff competition for the racing line.
The support categories compete over shorter distances but the opening event of the 2012 Australian GT Championship was a twilight one-hour race with a compulsory pit stop. Several teams used this as an opportunity to run two drivers but light rain started to fall during the final laps and no one wanted to risk losing time with a second pit stop for wets. Klark Quinn (Porsche GT3-R) and Peter Hackett (Mercedes Benz AMG SLS) shared the lead in the closing stages with Alan Simonsen (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) hard on their heels. Quinn managed to avoid Hackett’s encounter with the slower Audi R8 LMS of Mark Eddy and took the win but Simonsen had to go the long way round, allowing a delighted Jordan Ormsby (Porsche 997 GT3 Cup) through into second.
Sunday morning’s race was interrupted when local Kevin Weeks’ Ford GT3 hit the tyre barriers hard. After the restart, misfortune again struck the Ferrari, now in the hands of Simonsen’s teammate Peter Edwards. Contact with the Mercedes of James Brock sent the Ferrari to the rear of the field while Quinn cruised to victory from Brock and the fast finishing Audi R8 of Warren Luff.
The Porsches were also flying in the Carrera Cup races. Turns 1-2 at the end of Pit Straight is appropriately named the Senna chicane, in memory of the champion’s many flying laps in Adelaide. Drivers wanting to shave tenths off their lap time ride the kerbs here and it certainly helps when you’re in a robust German car. Alex Davison lowered his own lap record in each of his two wins. New Zealander Craig Baird prevented Davison’s hat trick in race 3 with fellow Kiwi Daniel Gaunt consistent with two third places.
As always, the scaled-down Aussie Racing Cars produced some of the closest competition. 2011 champion Adrian Cottrell’s (“Toyota Aurion”) four wins couldn’t be faulted, with Kyle Clews, Peter Carr, Tyler Owen and Simon Smith sharing the podiums. Home from the US was IMSA Lites 2 champion Tom Drewer in car 15. Another faultless performer was UK driver James Winslow, unbeatable in Formula 3. He was followed home in each of the three races by Matthew Sofi and Chris Gilmour. These Dallaras were the quickest of all categories on track during the weekend.
Had Alan Jones’ 1980 title winning Williams Formula One car been driven in anger, it may have outrun the Formula 3s. Chassis FW07/04 was a winner in 1979 at Hockenheim, the Osterreichring, Monza and Montreal and in 1980 at Buenos Aires but owner Paul Faulkner kept it to demonstration speeds. Australia’s last F1 champion followed it in the Lexus LFA, its 4.8 litre V10 estimated to take it to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds and a 325km/h top speed.
Alan had earlier spent time discussing the Williams with students from the national finals of the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge. Introduced into Australia in 2004 from the UK by the Re-Engineering Australia Foundation, it is the world’s biggest science, technology, engineering and mathematics program and involves students in 31 nations forming teams to design, build and race model F1 cars powered by carbon dioxide canisters to speeds of over 80km/h.
The between-race demonstrations also included the ‘Route 66” and “Show n Shine” hot rods, American classics and Aussie street machines. Parked outside the displays, in its original livery, was the Corvette first owned by ‘Harper Valley PTA’ singer Jeannie C Riley.
Of similar vintage but slightly more competitive were the Touring Car Masters. Ford Mustangs took out all three races in the hands of John Bowe (races 1 & 3) and Gavin Bullas but Andrew Miedecke’s Camaro SS saved face for the General with two seconds and a third. Jim Richards (1972 AMC Javelin) improved on his two fourth placings to make the third step on the podium in Sunday morning’s race.
Ford’s Falcon XR8 made it a clean sweep for first and second in the often-sideways V8 Ute races. Andrew Fisher won on Friday with Kris Walton victorious in races 2 & 3.
Last year’s Bathurst 1000 co-winner Nick Percat came closest to spoiling Ford’s party in the V8 Development Series. 3rd in race 1 and 2nd in race 2, his Holden Commodore VE2 had to yield twice to Chaz Mostert’s winning Falcon FG and Scott McLaughlin’s similar Ford.
Holden fans had celebrated long into Saturday night after Jamie Whincup beat Will Davison’s Falcon to the chequered flag in the first of the 250km Supercar races. Garth Tander’s and Craig Lowndes brought their Commodores across the line in 3rd and 4th. However, the blue flags flew on Sunday afternoon when Davison went one place better, with fellow Ford driver Mark Winterbottom leading home the Holdens of Tander and Whincup.
[Source: Vince Johnson]