Singleton back on top

by Sean Henshelwood

Sunday, July 17th 2011, 23:37 GMT+10:00

After dominating the third round of Radical Australia Cup [RAC] at Winton last month, reigning RAC champion Peter Opie amassed just three points from his home event at Eastern Creek, after an accident in race one and a rare mechanical failure in race two left the way open for title rival Ed Singleton to take the round victory, and a strong lead in the championship chase heading into the Morgan Park final.

Singleton on top as Opie’s championship hopes fade
Rnd#4 Radical Australia Cup
Eastern Creek Raceway, Sydney, NSW (July 14-17)

After dominating the third round of Radical Australia Cup [RAC] at Winton last month, reigning RAC champion Peter Opie amassed just three points from his home event at Eastern Creek, after an accident in race one and a rare mechanical failure in race two left the way open for title rival Ed Singleton to take the round victory, and a strong lead in the championship chase heading into the Morgan Park final.

The Eastern Creek round of the Shannons Nationals presented by Hi-Tec Oils was a ‘bi-duro’ event with on-track action across four days, and a 50-minute race on both Saturday and Sunday.

Being Radical’s home venue [Radical Australia’s head office is based at Eastern Creek], there were a number of invited competitors new to Radical Australia Cup for 2011. Of those, Neale Muston was always expected to be a threat in his Excalibur Racing SR3, however it was the inclusion of five ‘pros’ in the field that was creating the most discussion – specifically three Gold Star Australian Formula 3 champions – Ben Barker (2010), James Winslow (2008) and Tim Macrow (2007).

Points leader Peter Opie employed the services of Macrow, with Muston joined by Barker, and current Indy Lites pilot Winslow slotting in alongside MPA Projects’ Ed Singleton. Experienced multiple national production car champion Dean Evans was also due to make what would be his maiden race in an SR3 alongside Andy Plummer, whilst Duvashen Padayachee, son of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge competitor Indiran was a late inclusion, the Formula BMW Asia regular slotting into a Radical Events car with the earlier spec 1340cc engine, the five drivers all given ‘pro’ status.

Evans set the early pace in the Plummer car, although he admitted afterwards that despite plenty of miles in an SR3 around Eastern Creek, that he had never done more than a 15-minute session as a driver trainer, and was sporting a sore neck.

Opie was on top for session two, the points leader showing he’d lost none of his pace by stepping into Chris Medland’s car to ‘shake it down’ setting the second fastest time of the session.

The big loser in qualifying was Brett Sutton who after missing Winton, was looking forward to his RAC return – sadly it was short-lived, contact with the turn eight wall incurring irreparable suspension damage.

“We could fix it,” Radical Australia Team Manager Warren Ambrose [subbing for Garth Walden who was in Ireland for a friends wedding] acknowledged, “but it wouldn’t be a perfect fix, as the suspension pickup points on the chassis were damaged, so it’s a few days away being re-engineered, so our advice to Brett was that it was safer to sit it out.”

Qualifying would be what would count, and it duly delivered some stunning action.

For race one it would be the amateur drivers who would start the cars, and in the end it was Neale Muston who came out on top with a blinding 1:29.8299, three tenths faster than round one winner Tim Berryman (Volvo Cars Australia) and the man who led the championship after Phillip Island, Ed Singleton.

Fourth and one of the biggest improvers in the series was Radical Events’ Tony Palmer, ahead of the emerging star of RAC 2011, Simon Haggarty.

The big news of the session was Peter Opie pulling off the circuit after just one flying lap. “I heard a loud knock heading into turn one after my first flyer on cold tyres, and immediately switched it off,” the points leader confirmed.

Unfortunately for Opie, the team were unable to locate a problem, prompting some question about whether the gear selector had caught between gears as during his session, Macrow ran trouble-free.

Session two was held late in the day in fading light, something which caught out Berryman, who still had a tinted visor fitted. “Seriously, I had to lift the visor to see the braking markers..”

Despite that, he still held on for fourth as the first of the amateur drivers, but more than two seconds in arrears of pole-sitter Winslow (1:28.1484).

