Radical Australia Cup: Round 1 - Wakefield Park
05 April 2011

Radical Australia impress on Nationals debut!

The Shannons Nationals turned 50 on the weekend, Wakefield Park’s 2011 season opener signalling the 50th event in six years at the very venue where it all started in March 2006. A lot has changed over the years, and 2011 signalled yet another forward step for the series with the introduction of Radical Australia Cup for the first time.

15 teams entered the opening round, which was scheduled for twin 12-lap sprint races on Saturday, followed by a 50-minute endurance round on Sunday, the sprint races setting the starting positions for the enduro.

Under Radical Australia Cup enduro rules, each entry can compete with one or two drivers, the enduro format including a compulsory 60-second (minimum) pitstop where a driver change can occur, or if the entry is a single driver, that driver must also step out of the car and then strap themselves back in.

The Radical concept for the Nationals was a new one, never before had open cockpit prototype style sportscars competed on the Nationals scorecard, so it was a new experience for everyone, not the least being for competitors new to the category.

“There’s a number of new drivers into Radical for the first time this weekend,” Radical Australia’s Peter Opie confirmed. And that highlighted one of the great strengths of the category, its appeal to drivers who in many cases are new to motorsport.

“I would suggest that more than half the field would not have competed in Radical for more than 12 months,” Opie said.

Of those that were without significant experience in the mighty 1500cc four-cylinder RPE-powered Radical SR3s, a number were entered in Thursday’s private practice sessions and back again for Friday.

Friday practice saw a conservative number of cars on track as many of the drivers didn’t arrive until later in the day, however the first timed sessions of the weekend did provide some idea of what was to come, with head of Radical Events’ Tony Palmer recording a 59.2733 in session three.

By qualifying a further indication of what was likely to occur at the front of the field unfolded, it was called Peter Opie..

The 2010 Radical Australia Cup champion complete with a brand new 2011 SR3RS with latest spec aero and brakes was quickly on the pace setting a blistering pole time in the session for ‘A’ drivers of 58.0902. In an identical all new car, Radical debutante Tim Berryman (former F3 competitor) was just eight one hundredths slower, with Richard Bloomfield third ahead of MPA Projects’ Ed Singleton.

In qualifying session ‘B’ Opie again topped the timesheets although this time the pace was slower, his best of 58.7657 though still good enough to ensure pole position for both 12-lap sprint races. Behind him in session two, Glyn Edis (58.9797) and Ed Singleton (59.1749).

Race one saw Opie slow enough away to allow Berryman to attack at turn one, the series rookie taking the lead on the run up the hill as Opie ran wide and dropped back to sixth. This was enough to give Berryman the break, and despite the best efforts of Opie and Edis - who staged a terrific battle for second - they were unable to catch him, the margin for victory in the end, more than seven seconds!

“That was interesting,” Peter Opie laughed afterwards. “I just went into turn one a little deep and put two wheels off on the exit, but that’s all it takes when the lead pack is this close. After running wide a second time - after I’d passed Glyn the first time - I just conserved to the flag, there was no sense putting undue pressure on the tyres.”

The quietly spoken Berryman didn’t have much to add, but the smile in his eyes told enough of a story.. “That was pretty good,” he admitted.

Off pole for Saturday’s second 12-lapper Opie wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice, and he led Edis, Palmer, Singelton and Miles through the opening lap.

Palmer was looking to make amends for his opening race DNF and attacked Edis early, but spun at the final corner after locking the rears in a late braking duel. This allowed both Singleton and Miles to gain a position, and that’s how the field ran to the flag.

Richard Bloomfield was the big mover, coming through the field from an eleventh place starting position to be sixth by race end, whilst Phil Anseline also made up plenty of ground after his rear of field start, forging his way through to seventh.

Whilst the pace wasn’t slow - Edis quickest with a best of 59.0865 on the penultimate lap – it was clear that tyre conservation was on people’s minds.

“They’re a medium compound Dunlop,” Garth Walden confirmed. “Depending on track temperature – and the track was a lot warmer in race two than race one – it can take up to ten laps to get good temperature into the tyres, which is why the times get quicker. Drop-off isn’t bad at all, but that said, there’s a few concerned faces about what the tyres will be like at the end.”

“That’s part of the appeal of the enduros,” Greg Smith admitted. “A lot of things come into play, including tyre wear – it’s knowing when to push, and as I said early in the weekend, that’s not in qualifying, nor the sprint races. If you do charge then, there’s a strong chance you’ll destroy your tyres long before the 50-minute mark of the final.”

