Even mother nature couldn’t prevent the Paddon-express from continuing the winning streak at Sandown for round two of the Radical Australia Cup, the two-time champion unstoppable despite Melbourne’s wildly unpredictable autumn weather.
Despite the intermittent heavy rain and challenges from the new Radical SR3RSX which had already proven at Bathurst to be a faster prospect in a straight line – a prospect those teams were looking forward to on Sandown’s two long drag-strip straights – Paddon overcame the odds to add two more wins to his 2017 tally, making the reigning champion undefeated this year two rounds into the five round season.
Kim Burke in his upgraded 2015 RSX set the pace in the opening practice session, the Sydney-sider followed by David Crampton in his brand-new 2017 RSX and Oliver Smith (2017 RSX), in fact the top six suggested that Paddon would have his work cut out for him, with Tony Haggarty and Rowan Ross making it five new 2017 long-stroke powered SR3s in the top six.
Sharing the car once again with Michael Whiting, Radical Australia driver coach James Winslow set a stunning pace in P2 with Burke continuing to lead for the series regulars, his time impressive considering another Radical driver coach in part-time V8 Supercar driver Karl Reindler was third!
In final practice Reindler went better again to top the session in Greg Smith’s SR3RS – the series veteran sadly forced out due to illness – whilst Kim Burke continued to impress, as did series rookie Peter Clare who claimed fourth behind Oliver Smith.
By opening qualifying Peter Paddon arrived at the circuit after being delayed on Friday in Sydney, his best time putting him second, but he – like the remainder of the field – could do nothing but watch in awe as part-time prototype star James Winslow smashed the standing lap record for an SR3 at Sandown, with a best of 1:11.8149.
Kim Burke and Oliver Smith made up row two behind Paddon and Winslow, whilst David Crampton and Simon Haggarty completed row three.
For qualifying two [which sets the grid for the second of the 50-minute races] Kim Burke deservedly took the top spot, seven tenths faster than points leader Paddon suggesting that the new car was going to present the reigning champion with plenty of challenges.. Paddon’s nearest title rival Oliver Smith was next ahead of Crampton who was continuing to improve in the new car, with Rowan Ross and the impressive Peter Clare close behind.
The cars lined up on the grid for the opening race at Sandown with imposing skies threatening to upstage the Radical Australia Cup regulars, although the race start was held in brilliant sunshine.
Sadly the drama wasn’t only looming overhead, with Kim Burke and Ollie Smith coming together at turn one as they battled over third position. The result ended what had been a brilliant start to the weekend for Burke, the #68 car limping back to the pits with broken suspension, whilst Smith didn’t fare much better, suffering damage to the side skirt of the #86 car in the melee.
Up front Winslow was charging knowing full well that he needed to eke out a lead of at least 30-seconds prior to the compulsory 60-second pit stop by virtue of his ranking as a professional driver, but whilst he was quick, so too was Paddon who was trying to keep the Englishman within sight.
As the pit window approached, so did the weather with skies darkening and light rain falling. On track the field started to spread out behind Winslow although Rowan Ross and Simon Haggarty had the fans enthralled with a great battle for fourth behind Crampton who was enjoying the benefit of some extra power from his new RSX.
After a tough start Tony Haggarty was first into the pits, followed soon after by Sue Hughes, Bill Medland and Paddon – all of them electing to change from slicks to the control Dunlop wet weather tyre.
Winslow used his immense skill to continue circulating on slick tyres, before pitting right at the end of the window as the rain stopped to hand the car to team-mate Michael Whiting. The team rolled the strategy dice and elected to stay on the dry weather tyres, a move with great merit, but a move which made it tough on the car owner, who had no idea what the grip levels were like, a situation which saw the #33 car quickly off the circuit with heavy damage to the front splitter forcing a return to pit lane.