Winslow meanwhile stunned onlookers with his first lap out on cold tyres – eight seconds faster than the next quickest driver.. “When you’re competing against some of the best drivers in the world, you learn pretty promptly about how to drive on cold tyres,” he admitted afterwards.

Ultimately Barker, one of the current front-runners in the 2011 Carrera Cup series  came out second, six tenths in arrears of Winslow, suffering shift issues in the Muston car.

“I had to use the clutch on the up-shift which slowed me down, but starting on the front row is where we wanted to be,” Barker said.

Third was Macrow in Peter Opie’s #1 SR3RS, just over a tenth in arrears of Barker, from Berryman, Evans and Palmer.

Saturday dawned wet which promised to provide the kind of event that played out at the last ‘bi-duro’ at Phillip Island – a lottery in the constantly changing conditions..

Off the start pole-sitter Neale Muston bogged down on the line as Tony Palmer rocketed off row two to drive away from the field in the opening lap [aided by wet tyres in the damp but drying conditions], recording a time some seven and a half seconds faster than the field as Tim Berryman held the rest of the field at bay.

Andy Plummer (Radical Australia) was off in the early laps, and after the Safety Car pulled the field in behind, he recovered from the outside of turn two, to return to the pits, his inexperience though seeing him turn off the circuit at turn four thinking that was an allowable pit entry.

As this was happening, Peter Opie charging from rear of field, ranged up over the entry tunnel hill between turns three and four, and found Tony Haggarty tucked in line behind the Safety Car, running at much slower speed. Opie was one of few cars in the field who started on slicks, so he was still searching for that all important tyre temperature, but after just a lap, temps were still low and he locked all four wheels but failed to avoid contact with Haggarty, suffering heavy contact to the front of the Radical Australia SR3.

He entered the pits, and the Radical Australia team worked feverishly to return him on the lead lap, but Opie was stopped at the end of pit lane and sent to the paddock by officials who thought he was Plummer [they’re both black cars]… Once the issue was sorted, Opie rejoined, but the confusion had cost the reigning champion almost two laps!

As the Safety Car pulled off Tony Palmer – excited to be leading his first RAC event – rocketed down the front straight passing the Safety Car as it entered pit road, leaving the field in his wake. Predictably, he was soon into the pits for a drive-through.. Almost immediately afterwards the pit window opened at the 20-minute mark and the field pitted for their compulsory stop.. well, all but Tony Haggarty.

In the washup from the stops, Winslow and Barker looked the most likely to battle for the lead, before Barker was given another drive through, for car owner Muston pitting under the Safety Car for his drive-through for creeping off pole at the start..

Confused? Well so too was Tony Haggarty who was having so much fun up front, he’d missed his pit window, and with his radio failing to work, he was waiting for a signal from the pit wall.

He ultimately hit the pits, but ten minutes after the window had closed – in the end he more than likely amassed more laps in the lead than either Winslow or Berryman and in the confusion, was initially credited with third place, ultimately though the Haggarty Racing team leader was excluded.

Up front Barker was in front immediately after the pit-stops had been completed, but he was soon back in to pit-lane to serve a second penalty on Muston’s behalf, however such was the lead he and Winslow had amassed, that he rejoined in second place.

Over the ensuing laps Winslow and Barker traded fastest laps, with Barker ultimately setting a new benchmark for the Eastern Creek circuit at 1:29.5316 three laps from the finish, with Winslow’s best at 1:30.8309 the following lap..

At the 50-minute mark it was Winslow across the line first for Ed Singleton and MPA Projects, bringing the former points leader (prior to Winton’s third round) back into title contention, 20-seconds clear of a fast charging Barker, and Tim Berryman.

Berryman had been the best of the amateurs, but after his compulsory stop, mistakingly thought he was a lap down, only to discover a couple of laps from home, that he was in for a podium finish, the expectant father charging over the last two laps to take a surprised Simon Haggarty for third in the closing stages of the final lap.

