Despite a storm threatening the night before, it was warm and dry conditions which greeted the Production Sports Car field for the penultimate one hour race of the CUE Endurance Championship at Morgan Park. With twenty two cars taking to the grid, track space was always going to be at a premium and in the opening laps the frantic battles for position kept all the starting drivers on their toes. In the early stages it was only a matter of time before someone became unstuck, unfortunately John Perfontaine in the Lotus was the first to find trouble, locking the rear brakes into turn four as he tried to overtake Roger Hill in the Nissan GTR. Chaos ensued as Perfontaine found himself facing the wrong way in the middle of the track. Contact with the Mosler of Graham Lusty would break the rear suspension of Perfontaine’s Lotus and force him out of the race. Lusty, who had gained a great start to launch himself into the top five, suffered only superficial damage and was able to continue, pressuring the leading four when the safety car peeled off track.
After the pause it was Darren Berry who was on a charge, fighting hard to pass the Porsche pair of Sparks and Evans. Initially on lap nine it was looking like Berry had got the job done in the Ginetta, but pushing too hard to place pressure on Sparks at turn ten saw the Ginetta run wide, undoing all the work. Still, by lap thirteen Berry had got the job done, taking the lead and looking like he was going to secure a comfortable race victory as he scampered off down the road. Lap thirteen also saw the first pitstops with Mark Stinson, the NSW State Champion, coming into the lane. In with a shot at the CUE Endurance title, he was trying to play the strategy card to leapfrog himself up the field. His NSW compatriot Manny Mezzasalma mirrored the strategy choice on lap fourteen, bringing his Porsche in for the compulsory pitstop and swapping the drivers seat with Phil Teloar. However, unfortunately for both, race leader Berry found himself stranded on the grass at the exit of turn one, leading to a safety car. Initially it looked like a lockup of the rear brakes had led to Berry’s demise, however, with the car stranded a fire developed under the bonnet, requiring it to be towed hastily to the end of pit lane to be extinguished.
The safety car period saw most of the field rush into pit lane, as the pit window was now firmly open. In further disaster for Treloar and Stinson, Adam Burgess decided not to pit from fifth in the race. Taking the lead in his Ginetta was great for Burgess, but it effectively buried his NSW comrades a lap down. His time at the front, however, would be short-lived, as Burgess’ Ginetta came to a grinding halt on the exit of turn six after the restart, pulling to the side of the road and into retirement with a mechanical failure.
That demise left Campbell (who had taken over from Sparks during the pitstop) and Evans to battle it out to the chequered flag, with Campbell pulling out a comfortable lead in the back half of the race.
In perhaps the most glaring example of how pit strategy can effect a race, Chris Stannard was battling with Russell Schloss, the Porsche 944 and Mazda MX5 putting on an impressive show in the first half of the race. Differing strategies around the mid-race safety car however saw Hume jump into the Mazda MX5 and move up as high as fifth, eventually finishing sixth, while Stannard/McGann slipped as low as twelfth after their pitstop and came back to finish eighth.
The fight for tenth through to fourteenth was also hectic, yet an exclusively Mazda MX5 event, with Gavin Clay, Paul Ansell, Tony Ross, Greg Quince/Chris Hatfield and Andy Harris all doing battle. Passing was paramount as all tried to find their way to the front of the group. Eventually Gavin Clay got the upper hand, taking out tenth position. A notable mention in the group also has to go to Andy Harris, who begun his motorsport journey across the weekend, picking up the first signatures on his race licence with an impressive drive, racing hard in the pack while keeping out of trouble.
Eventually Campbell and Sparks were just unbeatable. The pair took home a comfortable victory and sealed a clean sweep of the weekend’s racing activities. Stay tuned as the weekend highlights will be appearing on an episode of Blend Line TV in the coming weeks. Details of that telecast are to follow.