OPIE TAKES THE ROUND, SINGLETON TAKES THE TITLE
16 August 2011

Radical Australia Cup: Round 5 – Morgan Park Raceway, August 13-14, 2011

“What a great track,” was the common theme of practice from the Radical Australia Cup competitors, many of whom were having their maiden run on the regional Queensland circuit during the fifth round of the Shannons Nationals presented by Hi-Tec Oils.
 
“It’s pretty bumpy though,” was usually the follow-up. That said, Radical Australia’s team-manager Garth Walden admitted that despite the bumps, he was running a lower ride height than the SR3s used at Winton during round three.
 
“Bloomie [Richard Bloomfield] and I ran here last year at an event, and discovered how undulating the surface was, so we worked on a good solid setup for this weekend, and have adopted a ride height that’s actually not as severe as Winton.”
 
Bloomfield admitted prior to practice that his run late last year would put him in good stead, but that the advantage wouldn’t last long.
 
Sure enough, despite a number of spins and an ill-handling car, Bloomfield (Key Produce) topped the timesheets first time out (1:18.8335) ahead of reigning champion Peter Opie (Radical Australia) and the increasingly competitive Phil Anseline (WT Partnerships).
 
It wasn’t all plain-sailing for Bloomfield, who was struggling with rear end grip, which hampered his progress in session two.
 
By the close of practice it was Opie quickest with a 1:14.2216, setting a time in the final session, more than two seconds clear of Tony Palmer (Radical Events) and Byron Smith (Radical Australia).
 
And where was Singleton? Fourth. “There’s no sense doing anything crazy today,” he admitted post practice. “I’ve done the maths, I know where I need to be, but there’s still a long way to go.”
 
With a number of clashing dates and business commitments, the entries were down slightly for the 2011 RAC final, with another new crew in rookies Peter Johnston and Brett Trevillian sharing driving duties in a 1340cc ‘Drive Day’ car, whilst a late inclusion from JK Racing Series Asia [former Formula BMW Asia cars] regular Duvashen Padayachee in Chris Medland’s stunning chrome SR3RS had everybody talking.
 
Padayachee had been one of the stars of Eastern Creek despite campaigning a 1340cc Drive Day car, and his status as a ‘pro’ driver - the only one in the field – meant the teams would be watching him closely as the weekend progressed.
 
One driver who was watching Padayachee’s progress with interest was Peter Opie, as the two of them traded fastest times in the opening qualifying session, Padayachee (1:14.3614) holding the pole for the bulk of the session until Opie pulled out a blinder in the final seconds (1:14.1213).
 
Padayachee was on a flyer on his final lap, and bumped the car into fifth gear as he brushed the kerb on the final corner.. “And that was that,” he shrugged, “I had to hold fifth to the line, and that was 15 one hundredths slower than my best lap – that could have been it, but I’m happy with a front row start, I’m just not sure how I’ll go getting the car off the line..”
 
With car owner Chris Medland’s brother Bill starting the car for Q2, Opie was untroubled (1:14.4578) on his way to maximum points from qualifying, with Ed Singleton (MPA Projects Group) showing his hand late in the session to record the second fastest time.
 
“It took me a while to find a groove, so I’m happy with that,” Singleton admitted. “Now all I need to do is stay out of trouble, but that’s easier said than done.”
 
Third fastest was the ever-consistent Simon Haggarty, who was the third driver in mathematical contention for the title, with Ollie Smith continuing on the tradition of spinning the WT Partnerships car of Phil Anseline, the pair taking bets on who could turn the most revolutions for the weekend.
 
Fifth fastest, despite being close to the top for much of the session was Bloomfield who had rediscovered his opening practice form after issues with the rear end of the car – positions two to five covered by a quarter of a second, paving the way for an interesting afternoons racing.

Perhaps the biggest smile was on the dial of Radical Team Melbourne's Robert Baird, nabbing 6th with a 1:15:51. "When I got out of the car, at the end of the session, I told the crew that I simply couldn't better that lap. I'm rapt my time was just a second off pole", said a jubilant Baird.
 
