The first event of the eleventh year of Radical Australia Cup will begin with arguably the toughest challenge of the season, Bathurst’s Mount Panorama – the scene of the season opener for the past five years. Always a challenge to shake off the festive season blues, 2019 will present perhaps the biggest challenge yet, with a number of returning champions – and a few high profile additions – likely to make this the most memorable start to the year yet..
Sensationally, despite the inclusion of three former champions in the field, the new season will start without the reigning champion, Kim Burke electing to take a break from full-time competition after claiming his maiden title last year, erasing any chance of a Peter Paddon payback after Burke ended the three-time champion’s monopoly at the mountain, Burke’s race two win 12-months ago stalling a winning streak that had continued since 2015!
Paddon comes into the event as the most successful competitor on the mountain, although he won’t have things all his own way this year, with the return of fellow three-time champion Neale Muston. Muston hasn’t been a full-time competitor in the Cup since his title-winning run in 2015 (in a Radical SR8), and he’s not won at the mountain in an SR3 (he had two starts in 2015) whilst Paddon has seven wins in the four-cylinder variant, from his last eight starts!
Another champion returning to the fray is Sydney’s Ed Singleton, the Group C touring car tragic is back behind the wheel of an SR3RS, similar to the car that took him to the 2011 Cup title.
Singleton, Muston and Paddon will form part of a 22-driver field that also includes a couple of drivers with some serious miles under their belts at Mount Panorama, one of them a Gold Logie recipient..!
Former Supercar and GT driver Grant Denyer – these days more at home in front of a camera – will join GT3 regular Brad Shiels in a Radical SR3RS campaigned by the Bathurst-based Pennells family, David Pennells joining fellow local Matthew Windsor in the two-car team, with Denyer looking to put his extensive Bathurst experience to good use.
They won’t be the only Bathurst Radical rookies in the field either, with 16-year old West Australian Aaron Love – who claimed third in the 2018 Australian Formula 4 Championship alongside his title win in the WA F1000 Championship (where he claimed an impressive 12 wins from 21 starts) – joining the field.
Having recently tested a Porsche Carrera Cup car at Sydney Motorsport Park as reward for his successes in F4, Love – who will be the youngest driver to have ever competed in a Radical SR3 at Mount Panorama – comes into the Bathurst event looking to make an impression.
He won’t be the only one though, 2018 Radical Australia Cup rookie sensation Chris Perini showed flashes of brilliance at Mount Panorama last year famously pushing ‘Peter Perfect’ Paddon all the way in the opening race before running at the front again in race two, a race-ending off going over Skyline blemishing an almost perfect mountain debut.
Perini was consistently Kim Burke’s toughest opponent across the year, the former Superbike rider admitting that the lost opportunity at Bathurst may have kept him from the #1 plate for this year, so he’s keen to impress upon his rivals the lessons he learned from the 2018 season, a season which delivered the RAC rookie victories at The Bend and Sydney Motorsport Park.
Another driver that could be expected to shake up the establishment is former Radical Australia Cup regular Kostinken Pohorukov. A regular podium finisher back in 2016 – including two second-placed finishes at Bathurst behind Peter Paddon – ‘Kosta’ has been on a sabbatical from regular competition over the last two seasons, but is back for 2019 with the ex-David Crampton SR3RSX, and ready to take the fight to the contenders.
Whilst the new and returning stars will make things interesting, so too will the RAC regulars who have their own scores to settle with the mountain..
Simon Haggarty returns after missing the Bathurst round last year, the HRT driver looking to make amends for his last race at the mountain which ended quite unceremoniously on the exit of the first corner. Despite a part season last year, Haggarty still delivered a win at Sandown and he’ll be a likely contender at Bathurst.
So too 2017 ‘Rookie of the Year’ pairing Brad and Mitch Neilson, the father and son team claimed a win at The Bend last season on their way to third in the points, but they’ve not competed in the past at Mount Panorama, so they will be on a ‘steep’ learning curve come Thursday morning, although you should keep a close eye on the #38 machine as it is bound to make its presence felt.
Michael Whiting returns looking to silence the demons that caught him out twice on the opening lap of last year’s races where despite his bad luck he was one of the fastest drivers on track, impressively working his way forward to sixth in race one. Joined by Chris Medland, Greg Kenny, Rowan Ross and Bill Medland, they will all be right in the mix as the new Radical recruits find their feet.
Anthony Davis returns for 2019 after a cameo with David Crampton last year, campaigning the car he runs regularly on track days with father George, whilst former GT driver Brenton Griguol will make his debut in an all-new SR3RSX run by South Australia’s experienced BRM outfit, the Adelaide-based team also running Aaron Love.
For RA Motorsport’s Chris Medland, the Bathurst driver lineup is a great start to the new season, a season which will see a revised program of events spread across both the CAMS Nationals and the Australian Production Car Championships.