The fourth round of the year 2000 Australian Sports Sedan Championship was held at Sydney's Oran Park on the weekend of the 9th and 10th of September. The series leader after the third round at Mallala, Darren Hossack, was on leave for this round...
The fourth round of the year 2000 Australian Sports Sedan Championship was held at Sydney's Oran Park on the weekend of the 9th and 10th of September. The series leader after the third round at Mallala, Darren Hossack, was on leave for this round with V8 Supercar commitments in Queensland, thus the series lead was left wide open for a battle between Kerry Baily, Des Wall, and Tony Ricciardello.
The entry list for the round comprised three Mazda RX7s, Calibras, and Commodore bodied cars, two Falcons, an Alfetta, a Toyota Supra, a Nissan 300ZX, a Honda Prelude, a Toyota Levin and a Ford Mustang. The power plant of choice was the Chevrolet, with 12 entries, which was followed with three Rotaries, two Ford V8s, and two Turbo powered cars. Three competitors made the trip to Oran Park from Queensland, two from Victoria, and one each from Western Australia and the ACT.
Friday's free practice was held over four, twenty minute sessions combined with a small number of Group N competitors. If the day was to be of any indication as to how the weekend would pan out, it looked as though Des Wall (Supra/Chev) was on the money, with his 12 laps for the day resulting in a best time of 42.2900. However all was not happy in the Wall camp, with a broken drive flange resulting in an all night rebuild to get the car back on track for Saturday. Kerry Baily's (Nissan 300ZX/Chev) 26 laps in the afternoon sessions netted a best of 42.7138. Close behind Baily was Ivan Mikac (Maxda RX7S4/20B) with a best of 42.7610, from a day topping 49 laps. Tony Ricciardello (Alfetta GTV/Chev) only competed in the first two sessions, with his fastest lap in the second of 43.0251, however it is thought he struggled with some grip problems.
In fifth position was Tony Wilson (Commodore VS/Chev) with a time of 43.5877, even with a 4 speed gear box aboard instead of the regular 5 speed. Oran Park lap record holder Mark Stinson (Calibra/Chev) best lap of 43.5877 put him sixth, who was followed by Ron O'Brien (Commodore VL/Chev) who set his fastest ever lap of the Oran Park South Circuit with a 44.3249, but suffered from some electrical problems. Phil Crompton (Falcon/Ford V8), who only completed 5 laps in the first practice before braking a rocker. Repairs took up most of the afternoon, so his morning best of 44.5191 put him in eighth.
Bruce DeBoo (Mazda RX7) came 9th, followed by Grant Munday (Commodore VS/Chev) who was driving the ex-Imrie V8 Supercar, Trent Young (Toyota Levin Turbo), and Graham Smith (Calibra/Fiat Turbo).
Saturday Non Qualifying
Saturday morning practice was held over 20 minutes, under an overcast sky. With Wall absent, Baily bounced back to lead the time charts with a 43.0751. 0.2960 seconds back was Ricciardello, who was followed by Mikac. Daniel Jameson (Falcon EL/Chev) was an impressive fourth fastest in his first ever National Championship start after 3 meetings at State level, however suffered from a lack of grip. In fifth was Crompton, however after 10 laps with an ill handling car it was discovered that car had broken a watts linkage. Repairs at the track meant that the car would be a non starter for first qualifying.
Tony Wilson came in sixth, followed by Munday, Bill Martin (Mazda RX7), Young, DeBoo, Mark Duggan (Calibra/Chev), Smith and O'Brien.
Baily was a man on a mission in first qualifying, turning many heads in the Oran Park paddock with a blistering 40.9897, 0.2056 under the lap record. He later said that he could have gone quicker, except for jumping on the brakes too early. An ominous sign for the title challengers. However a loose pinion bearing was of concern to the team, time would tell if the car would last the distance...
Ricciardello qualified second with a time of 41.2009, just outside of Stinson's lap record. Stinson himself set a time 8/10ths back from pole in the second, top 50% qualifying session. Wall made it back on track, eclipsing his Friday best by 2/10ths of a second, but only good enough for fourth. Mikac wound up 5th, followed by Wilson.