Off pole for race one, Opie charged away from the line, but Richard Bloomfield nailed the start to charge from the third row into second.
 
As he predicted, Padayachee struggled to get off the line, and was swamped by the series regulars, dropping back to eighth by turn three.
 
Behind Opie, Bloomfield was comfortably second, as Padayachee started to work his way forward. He was sixth by the close of lap one, fourth two laps later, and setting some seriously quick times.
 
Two laps from home he’d caught Bloomfield, but had to find a way past. Bloomie wasn’t going to make it easy, and the only opening Padayachee could find, three corners from home, he went for.
 
“I had to have a go,” he admitted after crossing the line fourth, his move failing as he was forced onto the kerb, spinning the gorgeous #9 SR3RS allowing Bloomfield to take second, allowing Singleton through to third.
 
The points deficit was now 53 points, with 62 points still on offer, it wasn’t over yet.
 
Tony Palmer (Radical Events) was fifth after suffering a damper failure in early practice which threw his pre-race preparation into disarray, from Nathan Brumby (Ansarada Radical Works Team) who in just his second RAC event, couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. “That was awesome,” he beamed afterwards.
 
Seventh was Greg Smith who like Bloomfield started brilliantly and was looking to attack for a top five position, when he got caught out at turn two.
 
“Peter Opie had given me a tip on how to carry speed through turn one, into two, so I ranged up on the car in front at good speed, and thought about a pass but hesitated and backed out and lost aero grip, so that sent me down the grass,” he admitted with frustration.
 
Eighth was Simon Haggarty who was one of the movers in the field after a poor [for him] qualifying session, he was following Palmer around picking up positions when they caught Robert Baird who was having his best run of the year. It took a number of laps to round up the Victorian, but as Haggarty tried to emulate Palmer, he braked too deep and spun, taking Baird with him.
 
“I went so deep into that corner,” Baird admitted afterwards, “but Simon went deeper. I knew he wouldn’t pull it up, so planned for the cross-over to get him on the exit, but he spun, and I had nowhere to go.. That was it. The car is brilliant around here, I’m really loving it. Hopefully we can recover for a better finish tomorrow in the enduro.”
 
Bloomfield again charged off the line in race two, taking Singleton in the process as he jumped to third behind Opie and Ollie Smith. By turn six he knew he had to attack Smith, and as they came to the braking point Bloomfield was surprised to see Smith brake early, and he threw himself off the track to avoid contact, rejoining at rear of field.
 
As he had done in race one, Opie was more than three seconds up on the field by the close of the opening lap, as behind him a freight train started between Ollie Smith, Singleton, Tony Palmer, Simon Haggarty and Byron Smith that would last the bulk of the race. Despite a number of ‘looks’ at various parts of the circuit, no-one really looked like they would make a pass despite the relatively slow speed of the train.
 
There was much tension as the five cars continued to circulate in position, whilst all the time Walden was on the radio telling them to “Attack..!!”
 
"Ed was never going to challenge, he needed the points, so he would have made room, but they're all too gentlemanly!” a frustrated Walden admitted afterwards.
 
In the end positions remained unchanged, Bloomfield the biggest mover in the field, coming from the rear to seventh, just a lap short of catching the battle for second.
 
Despite another comfortable win for Opie, the championship was decided, Singleton crowned the 2011 Radical Australia Cup with a second consistent run through to third.
 
"I'm stoked," he admitted afterwards with a broad smile.
 
Third was Tony Palmer, who like Haggarty and Byron Smith behind him, was happy to hold station.
 
"I did think about it," Tony Palmer admitted afterwards about an assault on Singleton’s position, "then I elected not to. Ed has done a great job, and it was great to have the five of us racing so closely together."
 
Sunday dawned a new day and signaled the final round of Radical Australia Cup for 2011. The champion had been crowned and was keen to go back to racing, although his day didn’t start quite as well as he’d hoped, spinning at the exit of the pits on the warm-up lap…
 
Whilst he had the opportunity to start in his correct position (the second row), he started rear of field, which considering what was about to unfold at the front of the field, may have been a blessing..
 