Sunday morning’s pre-enduro warm up saw just a handful of cars on track.. “A lot of drivers are staying put because they don’t want to add more miles to the tyres,” Walden confirmed.

Come race time all 15 teams were on the grid for the 12:15 start on the series first enduro for the year, with three dual driver teams; Berryman/Miles, Baird/Walker and Smith/Smith on the grid. For the other 12 teams, one driver would complete the full 50-minute stint.

Courtesy of his sprint race results, Opie had pole but was jumped at the start by Berryman who led Opie, Edis and MPA Projects’ Ed Singleton up the hill for the first time.

Behind them Bloomfield, Palmer, Robert Baird and Chris Medland were fighting over fifth place, Medland the first to fall away after pitting on lap nine.

That was the way they would run to the pitstop window, with Singleton first in on lap 24, and the leading trio two laps later. All drivers were required to unbuckle, jump out of the car and strap themselves back in before leaving the pits again with a minimum stop of 60 seconds..

As it was explained by Peter Opie pre-race, the driver would casually get out of the car, stand at attention next to the car, and then get back in.. The reality; leap out of the car like a gazelle landing on hot coals, and leap straight back in again – it was a sight to behold..

Berryman and co-driver Jonathan Miles made the most of their stop to lead out of the pits, but Miles restart on pitlane was slower than Edis, who like Opie and Singleton, didn’t do a driver change (it’s not compulsory). That allowed Edis to attack into turn one, and he grabbed the lead and held it for ten laps despite great pressure from Miles and Opie.

Tyre conservation had been the talk of the weekend, with some concern pre-race that they might in fact struggle to make the 50-minute race duration, so most drivers were being cautious and conservative through the opening segment of the race.

With the lap record (58.3194) being set on lap 48 of 49 by Miles, and Opie turning his best on the same lap (58.7615), in the end there was no question about the durability of the Dunlop at all.

Miles had been the first to increase the pace, dropping into the 58s in the final ten laps. At this stage Opie had been sitting comfortably in third behind Edis, but once Miles attacked and started to stretch his lead, he knew he had to move with the Miles, a former state level Formula Ford pilot opening up a big lead. Opie dived inside Edis on the run into the final corner on lap 44 as they caught a back-marker, and set off in pursuit. By this stage Miles was gone, setting the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate circuit to cross the line almost four seconds clear.

"That was fabulous. This was a brand new car and Thursday saw my first laps of Wakefield in it,” Berryman said. “I brought Jonathan [Miles] onboard because I wasn't sure how tough the enduro format would be and I thought there would be more twin-driver teams, but in the end, I probably could have done the full quota myself, but I really enjoyed his company, and he drove brilliantly."

"I'm grateful for Tim giving me the opportunity, and I had a blast,” Miles agreed. “I've never driven a wings and slicks car before, and at certain parts of the track you could really feel the aero working, it was a blast, I hope I get invited back for the next round."

Peter Opie was reflective on the final result, but more than pleased with the way it had played out. “What a great weekend. To see so much good racing throughout the field was just what we were hoping for.

"In the end we were all a little bit cautious about what level of tyre degradation we would see, but with Jonathon setting the new Radical lap record on lap 48 (of 49), and me doing much the same on the same lap, it was clear that we were probably a little conservative in the end, and could have charged much earlier than we did.”

One of the event front runners and one of the series major supporters, Ed Singleton was hot on the heels of the lead pack prior to the compulsory pitstop, but a slow stop meant that he was delayed in getting out, the car also struggling to re-fire.

"I think it cost me about ten seconds in the end, but that was enough. We kept the pace going, but the race was run, unless of course one of the leaders fell off and that didn't happen.

“I had a good battle with Richard Bloomfield towards the end – despite the fact he was a lap down - that really got the adrenaline pumping and made the closing laps interesting.”

Glyn Edis too was happy with the final result, which saw him finish on Opie’s tail and claim third overall for the weekend.

"What a great days racing, it was nice that we were all so close. In the end I couldn't hold Peter [Opie] and Jonathan [Miles] out, but I really enjoyed myself."

At the close of 50-minutes all but Tony Haggarty (shifting issue, again caused by a failed fuse) and Tony Palmer (gearbox) crossed the line, although both Sue Hughes and Byron Smith were running at a slower pace over the closing laps.

