IT is still early days, but the category some thought least likely to impress the Clipsal 500 crowd has been an early star of the show this year.
Improved Production was a surprise addition to the support race program for the 2017 event, the predominantly state-level category joining higher profile classes like Australian GT, Touring Car Masters and Porsche Carrera Cup on the 500’s packed support program.
Some wondered how a state level category was granted access to one of the most high profile events of the year, but it could have been a master stroke from the event promoters.
Not only did it guarantee a full field of people desperate to race on one of Australia’s most prestigious circuits and in front of perhaps their biggest ever audience – it assured the Clipsal fans would see a full 32-car grid and an astounding diversity of cars, not to mention battles all the way from first place to last.
What’s more it that the class has so far delivered remarkably entertaining motor racing, that in race two ended with Toyota Sprinter driver Chris Brown duking it out with Jordan Cox’s remarkable two-lite Honda Civic in Friday morning’s second race of the weekend.
Cox was the star of the recent Improved Production support races at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour where he showed little fear in dive-bombing more powerful cars at places you don’t usually pass at Mount Panorama.
With a Mitsubishi Lancer, a Mazda RX-7 and an S13 Silvia completing the top five positions it was a remarkably diverse running order at the pointy-end – a theme that continued throughout the field.
This author was amongst many who questioned the inclusion of IP on the program this year, over the inclusion of higher profile national categories – many of whom clamor to get a spot on the Clipsal schedule.
But on first impressions it seems that the inclusion of a bunch of wildly enthusiastic club level racers, with some seriously impressive and diverse machinery, could have been an inspired choice.
It supports the fan-first attitude that the Clipsal 500 organisers have consistently showed for years and continues their trend of innovating – much as they did with the Stadium Super Trucks, covered grandstands and so much more.
So, we say well done to them – and well done to the Improved production runners for putting on a great show so far.
WORDS: Richard Craill
PHOTO: Dirk Klynsmith