As he had done in the sprint races, Richard Bloomfield got a monster start off the third row and started to move towards the front of the field as a bottle-neck occurred in front of him, ultimately spinning him from the outside of the circuit across into the infield wall, taking Simon Haggarty with him.
 
That immediately eliminated both cars, and put an end to any chance Haggarty had of second in the championship, although with Peter Opie’s all dominating performance, it would have been an unlikely result.
 
Whilst all of this was going on, Robert Baird was continuing on with the forward progression of Radical Team Melbourne to be third behind Opie and Padayachee as the Safety Car was brought onto the circuit to clear the carnage on the front straight.
 
“I had a great start,” Baird admitted, “and could see the field working their way to the left, so I went right and around the incident.
 
“From there we had a pretty clean run to the line.”
 
On the restart Opie and Padayachee streeted the field up to the pit-stops, the duo trading fastest times in the 16s, the 15s and then the 14s, Opie opening a gap of around two seconds to keep the edge.
 
For Padayachee though, it wasn’t an ideal situation, as being a ‘pro’ ranked driver, he would need to stop during his compulsory pit-stop for an additional 30-seconds, and at this pace, Opie held a comfortable advantage.
 
As much of the field started to pit after the 20-minute mark for their compulsory stop, the leaders stayed out, Padayachee one of the last to come in before the window closed, to hand over to Bill Medland.
 
Sadly for Bill, his run would be short-lived after a big off on the fast sweeper, threw him onto the kerb which tore off the front spoiler and tucked it under the front wheels. From there he was a passenger.
 
He wasn’t the only victim either, part of the front spoiler hitting Tony Palmer who was charging through behind him for position.
 
“I didn’t know what hit me,” Palmer admitted afterwards. Fortunately it didn’t stop him, and with Medland coming to a stop well off the circuit, the field continued to circulate and Palmer continued to charge.
 
After all the pitstops were completed, it was Opie comfortably in front from Byron Smith, Ollie Smith, Palmer and Gary Walker.
 
Palmer was the big mover, and he was on Ollie quickly – sadly his first assault didn’t quite work, dropping him off the circuit, forcing a second charge.
 
Second time around he attacked at turn seven, after getting a good run through turn six, but as he approached the corner, it was clear Ollie hadn’t seen him, and that left Palmer half committed resulting in contact. That spun Ollie around and off the circuit, and whilst he kept the engine going and rejoined, he became caught on a kerb and was unable to get the rear wheels to grip and drive him off – his race was run.
 
With just a handful of laps remaining, the field was allowed to continue, whilst a clearly disappointed Smith was left to watch his certain top four finish evaporate.
 
In the end though it was all Opie, the 2010 champion crossing the line comfortably clear of Byron Smith, with Palmer third. Post-race though he was served a penalty after the onboard footage was reviewed by Driving Standards Observer Paul Stokell, giving Palmer a 33 second penalty – his margin to fourth placed Gary Walker; 34 seconds. The result stood, and Palmer was second for the round.
 
In true Radical fashion, the result of the final round provided more fantastic results.  A standout was Tony Haggarty, making up for the disappointment of his race two exclusion at Eastern Creek to take fifth.  Behind him was the beaming Nathan Brumby. “I just can’t get enough of this,” he admitted post race.
 
“I had a huge tank-slapper and a spin on the dirty circuit where Bill [Medland] went off, but apart from that it was awesome.”

For first-time RAC competitors Peter Johnston and Brett Trevillian, there was consensus it was a superb experience. Both delivered faster and faster laps as the weekend progressed and finished every race without incident. "I can't wait to get back - brilliant!", said Johnston.
 
Well that’s it for season 2011. Make sure you keep in touch with all the developments as the 2012 season approaches, with as many as seven rounds in the championship.
 

 
Photo Gallery
Click on an image above to view the complete gallery