“I knew I wouldn’t catch the pros up front unless something happened,” Simon Haggarty admitted afterwards, “and I knew Tim was a fair way behind, so I was sitting comfortably behind a group of lapped cars fighting for position, when Tim came out of nowhere.. I won’t make that mistake again!”

Richard Bloomfield (Key Produce) claimed fifth, the West Australian setting the fifth fastest lap of the race in the process. “I just love this place,” he grinned afterwards, “but it wasn’t all plain sailing, I had a huge off at turn one three laps after we pitted, and that got my attention, but outside of that it was all good.”

Sixth was Tony Palmer (Radical Events), from Chris Medland (Radical Australia), who due to overseas commitments was forced to start rear of field [after dispensation from CAMS], and Trevor Gerber (Radical Australia), another of the Radical Clubman Cup regulars with a lot of miles under his belt at Eastern Creek.

Ninth saw an impressive run for Duvashen Padayachee, the open-wheel star really taking to the Radical, and despite being 160cc down on the rest of the field, he showed great race pace.

Rowan Ross – like Muston, Gerber, Nathan Brumby and Plummer, invited drivers from the Clubman Cup series – was tenth, from Robert Baird/Gary Walker (Radical Team Melbourne), the consistent Sue Hughes (Navybox School of Motorsport), Phil Anseline/Oliver Smith (WT Partnership), Brumby (Ansarada Radical Works Team), George Davis/Francois Jouy (Engineering Partners) and Opie/Macrow.

After Byron Smith’s strong start, the Radical Australia team were looking strong in the closing stages before a clutch failure with Greg at the wheel ended their promising run three laps from home.

Day two dawned overcast but dry, ensuring that Sunday morning’s second 50-lapper would provide plenty of action up front with the ‘pros’ starting the race.

After victory in the first of the 50-minute ‘bi-duro’ Radical Australia Cup races, James Winslow was in the box seat for a repeat in race two after qualifying Ed Singleton’s MPA Projects entry on pole. Alongside him was Barker, with Macrow and Berryman on row two.

Winslow got a great start, as did Macrow and Berryman who charged through on Barker into turn one. Barker was soon through though and onto the tail of Macrow, but that took a little longer to negotiate.

Behind them Berryman was under fire from Dean Evans (sharing with Plummer), as the leaders started to pull away.

The ‘pros’ were getting away at one to one and a half seconds a lap, but with an extra 30 second penalty during the compulsory pit-stop, they needed to pull away at a rate of two or more seconds a lap from Berryman who was the leading amateur in the field (by track position).

Behind Berryman, Bloomfield was the next best, and he was doing his level best to maintain his position despite mounting pressure from behind from rear-of-field starters Greg Smith (Radical Australia), Medland, Simon Haggarty, Anseline and Gerber.

Racing to the pit-stops was clean, and it was Berryman who was first in, followed two laps later by Winslow to hand over to Singleton, with Barker putting in a blinder before his stop to hand over to Muston.

Despite the 30-second penalty Muston resumed in front with Berryman all over Singleton.

Whilst all this was going on, Tim Macrow brought the #1 Opie car to a stop in the mid-field with smoke pouring from the engine cover.. “It felt a bit odd from the start of the race,” he admitted afterwards, “but it didn’t appear to be losing too much pace to the leaders, but before it went I was starting to look for where there might be trouble because it didn’t feel right, and it just lost power coming out of turn three and let go a bang as I went for the kill switch, and that was it.”

As if set to the script of a dramatic play, Tim Berryman also rolled to a stop not far past the abandoned Opie car, with a complete loss of drive.

“Looks like there might be a gearbox issue,” he admitted post-race, “it would start, but no drive. What can you do.”

That took the pressure off Singleton, who dropped off the pace to conserve admitting that whilst being one of the most competitive drivers in the field.. “I’m also a mathematician..”

In the end it would be a win to Muston and Barker, more than 40 seconds clear of the Singleton/Winslow combination, with Tony Palmer an outstanding third over Trevor Gerber and the impressive Chris Medland who did another outstanding job from rear of field.

