24 Sep Round 3: Sydney Motorsport Park 28th & 29th of May
Winter had finally arrived in Sydney and it was evident at the third round of the NSW Improved Production Championships. Saturday morning qualifying started in wet and cold conditions and the cars found the Sydney Motorsport Park track challenging to say the least.
The rain virtually stopped just before the cars came out, however the track was still wet with no dry line evident.
As per the previous round, the under 2L and the over 2L would qualify together and also Race 1 & 2 combined. Due to the wet conditions in qualifying there was some mixed results. The AWD cars were expected to qualify at the front, but it was the big red Commodore of John McKenzie that claimed pole from fellow O2L Andrew McMaster. The second row consisted of Peter Foote (U2L pole) and the ever improving Christopher Thomas, Joseph Lenthall and Ahmed Baghdadi claimed the third row. This was certainly a mixed gird promising an eventful first race.
Race 1 Combined Under 2L and Over 2L.
The rained had cleared and the cars came out in sunny but cold conditions. The track was completely dry however just off the track the grass was still wet and slippery. It was a clean start by all; the BMW of McMaster made the best start arriving at turn two in first position and was closely followed by the pole sitter McKenzie. Lenthall had a big brake lock up while arriving at turn two just behind the leaders. The horse power of McKenzie was too much for the little BMW to keep behind and by the second lap the order was McKenzie, Lenthall and Watts. Unfortunately McMaster kept sliding down the order until his car expired just inside turn one. The fast car of Watts was giving the two leaders some hurry up and by the fourth lap he got past Lenthall and the next lap he took the lead from McKenzie.
Towards the back of the field Kevin de Main was having a tough time with his little Bluebird, at first he toured about 200m of grass between turn 1 and turn 2, a few laps later he lost control of his car and had a half a spin in the middle of turn 2. Matthew Ingram and Stephen Thompson collided with each other at turn two, both cars speared off the track only to rejoin albeit a few positions down. Up front Watts was making the most of a clear track setting the fastest lap of the race during lap 6; his car was lapping nearly 2 seconds quicker than McKenzie in an O2L car. The final result was Watts 1st, Lenthall 2nd, McKenzie 3rd, and Peter Ingram 4th. The other Unders podium placings were; Matthew Harris 5th, Bob Jowett 6th and Craig Wildrige 15th.
Race 2 held Sunday morning started under blue skies, the temperature was down, making it a fast track. Watts made a great start and was closely followed by McKenzie and Lenthall. There was a mid pack collision between the two Commodore drivers of Kees Delhass and Dan Ridley, Delhass sustained a huge dent in his passenger door while Ridley had a damaged right front end. Ridley’s woes would continue and he would spear of the track at turn one and eventually retired minus the front bumper.
Up front Watts was pulling away from McKenzie, Lenthall and Peter Ingram. During the 3rd lap Lenthall found a gearbox full of neutrals and by the time he engaged a gear P Ingram was through to third. Baghdadi was working hard to stay in touch with the leaders, he eventually slipped down the order to eighth position. The battle between P Ingram and Lenthall raged lap after lap, both cars were nose to tail all race. Towards the end of the race the unfortunate Peter Street’s car slowed to retire making it the third retirement for the race.
In the end Watts won comfortably from McKenzie and P Ingram, Lenthall finishing 4th made the podium for the O2L cars. The U2L cars podium finishers were Harris in 6th, Jowett in 7th and Mike Fitzgerald 14th.
The over 2L trophy race was held Sunday afternoon. The start was clean by all with King using his all wheel drive to head the pack into turn 1 closely followed by P Ingram and McKenzie. There was a collision between Thomas and Stephen Thompson just after turn 2. Thompson retired while Thomas soon followed suit a few laps later. After his great start King dropped down a few position giving the lead to P Ingram. The second place battle between McKenzie and M Ingram was intense with both cars rubbing panels on certain occasions. As the laps progressed the leader increased his gap to the dicing duo of McKenzie and M Ingram. Just behind them Lenthall and King were also engaged in a battle of their own. There were four retirements in this race, the previously mentioned Thomas and Thompson where joined by Peter Street and Worrell. The final order was P Ingram 1st, photo finish for 2nd McKenzie and 3rd M Ingram and another close finish between Lenthall and King for 4th.
Congratulations to Peter Ingram on the trophy race and another bagful of points towards the championship.
Under 2L Trophy race ran with 12 starters even thought the field was on the small size, the racing was willing. Harris and Jowett made a great start and began their race long dice from the first turn; the same could be said for Foote and Mike Fitzgerald. The race pattern evolved to Jowett and Harris dicing for the overall lead and pulling away from the third positioned dice of Foote and Fitzgerald who subsequently were increasing their gap to the rest of the field. Amongst the first lap chaos, the yellow Honda Integra of Ben Wright found himself in the grass at turn three; he slowly limped to the paddock to retire from there.
Up front Jowett was putting plenty of pressure on Harris, using all his skills he has attained over the years of racing, however to Harris’s credit he was able to hold him off coming home with the winner’s trophy. Jowett brought home his (what could be said Red Bull Livery inspired) Honda home in 2nd position. Foote was able to get past Fitzgerald to finish in the final podium position.