V8 SUPERCARS: Ford tops official test
CHAZ Mostert gave long-suffering Ford fans a warm and fuzzy feeling on Sunday when he was fastest in a drawn-out Top 20 Shootout on a weekend that marked the track introduction of the Blue Oval brand’s new (and last) Falcon, the FG-X.
Watched by a solid crowd that took advantage of the good weather and free entry, Bathurst 1000 winner Mostert’s Falcon was the quickest car at Sydney Motorsport Park over a single lap (1m30.6583s) when everyone was using fresh rubber.
The test also boosted confidence in the Nissan Motorsport camp, with Todd Kelly’s Altima fastest overall at the test, with a lap of 1m29.5352s, indicating perhaps that the four-car squad has made an important jump forward in the summer off-season. Perhaps the Kelly Brothers’ well-documented frustrations are now behind them thanks to an aero upgrade and with an engine upgrade not far off.
There was also great interest in Marcos Ambrose and the team of two legends – Roger Penske and Dick Johnson.
Smart observers didn’t expect Ambrose to rock Jamie Whincup’s world as soon as he unpacked back at home. But Ambrose is as methodical as ever and his improvement across the weekend was consistent but real. He was 15th fastest.
While the priority of drivers was their V8 Supercars performance, several also showed a keen interest in what was happening 200 kilometres across the mountains at Mount Panorama. Journalists covering the Bathurst 12 Hour in a crowded media centre were taking regular calls from certain drivers at SMP.
Erebus owner Betty Klimenko had torn loyalties, with teams at each track. She spent some time at SMP early before driving to Bathurst on Saturday afternoon.
Penske team boss Tim Cindric was also at Bathurst, keeping an eye on his 16-year-old son Austin, who was steering the second Erebus SLS 63 AMG.
Dick Johnson ducked up to the Mountain to catch the spectacular last 100 minutes of the 12 Hour while Jonathon and Steve Webb, owners of the Tekno V8 Supercar team, were also part of Tony Quinn’s McLaren cheer squad at the 12 Hour.
SPORTS CARS: Quinn’s three-generation dream
TONY Quinn told Wheels of one of his Bucket List priorities – to contest the Bathurst 12 Hour as a driver with both his son Klark and grandson Ryder, who is currently 10 years old.
“Another six years to wait,” said rich-lister Tony, who is “only 56”.
TRS: Randle quick but unlucky at Taupo
RISING open-wheeler driver Thomas Randle has uncorked another fighting performance in New Zealand’s international Toyota Racing Series, this time in the weekend’s penultimate round at Taupo, where he set a new track record and claimed his second TRS podium finish.
On Saturday, in the opening heat, Randle reset Jordan King’s 2012 TRS lap record on the way to fourth. Later he equalled his previous career-best race result of third place in the day’s second heat.
The reigning Australian Formula Ford Champion has moved to sixth in the championship standings and leads the Trans-Tasman Challenge for the highest-placed Australian or New Zealand driver.
In qualifying for the third heat on Sunday, a detached front wing jet flap compromised the Victorian’s qualifying session and put him an unrepresentative 19th on the start grid. In the race, he moved forward to 12th but contact with another competitor three laps from the flag left him with a DNF against his name.
Randle started 10th in the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy feature race and finished ninth after dealing with engine overheating issues mid-race.
“Two days; two very different fortunes,” Randle summed up his Taupo weekend.
“I really believe Saturday represented my best performance in TRS so far. That’s why Sunday’s result is a bit hard to swallow by comparison.
“In the end, though, we maximised what we could out of a challenging situation. Next week we head into the final round, and if you told me five weeks ago that I would now be sixth in the points, I would be over the moon,” said the wings-and-slicks rookie.