Tied on points with a win and a second for both teams, Muston/Barker and Singleton/Winslow shared the victory, however courtesy of his entry into the series, it would be Singleton who would take maximum points for the weekend, whilst Muston would share the podium glory and the laurels of victory, but as an invited driver, no series points.

Simon Haggarty’s consistency gave him sixth place ahead of Richard Bloomfield, who came under fire in the final lap by a hard-charging Byron Smith who launched an attack on Bloomfield on the run into turn nine, but spun on the exit after getting on the gas too quickly, the result not losing him track position.

Ninth was Anseline/Smith, from Sue Hughes, Padayachee, Baird/Walker, Brumby, Plummer/Evans, Tony Haggarty and Davis/Jouy.

For Winslow, who was doing double duty in F3, he found the race pace comfortable, and enjoyed the experience. “Actually, I drove the car exactly the same way as I’ve been driving the F3 all weekend.”

For Singleton, the race win puts him back into the championship lead with just three races to come.

“That was a great race. I enjoyed the dicing all weekend, but my aim was to consolidate to gain points, and that’s what we’ve done.

“Now the focus will be on Morgan Park in a months time, and keeping consistent.”

They didn’t just end the weekend with victory (equal on points with Muston/Barker), the Singleton/Winslow combination also reset the lap record in race two, after again trading fastest times early with Barker – the new Radical race track record set at 1:29.4820.

From Peter Opie’s perspective the result was disappointing, two poor results providing just three points to Singleton and Muston’s 86 for the weekend.

“It’s all a part of the motorsport equation, what can you do,” he shrugged. “It was a great weekend though and we really enjoyed being a part of the show.”

For second placed Tony Palmer (63 points), it was a result he could only have dreamed of after dramas during Saturday’s opening race. “That was a rookie mistake, passing the Safety Car too early, but I won’t do it again,” he laughed.

“This is not bad for a bloke who had done very little racing a couple of seasons ago, coming straight out of a track day through Radical Clubman Cup to Radical Australia Cup. Just goes to show, you have to keep it straight and make sure you’re there at the finish.

Third overall [again] was the ever consistent Simon Haggarty, who added not just another trophy to his weekend, but a sponsorship deal with new Shannons Nationals supporter Hi-Tec for his trouble, just as he rolled out of the garage for the second race.

“This is fantastic,” he beamed. “Another podium and a new sponsor, all in one day, and to make it even better, I got offered a new job just as I was about to go out and qualify on Friday, so I’m very happy with the weekend.”

The 2011 season of Radical Australia Cup will be completed at Morgan Park at Warwick in Queensland in four weeks time during round #5 of the Shannons Nationals presented by Hi-Tec Oils.

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

2011 Radical Australia Cup
Rnd#4, Eastern Creek Raceway, Sydney, NSW
14-17 July 2011

1. Neale Muston – Excalibur Racing (1:29.8299)
2. Tim Berryman – Volvo Cars Australia (1:30.1634)
3. Ed Singleton – MPA Projects (1:30.9371)
4. Tony Palmer – Radical Events (1:31.7769)
5. Simon Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team (1:31.9598)
6. Rowan Ross – Radical Australia (1:32.0556)
7. Byron Smith – Radical Australia (1:32.0965)
8. Richard Bloomfield – Key Produce (1:32.1150)
9. Oliver Smith – WT Partnership (1:32.8757)
10. Andy Plummer – Radical Australia (1:33.2909)
11. Duvashen Padayachee (1:33.4992)
12. Trevor Gerber – Radical Australia (1:33.7933)
13. Brett Sutton (1:34.1643)
14. Gary Walker – Radical Team Melbourne (1:34.5237)
15. Tony Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team (1:34.8268)
16. Sue Hughes – Navybox School of Motorsport (1:35.0760)
17. Nathan Brumby – Ansarada Radical Works Team (1:36.1766)
18. George Davis – Engineering Partners (1:38.2734)
19. Peter Opie – Radical Australia (1:38.5488)
20. Chris Medland – Radical Australia (NTR)