Jameson qualified seventh in the first session, completing 16 laps before blowing the gear box. The team set about changing the unit before the second session, but was unable to, and wound up working late into the afternoon. Brian Walden (Commodore VS/Chev) finished ninth after completing 19 laps, and after a heart stopping off at the O'Brien Aluminium Dogleg. Crompton finished tenth, after suffering two spins in only his second run on 18 inch rear tyres. O'Brien was next, who also had an off track moment when he went too deep into the first turn, after a quick trip over the grass he rejoined unharmed.
In 11th was DeBoo, followed by Martin, Munday, Young, Duggan, who broke a stub axel and parked the car on the main straight before the pit entrance, and Smith, who was suffering from a mysterious Turbo problem, which would force him out for the weekend.
Sunday Warm Up
Stinson completed five laps to top the time charts with a 42.2646. He was followed by Ricciardello, Mikac, Crompton, Jameson, DeBoo, Wilson, Walden, Young, Munday, O'Brien, Martin, Duggan, after long repairs to the stub axel problem, he finished the warm up planted in the sand trap on the outside of the dip. The car was undamaged after the team pulled a great deal of dirt from the inside of the car. The final two positions were interestingly filled by two of the fastest drivers, Wall and Baily, who set times in the 50s.
Race 1 -10 Laps
Bill Martin and Ron O'Brien were non starters for the first race, with O' Brien having clutch problems. Crompton lined up on the last grid position after changing tyres over night in an attempt to cure the car's grip problem.
The start saw one of the freakiest accidents Sport Sedans have seen in a long time. Stinson, from third grid position started to creep off the line before the red light, with possible clutch problems. He smartly moved the car onto the grass and started to roll down the infield. The light went green and the field was away. Young, Munday, Duggan and Crompton were going 4 wide near the back of the pack, when Duggan veered hard to the left at a very rapid pace. He then T-boned Stinson fair on the B-pillar, tearing both cars apart. Both drivers emerged unscathed from their vehicles, amazing considering that the impact, Stinson's car was hit so hard it bent the steering wheel and seat.
With debris all over the track and infield, the Clerk of Course had no other option but to throw the red flag. Unsighted of the flag, Crompton gave Walden a small tap after making a great start.
At the restart, Ricciardello made the best start to jump into the lead ahead of Baily and Mikac. Crompton's restart wasn't as good as the first attempt, this time only gaining 2 positions on the run into the first turn. Immediately two groups of cars formed at the front, Baily was all over Ricciardello, and Mikac and Wall were close together a way back. Wall went for an inside run on Mikac at turn one, but was unable to make to stick. These two already had pulled out a gap on Wilson, while Jameson closed in on Wilson.
On lap three, Deboo slowed in turn one and fell back two positions, while on the next lap Crompton made it past Walden in the same spot. Munday and Young were having a close race for ninth, with Munday just having enough get past the Levin and keep it behind. At front Ricciardello and Baily were hard at it, both drivers settling in and both setting five laps each in the 51 second bracket. In third position, Mikac put together seven laps in the 42s to put a reasonable gap on Wall.
The next closest battle to Baily and Ricciardello was Wilson and Jameson for fourth position, with both cars being closely matched. Ricciardello nearly lost it in turn one covering his line from Baily, but was able to power out of the corner and keep his lead. Wilson and Jameson went side by side through turn one, but Jameson went wide on the exit and dropped a little ground. At the back of the pack, Deboo was catching Young for tenth.
Baily was still harassing Ricciardello down the straight, with him weaving left and right, but Ricciardello kept the inside line to turn one to himself, and stayed ahead of the 300ZX. DeBoo made it past Young as the leaders approached on the last lap, but DeBoo promptly had a major spin over the top of the Dogleg, and planted the RX7 firmly in the sand trap just short of the wall. The spin was caused by the contents of his radiator being dumped on his tyres.
