24 September 2012

MUCH like a team chasing a premiership in any football code, wins away from home are absolutely critical – and that’s why Radical Australia Cup points leader Neale Muston can feel a little more secure about his title hopes this year. The New South Wales driver had won three times at Sydney Motorsport Park this season but at the weekend broke through for his first ‘away’ win of the year – taking out Round 6 of the series at Victoria’s Phillip Island.

Muston was in superb form all weekend and edged out a tightly-bunched pack in challenging conditions to take pole and win both 50-minute endurance races at the high speed, 4.46km circuit in Victoria’s South East.

It was his fourth win of the year and first away from the safe confines of his home track – and a win that has entrenched him at the top of the RAC standings with just one round remaining.

“It was a fantastic weekend and they threw just about everything at us, including the weather,” Muston said on the podium.

“This is a fantastic circuit and the racing was outstanding all weekend. Everyone did a fantastic job of keeping on the circuit, especially towards the end of today’s (Sunday) race when it started to rain.

“The conditions were hugely challenging but we got through it and it’s nice to be on the top of the podium here.”

After a perfect day on Saturday, mixed weather conditions greeted competitors for Sunday’s second race with a rain shower sweeping the circuit with just 15 minutes remaining in the race.

Conveniently, that occurred during a safety car period but it left competitors on a slippery track with just four minutes of the 50-minute timed race remaining for a sprint to the flag. Though there were some close calls, some exemplary driving brought the entire field home in the challenging conditions.

Muston took his compulsory stop early on Sunday and had to climb through the order for the remainder of the race, only leading the first and last five laps of the 27-lap affair.

The #78 Radical Australia entry of Greg Smith and Chris Medland led much of the middle stanza before stopping right at the end of the compulsory pit window, handing the lead to Oliver Smith – who was subsequently passed by Muston just before making a second stop for wet tyres.

Smith dropped to sixth, but charged through on the wild final lap to pass five cars and jump to second, only just falling short of Muston at the line.  

Earlier in the weekend, Muston won Saturday’s race over Peter Johnston and Tony Palmer – who won at Phillip Island earlier this year – with Simon Haggarty and Oliver Smith completing the top five.

On Sunday Muston repeated but only edged out Oliver Smith by just one-tenth of a second at the line in a thrilling finish. Peter Johnston completed the top three with both also finishing on the round podium – though with their order reversed.

Tony Haggarty won the Masters division, finishing eighth in race one and a superb fifth in the second.

Both races featured high quality racing and results that went down to the wire, with Muston’s wins never a certainty until he had well and truly crossed the line.

It continued the trend for highly competitive racing in this year’s Radical Australia Cup, with the season finale back on ‘home turf’, at Sydney Motorsport Park set to be a thriller. 

Also at the weekend, the finale of the Radical Victoria Cup was held within Round 6 of the Radical Australia Cup event – Robert Baird sealing the first Radical series title to be held ‘south of the border’.

The final round of the 2012 Radical Australia Cup will be held at Sydney Motorsport Park on October 20.

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