1. James Winslow – MPA Projects (1:28.1484)
2. Neale Muston – Excalibur Racing (1:28.7473)
3. Tim Macrow – Radical Australia (1:28.8729)
4. Tim Berryman – Volvo Cars Australia (1:30.2593)
5. Dean Evans – Radical Australia (1:30.2938)
6. Tony Palmer – Radical Events (1:30.9468)
7. Phil Anseline – WT Partnership (1:31.7571)
8. Richard Bloomfield – Key Produce (1:32.0014)
9. Trevor Gerber – Radical Australia (1:32.6830)
10. Duvashen Padayachee (1:32.8777)
11. Simon Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team (1:32.9966)
12. Tony Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team (1:34.5093)
13. Robert Baird – Radical Team Melbourne (1:35.1626)
14. Francois Jouy – Engineering Partners (1:35.4377)
15. Nathan Brumby – Ansarada Radical Works Team (1:36.1271)
16. Sue Hughes – Navybox School of Motorsport (1:36.3639)
17. Rowan Ross – Radical Australia (1:36.3639)
18. Greg Smith – Radical Australia (NTR)
19. Chris Medland – Radical Australia (NTR)

Race#1 (50-minutes)
1. Ed Singleton/James Winslow – MPA Projects (26-laps)
2. Neale Muston/Ben Barker – Excalibur Racing
3. Tim Berryman – Volvo Cars Australia
4. Simon Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team
5. Richard Bloomfield – Key Produce (25-laps)
6. Tony Palmer – Radical Events
7. Chris Medland – Radical Australia
8. Trevor Gerber – Radical Australia
9. Duvashen Padayachee
10. Rowan Ross – Radical Australia
11. Robert Baird/Gary Walker – Radical Team Melbourne
12. Sue Hughes – Navybox School of Motorsport
13. Phil Anseline/Oliver Smith – WT Partnership
14. Nathan Brumby – Ansarada Radical Works Team
15. George Davis/Francois Jouy – Engineering Partners (24-laps)
16. Peter Opie/Tim Macrow – Radical Australia
DNF. Greg/Byron Smith – Radical Australia (24-laps)
DNF. Andy Plummer/Dean Evans – Radical Australia
EXC. Tony Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team
Fastest lap: Ben Barker (1:29.5316) – lap 23 (New Radical lap record)

Race#2 (50-minutes)
1. Neale Muston/Ben Barker – Excalibur Racing (32-laps)
2. Ed Singleton/James Winslow – MPA Projects
3. Tony Palmer – Radical Events
4. Trevor Gerber – Radical Australia
5. Chris Medland – Radical Australia
6. Simon Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team
7. Richard Bloomfield – Key Produce
8. Greg/Byron Smith – Radical Australia
9. Phil Anseline/Oliver Smith – WT Partnership (31-laps)
10. Sue Hughes – Navybox School of Motorsport
11. Duvashen Padayachee
12. Robert Baird/Gary Walker – Radical Team Melbourne
13. Nathan Brumby – Ansarada Radical Works Team
14. Andy Plummer/Dean Evans – Radical Australia
15. Tony Haggarty – Haggarty Racing Team
16. George Davis/Francois Jouy – Engineering Partners (30-laps)
DNF. Tim Berryman – Volvo Cars Australia (17-laps)
DNF. Peter Opie/Tim Macrow – Radical Australia
DNS. Rowan Ross – Radical Australia
Fastest lap: James Winslow (1:29.4820) – lap 12 (New Radical lap record)

Championship points (after round four of five)
1. Ed Singleton (278)
2. Simon Haggarty (224)
3. Peter Opie (218)
4. Tim Berryman (191)
5. Tony Palmer (173)
6. Richard Bloomfield (164)
7. Glyn Edis (163)
8. Chris Medland (149)
9. Baird/Walker (130)
10. Greg/Byron Smith (127)
11. Phil Anseline (119)
12. Sue Hughes (115)
13. Oliver Smith (90)
14. Steve Shelley (74)
15. Brett Sutton (60)
16. Tony Haggarty (50)
17. George Pethard (30)
18. Nathan Brumby (30)
19. George Davis (27)

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