The 2018 Radical Australia Cup travels south to Sandown International Raceway this weekend for the third round of a season that has already delivered some impressive racing and a number of first-time winners, ending a reign that three-time champion Peter Paddon has enjoyed for the best part of four years.
What that has done, is hand Paddon’s long-time rival Kim Burke an impressive championship points lead heading to Melbourne, and with the news that Paddon will miss his first race in many seasons, Burke is in the box seat to extend that advantage as the series reaches the mid-point of the season.
Burke may be enjoying his best season to date, but he has no shortage of challengers, including rookie sensation Chris Perini – who claimed his maiden Radical Australia Cup victory at The Bend Motorsport Park – and the round winners at the new South Australian venue, Brad and Mitchell Neilson.
Simon Haggarty too is a likely podium threat, the seasoned-campaigner has been committed to business for much of the last 12-months and is looking forward to his return to the Cup and the return of the ongoing ‘family feud’ with father Tony, whilst for reigning SuperSports champion Rowan Ross, he will be looking to use his extensive SR3 experience to build a solid haul of championship points.
One of the unknown elements of the Sandown round – aside from Melbourne’s inclement weather – is new Radical Australia Cup recruit John-Paul Drake, the South Australian making his debut in the Cup, where his past prototype experience is expected to put him right in the mix at the front of the field.
The big factor though across the weekend will be the weather, a discussion which often starts a week out from any event in Melbourne during the colder autumn and winter months, and the Victorian capital is expected to turn on the full spectrum of conditions, although that will not deter the Series regulars, many of whom recall a challenging round last year, where intermittent thunderstorms played havoc with the field.
During that event, Peter Paddon claimed back-to-back wins on his way to a third title as a result of claiming the top step in nine of his ten starts. This year has presented a very different horizon to that which saw the First Focus supported driver claim just one win from four starts, and that included two DNF’s in South Australia.
Since the second round in South Australia, 2017 ‘Rookie of the Year’ Mitch Neilson claimed the round win in the New South Wales SuperSport Series, adding further weight to his emerging status as a Cup title contender, and paired again with father Brad, the Sydney-based team could be the surprise package of the weekend.
With Paddon out, Burke pressing for his maiden championship, and Perini eager to claim that second race win, there is plenty to play for this weekend.
Make sure you stay with the Cup across the Sandown weekend as the driver’s do battle once more for that elusive prize of a drive in the Radical European Masters which is presented to the series champion, an incredible opportunity that sees the lucky recipient receive an SR3RSX race car for the race weekend, Radical factory support, and entry to one of the events during the 2019 season, a package worth in excess of $30,000.
For those keen to watch the Sandown action unfold online, both of Sunday’s races will be streamed live, visit http://www.thenationals.com.au for details and follow the Cup online and through social media across the event.
2018 Radical Australia Cup
Rnd#3, Sandown International Raceway, Melbourne, Victoria
(11-13 May, 2018)
Friday, 11 May
10:50am – Practice#1 (20-minutes)
1:15pm – Practice#2 (20-minutes)
Saturday, 12 May
9:25am – Practice#3 (20-minutes)
12:45pm – Qualifying (30-minutes)
Sunday, 13 May
9:40am – Race#1 (50-minutes)
2:10pm – Race#2 (50-minutes)
Source. Motorsport Media