Sue had been quick during the early part of the weekend, but struggled home with a failed wheel bearing in the left-rear which dropped her off the track a couple of laps from the end, but she slowed her pace to make the finish. “That was my goal,” she grinned afterwards. “I would have carried it across if I needed to.”

Byron Smith admitted that like his father Greg in the opening session, they’d suffered an electrical issue.  However, it came good and they finished the race strongly. “Greg suffered from a display issue which threw him off target with what gear was selected, and I just couldn’t select gears at all at various stages, so I backed off and it seemed to come good again and we made the finish.

“All in all, it was a great weekend and a great start to Radical’s Shannons Nationals campaign,” said Byron Smith.

George Pethard’s weekend was super-consistent, the Nevco Engineering SR3 completing every race, and placing inside the top ten in just his second event. Behind him Brett Sutton’s run through to tenth was just as memorable after five months out of the seat, his consistency earning him a top ten start in the championship points.

Whilst his father may have missed the final, Simon Haggarty put in one of the drives of the weekend to work his way from 12th to sixth in the enduro. It was disappointing end for the Haggarty Racing Team, after the pair of HRT machines who more often than not ran nose-to-tail throughout the weekend, were unable to do so in the final race after Tony’s retirement.

Round #2 for the Radical Australia Cup will, be run at Phillip Island on May 28-29.

The Radical Australia Cup is proudly supported by MPA Projects, Industrie clothing, Travelplan Holidays, Shell Racing Solutions and Dunlop.

Qualifying #1
Peter Opie – Radical Australia (58.0902)

Qualifying #2
Peter Opie – Radical Australia (58.7657)

Race #1 (12-laps)
1. Tim Berryman – Volvo Cars Australia
2. Peter Opie – Radical Australia
3. Glyn Edis – Interior Developments
4. Ed Singleton - MPA Projects
5. Chris Medland – Radical Australia
6. Robert Baird – Radical Team Melbourne
7. Greg Smith – Radical Australia
8. Brett Sutton
9. Simon Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team
10. Tony Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team
11. George Pethard – Nevco Engineering
12. Sue Hughes – Navybox School of Motorsport
DNF. Phil Anseline – WT Partnership
DNF. Richard Bloomfield - Key Produce
DNF. Tony Palmer – Radical Events

Fastest lap: Peter Opie (59.1745) – lap 10

Race #2 (12-laps)
1. Peter Opie – Radical Australia
2. Glyn Edis – Interior Developments
3. Ed Singleton - MPA Projects
4. Jonathan Miles – Volvo Cars Australia
5. Chris Medland – Radical Australia
6. Richard Bloomfield - Key Produce
7. Phil Anseline – WT Partnership
8. Gary Walker – Radical Team Melbourne
9. Tony Palmer – Radical Events
10. Brett Sutton
11. Byron Smith – Radical Australia
12. Simon Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team
13. George Pethard – Nevco Engineering
14. Sue Hughes – Navybox School of Motorsport
15. Tony Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team

Fastest lap: Glyn Edis (59.0865) – lap 11

Race #3 (50-minutes)
1. Tim Berryman/Jonathan Miles - Volvo Cars Australia (49-laps)
2. Peter Opie – Radical Australia
3. Glyn Edis – Interior Developments
4. Ed Singleton - MPA Projects
5. Richard Bloomfield - Key Produce (48-laps)
6. Simon Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team
7. Robert Baird/Gary Walker – Radical Team Melbourne (47-laps)
8. Phil Anseline – WT Partnership
9. George Pethard – Nevco Engineering
10. Brett Sutton (46-laps)
11. Greg/Byron Smith – Radical Australia
12. Chris Medland – Radical Australia (44-laps)
13. Sue Hughes – Navybox School of Motorsport (43-laps)
DNF. Tony Palmer – Radical Events (19-laps)
DNF. Tony Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team

Fastest lap: Jonathan Miles (58.3194) – lap 48

Championship points (after round one of five);
1. Tim Berryman/Jonathan Miles - 72
2. Peter Opie - 70
3. Glyn Edis - 62
4. Ed Singleton - 56
5. Robert Baird/Gary Walker - 40
6. Richard Bloomfield - 39
7. Simon Haggarty - 36
8. Phil Anseline - 29
9. Chris Medland - 29
10. Brett Sutton - 27
11. George Pethard - 24
12. Greg.Byron Smith - 24
13. Sue Hughes - 10
14. Tony Palmer - 6
15. Tony Haggarty - 5

Article by Sean Henshelwood
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