The final round for the year of “The Nationals”, the nine round Shannons series that criss-crosses the country annually climaxed at Sydney Motorsport Park under extreme weather conditions to say the least.
Saturday’s very hot and windy conditions culminated in high powered winds through the latter part of the afternoon and had competitors guessing, especially as they exited pit lane into turn one at three-quarter speed, as they faced the swirling 50 knot nor-westerly winds. Thunder and a barrage of lightning gave spectators an incredible front row seat to an awesome light show, and had teams on high alert as the track alternatively went from hot and dry, followed by wet and cold, returning to hot and dry only a matter of 10 minutes after the storm abated.
This sequence occurred twice more as the wave of storm cells crossed the Eastern Creek precinct throughout the afternoon. Nathan Gotch, of AGI Motorsports, commented “…it was really tough to get the setup correct yesterday. Starting with a stiff setup to match the new tyres , we were constantly adjusting and softening the setup as they wore and as the temps dropped throughout the afternoon. We battled the viscous cross winds, too but I guess we should be thankful our races missed the full brunt of the rain squalls. It was very busy in our team garage as we discussed all the variables we were facing…the rain, wind, tyre wear and dropping temps.”
Other teams were busy for different reasons. BRM Rundle Motorsport were forced to rebuild the front end of Chris Anthony’s Dallara after a front-on collision at turn 6 on Saturday after he ran wide and mounted the concrete.
Sunday brought forth a cool and sedate breeze, and all the hulabaloo of the previous day settled into a serious day for competitiors as four champions were crowned during the course of the day.
Justin Ruggier, Simon Hodge, Tim Berryman and Tony Ricciardello were all crowned national champions on the final day of racing While Hodge and Ricciardello clinched their respective Formula 3 and Kerrick Sports Sedan titles in race two, the Kumho V8 Touring Cars and Radical Australia Cup went down to the wire in their final races of the year.
Simon Hodge won the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship title, Justin Ruggier the Kumho V8 Touring Cars and Tony Ricciardello sealed a record eighth Kerrick Sports Sedan title. Tim Berryman won the Radical Australia Cup. Tim Berryman grabbed the Radical Australia Cup series win, with all four champions crowned this weekend also winning their final races of the year, respectively.
Simon Hodge won the CAMS Gold Star award after a breathless Formula 3 race on Sunday morning, carving his way through the field to win the championship with a race victory. Hodge then won the feature race of the season to close out his title in style.
Tim Berryman won the Radical Australia Cup, rebounding from a high-speed crash in Friday practice to end his season on top. The New South Wales driver charged to the front in the final 50-minute endurance race that completed the season, winning the race and edging season-long rival Michael Shaw out for the overall championship in the process. Berryman’s ten-point victory gets him a UK trip and a works Radical Cup drive in Europe for a selected major event next year. Shaw sealed the SR3 class championship and second overall thanks to a consistent weekend performance, with Kim Burke completing the top three.
Justin Ruggier sealed the Kumho V8 Touring Cars series win after he and Ryan Simpson took their year-long battle down to the final race of the season. Simpson kept his title hopes alive heading into the final race after taking a last-gasp victory in race two, slicing up the inside of Ruggier on the final lap of the race to grab the win. Ruggier had it easier in the finale’, however, holding out Simpson to win by less than a second to seal his maiden national title
Today’s Kumho V8 title win was the second V8 title for Eggleston Motorsport, having wrapped up the V8 Supercar Development Series title with Paul Dumbrell in early October. Ruggier’s win also creates history for his car – the ex-HSV Dealer Team Commodore won the V8 Supercars title with Rick Kelly before winning the Development Series at the hands of Tony D’Alberto. Matt Palmer finished third in the round and completed the series podium in his STR Truck Bodies Ford.
Tony Ricciardello wrapped up his eighth Kerrick National Sports Sedan Series today by winning two of the three races contested in the series’ final round of the year. Ricciardello won races two and three after Hossack had earlier won the opener after another sensational battle between the longstanding rivals. The pair signed off the season by staging another sensational duel in the final race before Ricciardello was able to drive away and win to close out his title in style.
Thomas Randle scored his first Australian Formula Ford series round victory in style at Sydney Motorsport Park, scoring both Sunday races to seal the round victory and take the title fight to the final round this November. Randle jumped to a clear second in the standings behind leader James Golding and will be just 21 points behind when the series stages its final round at Phillip Island. Jordan Lloyd finished second for the round, despite being turned around in turn two in the opening lap of race two on Sunday morning. Despite dropping to the back of the field, Lloyd recovered to fifth place in that race and climbed to second in the finale’ before climbing to second in the finale’ after a race-long battle with Nick Rowe. Rowe finished third overall for the round with Golding not scoring a podium finish. It was also great to see Synergy Motorsports fostering young up and coming talent in the ‘Nationals. Caitlin Wood, a former karting champion, acquitted herself well up the field in the Formula Ford series in only her first year of national racing experience.
Stuart Shirvington won the one-off PRB Clubman series round ahead of Stefan Versluis and Chris Barry, while Barry sealed the PRB Motorsport series title ahead of Shirvington.
Words and pics by Rob Annesley