At the finish it was Ricciardello from Baily, Mikac, Wilson, who set his fastest ever lap around the short circuit, Jameson, Wall, who dropped back on the last lap with tyre problems, from Crompton, Walden, Munday and Young.
Race 2 -12 Laps
Wall started from the rear with new tyres, and was also joined by O'Brien with a repaired Commodore. At start, Wall went straight down pit lane with a broken drive shaft. Ricciardello once again got the best of the start, running side by side into the first turn with Baily, and coming out in front. Young also had a ripper start, and was up to seventh by the end of the first lap, however both DeBoo and O'Brien were able to make their way past on the second lap.
DeBoo was immediately right onto the tail of Walden. Baily, like in race one was right onto Ricciardello's bumper bar, with the both cars once again in the 41s. Young, on lap four had his throttle stick open on him just after turning into the last turn, resulting in a hard hit with the outside wall, which put the white and blue Levin out for the day. Jameson, in fifth position left Crompton behind, and was after Wilson. DeBoo's strong run ended on lap 6 when he pulled off at the end of the straight with third gear broken.
Crompton, Walden and O'Brien were all closing for sixth position. O'Brien tried to have a go at Walden at Autotek Corner, but with the yellow flag still waving for Young's car, O'Brien thought better of it. However going into the first turn on next lap, O'Brien spun the car, losing a position to Munday.
Ricciardello still had Baily all over his bumper, and held on for victory by less than 2/10ths of a second. The pair were followed by Mikac, Wilson, Jameson, Crompton, Walden, Munday and O'Brien.
Race 3 -14 Laps
Walls dreadful day continued when he once again pulled into the pits at the start of the third race. With the grid reversed, O'Brien and Jameson bogged down at the start, and Crompton lead into the first turn. Mikac made it through to the lead, but was passed by Ricciardello going into Autotek corner, but spun at the exit as Baily and the rest of the field sped past. Crompton was called into the pits for an alleged jump start, and rejoined the track in last position.
Wilson made it past Jameson through the esses, Jameson claimed back fourth. Walden was right onto O'Brien and made it past down the straight, but unfortunately Walden's strong run was about to end, when he was forced to pit with differential problems. For the third race in succession, Baily was catching Ricciardello, and the battle in this race was the stand out for the day. Lap after lap Baily would fill the mirrors of the Alfetta, but always came up just short under brakes. On the fifth lap, Mikac was back past O'Brien, with the prospect of a podium position, Mikac was on a charge.
Jameson in third was starting to pull a gap on Wilson. O'Brien, Munday and Crompton were all closing for sixth, and in successive laps Crompton was able to make up positions. These three however did not help Baily when they were being lapped, with only a few laps to go, Baily dropped several car lengths ending his chances for the win.
At the finish Ricciardello held on by half a second from Baily, a very pleased Jameson who was still suffering from tyre problems, Wilson, Mikac, Crompton, Munday who made it past O'Brien on the second last lap.
"It wasn't too hard to keep Kerry (Baily) behind, because the car is quicker since last time, its easier to drive and more driveable. We've made a few changes in the suspension and it has obviously worked. I had him covered everywhere except the first corner and under brakes. I was pulling away a bit, but he would close up in the first corner because I had some understeer." Said Ricciardello after the third race.
Baily after the three race long battle told of where he thought he could have made it past Ricciardello. "I would have liked to think that the only place where we could have got him was under brakes, but the brakes went a bit funny and I had to back out of it on about lap nine. To win the championship we really only have to run second, but we would like to win some more races. I think we just have to approach it with a conservative attitude, and if we do it, all well and good. We were very lucky today because the pinion bearing in the car is totally destroyed and I am surprised that we finished. We have to change it before Sandown, and it will be reliable to the end."
"Today was fantastic, the car is still running at the end of the day and there were no biffs. Probably the best meeting so far with a 20B engine. I am really looking forward to Sandown, and am looking forward to racing against some of the Victorian 20Bs." Said Mikac after taking the final podium position.
The next round is at Victoria's Sandown circuit on the 7th and 8th of October alongside the V8 Supercars.