With the compulsory stops over and the order re-established, David Crampton emerged as race leader with a hard-charging Paddon in close pursuit. With 12-minutes to go, Paddon made his way into the lead as conditions again started to worsen, Oliver Smith taking Crampton four laps later after a huge recovery from the opening corner fracas.
With eight minutes to go, the heavens opened making visibility difficult, much less keeping the car in a straight line. The following lap, race officials declared the race, seven minutes early, but not before some scary moments for the drivers, including Chris Medland who had a big spin on the approach to Dandenong Road corner.
Ultimately Paddon was declared the winner, 13-seconds up on Smith, with Crampton a similar distance further back in third, a great result on his debut in the new car in challenging conditions. Rowan Ross was fourth ahead of the recovering Tony Haggarty, whilst Chris Medland recovered after his last lap spin for a well deserved sixth.
The experienced Sue Hughes was seventh ahead of Bill Medland, whilst Peter Clare’s great run in dry practice was thwarted by what were extremely challenging conditions for even the most experienced campaigner – he was the last classified finisher.
Teams went to bed on Saturday night praying for finer conditions, but Melbourne in autumn is all about four-seasons-in-one-day so their requests went sadly unheard..
With heavy rain falling ahead of the second race, a number of drivers withdrew due to the challenges of racing in the cold and wet, depleting the field slightly as the cars drove off the dummy grid for the second 50-minute race just prior to midday.
Conditions were wet, but there was nothing falling from the sky as Kim Burke and Paddon led the field to the line for the start.
Paddon took the lead early with Burke and Oliver Smith in pursuit, but sadly for the 2016 Radical Australia Cup runner-up, Smith spun on lap two looking for a way past Burke, dropping him back behind Tony Haggarty in seventh place.
After working his way back to fifth, Smith was first down pit lane for his compulsory stop, changing to slick tyres on the advice of driver coach Karl Reindler, a decision which at one point looked a little shaky after light rain began to fall almost immediately afterwards, but the experienced Smith drove a measured race to haul himself back into contention as the rest of the field completed their stops.
Sadly the rain intensified forcing another stop to change back to wets, dropping the #86 car back to ninth, whilst up front Kim Burke moved back into second after race leader Tony Haggarty and Michael Whiting made their stops, Whiting to hand back to James Winslow.
With nine minutes to go, Simon Haggarty’s horrid season took another turn for the worse, the series veteran spinning at turn one, beaching the #5 car to make it three DNFs from four races, whilst Peter Clare suffered a similar fate on the final turn with two laps to go.
By this stage Paddon had made his way back into the lead, leaving the points leader comfortably clear as officials once again brought the race to an early conclusion due to worsening visibility.
So that made it four-from-four for Paddon who crossed the line more than a minute clear of Kim Burke, who finished just a couple of car lengths clear of a delighted David Crampton. Tony Haggarty was a well deserved fourth, ahead of James Winslow who set the fastest lap of the race in the tricky conditions – interestingly his best lap of 1:17.3424 was only three one hundredths of a second faster than Paddon’s best.
Oliver Smith crossed the line for sixth to retain second in the Radical Australia Cup points, with Rowan Ross seventh and Sue Hughes eighth, both of them moving up the points order after a typically testing Sandown round.
“I was pretty lucky in the end, the conditions were very tough, I think we were all just trying to hang on,” Peter Paddon admitted post race. “There’s no denying how quick the new RSX was at Sandown. In the wet they pulled away pretty easily in a straight line, so the long stroke engine definitely works well. I think my speed in the wet was more luck than anything else – I had a good setup, and was actually driving pretty conservatively to stay on the track. I think at times both Kim and Ollie were faster than me, but our strategy worked out well.
“Four from four is a great start to the season. Last year I had a single mechanical DNF that put me into second place heading onto the last round, so there is no complacency. Heading to Phillip Island next I expect the RSXs to be even tougher to compete with, so it will be interesting to see if I can keep the [winning] streak alive!”
For the Radical Australia Cup teams the next event will also be held in Victoria, on the iconic Phillip island Grand Prix circuit at the end of May [27-28] once more as part of the CAMS Australian Motor Racing Nationals.
