Perini continues RA CUP winning streak in Sydney
Rnd#2 2021 RA CUP Australia Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW 01-02 May, 2021
That said, a couple of new variables did contribute, not the least being for many of the teams, their first chance to circulate, and compete, under lights, whilst they would also be faced with a new track surface through turns two and three, an upgrade that three-time CUP champion Peter Paddon suggested could see an improvement of as much as four tenths of a second a lap, whilst for he, and team-mate Stephen Champion, they had a new toy at their disposal - the new SR3XX.
Ultimately though despite the new challenges, the round was dominated once again by reigning champion Chris Perini who extended his winning streak in Sydney to five races, the GWR/Bing Technologies driver claiming back-to-back wins across the weekend, with Zig Fuhrmeister stunning the field to claim second, and reigning NSW SuperSports champion Stephen Champion third.
Qualifying (30 April)
Whilst Peter Paddon and Stephen Champion came to grips with their new SR3XXs, reigning champion Chris Perini - who had claimed both Sydney Motorsport Park victories in 2020 - immediately settled into a comfortable rhythm at the top of the timesheets with his trusty #1 SR3RSX to set the two fastest lap times to ultimately claim pole for both races across the weekend.
Behind him Peter Paddon made the most of the new data available on his new car to claim second, with Stephen Champion making it a GWR Australia 1-2-3.
Zig Fuhrmeister was fourth fastest, the Victorian impressive despite relatively limited laps around Sydney Motorsport Park, whilst local driver Warwick Morris showed the value of his extensive experience at the circuit to be fifth ahead of fellow local Peter Clare, and CUP rookie Craig McLatchey.
The returning Max Medland dialled himself back into the car after almost two years away from the wheel, with Susan Esselmont and Greg Kenny making it six drivers within eight tenths of a second, promising for a terrific midfield battle across the two compulsory pit stop races.
After qualifying in the twilight under lights, the teams were able to put that experience to the test with the first CUP race to be held in the dark, a moment many had been relishing since the introduction of a comprehensive lighting system at Sydney Motorsport Park in 2019.
Off the line Chris Perini made the most of pole position to lead comfortably down to turn two ahead of Peter Paddon and a fast-starting Zig Fuhrmeister who was able to get down the inside of Stephen Champion in the braking zone.
Sadly for Champion he would make his ‘XX’ debut even more challenging after a spin on the second lap, forcing him to have to work his way back through the pack.
Up front though Perini was untroubled as title-rival Paddon started to suffer from an issue which saw his throttle-position-sensor cut power when at full throttle, forcing the three-time champion to have to assess the issue on the run and make allowances, something which saw him fluctuate up and down the order as the race progressed.
With the pit window open, the bulk of the field hit pit lane almost immediately, yet despite a greater penalty than many of his rivals (RA CUP rules balance the field by applying additional time penalties during the pit stop to the leading teams), Chris Perini maintained the lead, ultimately going on to claim the win by an impressive 52-seconds.
Zig Fuhrmeister’s stunning run continued to see him hang on to second, nine seconds clear of Peter Clare who was overjoyed to finish on the podium after holding out his long-time NSW SuperSports rival Stephen Champion over the closing laps, Champion visibly faster but unable to effect a pass on the long SMP main straight ahead of the chequered flag.
After missing the opening round at Bathurst due to poor health, Susie Esselmont drove brilliantly to claim fifth despite intermittent pressure from Peter Paddon who ultimately fell victim to his throttle issue and dropped back to sixth.
Craig McLatchey drove a trouble-free race to seventh on his CUP debut, ahead of Greg Kenny who suffered early contact and Bill Medland in RA Motorsports’ new RSX.
For Kosta Pohorukov, a tenth place finish was completely unexpected, however he admitted afterwards he’d suffered from his own technical trouble, and was forced to manually drive the car with the clutch after the auto-shift system failed, explaining that he’d had to relearn the heel-toe technique which took him a few laps to perfect before getting back into the rhythm..
“I actually enjoyed it in the end, it was real old-school racing, a lot of fun!”
Behind Pohorukov RA Motorsport team-mates Warwick Morris and Max Medland were also forced to overcome technical issues, Morris eleventh after hitting pit lane twice in addition to his compulsory stop, whilst Medland was ultimately forced to retire two laps from home.
Sadly for the title battle at the front of the field, Peter Paddon was a last-minute retirement from the second CUP race, a technical issue in the Prototype race immediately ahead of race two sidelining the three-time champion, all but paving the way for a second Perini victory.
The new points leader didn’t need a second invitation either, Perini leading the field down to turn one before a Safety Car intervention to recover the luckless Craig McLatchey at turn four, the rookie making contact with a spinning Greg Kenny, before running onto wet grass and hard into the outside barrier. Fortunately he was okay, but his race was over, the #62 SR3 suffering significant damage to the left hand side of the car.
Greg Kenny initially circulated, but he too was soon a retirement, the contact with McLatchey - although relatively light to Kenny’s car - was enough to sideline him as well.
Off the restart Perini again charged away from the field as behind him, Zig Fuhrmeister was coming under fire from Stephen Champion and a resurgent Kosta Pohorukov, the trio pushing hard up to the compulsory stop where Champion emerged in the lead ahead of the impressive Susan Esselmont with a charging Perini third.
Catching Champion at more than two seconds a lap, the points leader was soon through to the front, Champion locking brakes on some corners as he worked to become more comfortable with his new car, an issue which ultimately allowed Pohorukov to close and make a late move to claim second, Champion hanging onto third for the race, and the round.
Zig Fuhrmeister’s consistency handed him fourth, but an impressive second for the round, with Peter Clare making a late move through on Susan Esselmont to be fifth.
Max Medland admitted to being lucky to hang on to seventh after all but stalling on the grid at the start of the race. “I just couldn’t select a gear, and was very close to putting my hand in the air to avoid being swamped from behind, but I managed to get drive just in time,” he explained.
“It was an unusual issue because after the Safety Car intervention, it didn’t happen again, but by that stage I was last and with plenty of work to do!”
Bill Medland crossed the line eighth after a long duel with his nephew in the very car that he regularly contests Cup events, whilst Warwick Morris was a disappointed ninth having made contact with Peter Clare at turn two on the opening lap, spinning Clare to rear of field ahead of the Safety Car.
The 2021 RA CUP Australia will return to Sydney Motorsport Park after the winter break, with round three scheduled for September 3-5, whilst for the NSW SuperSport regulars - they will contest the second round at Wakefield Park on May 22, with further visits to Sydney Motorsport Park on June 26 and July 31 to have much of the field ready for action on our return.
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