COMMENT: TIP-TOP TOWNSVILLE TIN-TOPS
IF YOU had told me at the start of the year that I’d watch a race where a GT3 Aston Martin, two generations of Porsche GT3 Cup Car and a Super 3 car would all be scrabbling for the lead of the same motor race, I’d have given you a strange look and told you to go and lie down for a bit.
WORDS: Richard Craill IMAGES: Aussie Tin Tops Facebook
But then again, this is 2020 and a year when many strange things occur – which is why that is the exact thing that happened on the weekend.
The ‘Townsville Tin Tops’ were announced a few weeks back and initially felt like a nice, easy way to put on a support category for the Townsville fans when support categories are not exactly thick on the ground at the moment.
A cynic would say it was a category where ‘everyone wins a prize’ – thanks to having seven classes – and would be a one and done curio that filled a gap when nothing else could.
It turned out to be the best thing on the Supercars undercard since the Adelaide 500 was a thing back in February, which was officially a million years ago.
It could have been a bit of a mess, but the three races were utterly compelling and filled with action from go to woah. In a way, it almost felt like the Bathurst 12 or 6 Hour enduros distilled down into a window that people with a short-attention span could get around as well.
It was a ready-made answer to the question a surprising number of people ask: “What would happen if we race a Supercar against a GT car?”, for example.
Turned out: Many, many things would happen – most of them entertaining.
Part of the success of the category was the quality of the competition at the front. In Tony Quinn you may have had a ‘gentleman’ GT3 driver, but someone with race smarts and enough pace to put on a show.
Quinny’s Aston was definitely the fastest car, but the nature of the Townsville circuit ensured that the V12 machine couldn’t use it’s additional grunt and downforce as it could at, say, Bathurst – which ensured the Porsche brigade remained very much in contention.
Adding to the show was the fact that piloting the Porsche’s were proper, young, fast talent who have proven to be competitive at an outright level in the key one-make categories the German brand has to offer in Australia – not to mention the fact Luke Youlden, a Bathurst winner, was in another.
So you knew the Porsche’s were being driven as hard as they could and as such they kept pace and on two occasions, toppled the Aston.
Chuck in multiple well-run and well-driven Super 3 cars and the competitive mix between those three classes alone was more than enough to put on a show.
It was great to see the rubber band effect as the Porsche fired out of the slow-speed corners before being stretched again by the top-end grunt of the Aston and Supercars.
Tony Quinn was definitely the fastest but Harri Jones’ relentlessness ensured he was always under pressure which made for great battles.
The Porsche’s were mighty under brakes and out of the slower corners and the Supercars top-end grunt and ability to smash the kerbs saw them play to their strengths.
And then the lapped traffic played a role and really changed things up – watching Quinn, Jones and the other leaders negotiate their way through the Toyota’s and Queensland Touring Cars down the back of the field just added another element to the races.
The first half was the leaders dicing on their own and then the second was the leader dicing, while having the additional challenge of carving through traffic, too.
It was very compelling and best of all a whole lot of fun.
What else worked? Well, plenty have said that they would love to see the MARC Cars Australia concept evolve into the next-gen Supercar, and while that is unlikely they proved they could certainly put on a show racing on their own.
If this happens again (and with the fullest of respect to Adam Hargraves and Geoff Taunton, who had tremendous battles all weekend), I’d love to see a gun driver plugged into one of those MARC II weapons: the likes of Nick Percat and others have proven those cool rigs are GT3-spec fast on the Mountain when driven by a pro.
And then there was Nathan Hearne in the TA2 / TransAm car. Is it just me, or should cross-ply tyres be mandatory for all Touring Car categories? Certainly, the young-gun drove the car like a Sprintcar for much of the weekend and by the end of it was dicing with the (theoretically) much quicker MARC II cars. Having said that, he could be running on his own and it would have been entertaining; but that he was faster than the first-gen MARC Focus entries all weekend was incredible.
In the end, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the concept worked – after all, the gurus behind it were involved in first bringing the Stadium Super Trucks to the Adelaide 500 a few years back and that turned out to be a crushing success.
With the remainder of the calendar now sorted it looks like the Townsville Tin Tops could be a one-and-done thing.
However, there are several events on the regular-season calendar that could use another high-profile category inserted on the undercard; a category that can guarantee a good-sized field, a broad mix of cars and drivers that can entertain the paying customers and those watching on TV.
On that basis, I doubt the weekend is the last time we see this ‘Tin Top’ category in action, in Townsville or elsewhere.
And that, I think, is a very good thing.