2017 Radical Australia Cup
Sandown Raceway, Melbourne, Victoria
1. James Winslow (Taylor Collision Radical SR3RS) – 1:11.8149
2. Peter Paddon (First Focus Radical SR3RS) – 1:13.2587
3. Kim Burke (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX) – 1:13.4610
4. Oliver Smith (Radical Australia 2017 Radical SR3RSX) – 1:13.9384
5. David Crampton (Vantage Freight Radical SR3RSX) – 1:14.2841
6. Simon Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RS) – 1:14.8586
7. Rowan Ross (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX) – 1:14.9534
8. Tony Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RSX) – 1:15.0183
9. Peter Clare (Shared Runway Radical SR3RS) – 1:15.3319
10. Chris Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 1:16.3612
11. Bill Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX) – 1:16.7013
12. Sue Hughes (Hughes Motorsport Radical SR3RS) – 1:17.9496
1. Kim Burke (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX) – 1:13.0275
2. Peter Paddon (First Focus Radical SR3RS) – 1:13.7904
3. Oliver Smith (Radical Australia 2017 Radical SR3RSX) – 1:13.8557
4. David Crampton (Vantage Freight Radical SR3RSX) – 1:14.2187
5. Chris Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 1:14.4660
6. Rowan Ross (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX) – 1:14.6167
7. Peter Clare (Shared Runway Radical SR3RS) – 1:14.6280
8. Simon Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RS) – 1:15.0273
9. Tony Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RSX) – 1:15.1752
10. Michael Whiting (Taylor Collision Radical SR3RS) – 1:15.6713
11. Bill Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX) – 1:15.9230
12. Sue Hughes (Hughes Motorsport Radical SR3RS) – 1:17.4878
1. Peter Paddon (First Focus Radical SR3RS) – 30-laps
2. Oliver Smith (Radical Australia 2017 Radical SR3RSX)
3. David Crampton (Vantage Freight Radical SR3RSX)
4. Rowan Ross (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX) – 29-laps
5. Tony Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RSX)
6. Chris Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RS) – 28-laps
7. Sue Hughes (Hughes Motorsport Radical SR3RS)
8. Bill Medland (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX)
9. Peter Clare (Shared Runway Radical SR3RS) – 26-laps
DNF. Michael Whiting/James Winslow (Taylor Collision Radical SR3RS) – 21-laps
DNF. Simon Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RS) – 20-laps
DNF. Kim Burke (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX) – 0-laps
1. Peter Paddon (First Focus Radical SR3RS) – 30-laps
2. Kim Burke (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX)
3. David Crampton (Vantage Freight Radical SR3RSX)
4. Tony Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RSX)
5. Michael Whiting/James Winslow (Taylor Collision Radical SR3RS) – 29-laps
6. Oliver Smith (Radical Australia 2017 Radical SR3RSX) – 27-laps
7. Rowan Ross (Radical Australia Radical SR3RSX)
8. Sue Hughes (Hughes Motorsport Radical SR3RS) – 26-laps
DNF. Simon Haggarty (Axiom Wealth Radical SR3RS) – 28-laps
DNF. Peter Clare (Shared Runway Radical SR3RS) – 28-laps
Championship Points (after two rounds of five)
1. Peter Paddon (152-points), 2. Oliver Smith (120), 3. David Crampton (96), 4. Tony Haggarty (95), 5. Kim Burke (83), 6. Rowan Ross (57), 7. Michael Whiting (56), 8. Sue Hughes (48), 9. John Morriss (46), 10. Chris Medland (41), 11. James Winslow (34), 12. Nicholas Stavropolous (32), 13. Bill Medland (30), 14. Simon Meade (28), 15. Peter Clare (25), 16. Peter Johnston (22), 17. Simon Haggarty (20), 18. Richard Bloomfield (17), 19. Shane Barwood (16), 20. Greg Kenny (5)