POWER RANKINGS: SMAC at the Island
FOR THE FIRST TIME, the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships (SMAC, to you) is getting The Race Torque’s Power Rankings (The Original and The Best) treatement.
The opening round of the new season took place at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit at the weekend and it was an absolute belter of a weekend, with highly competitive racing, varied weather, a great crowd and plenty of the usual drama.
Here’s our take on the weekend. It’s also your take, too – our superb followers of @theracetorque on our social media channels contribute to this each week. Get involved if you can.
The Power Rankings – accept no imitations!
1. The Racing
How could you possibly complain? Great stuff across the board, highly entertaining stuff across all the core categories.
Fun fact: Chaz Mostert is really, really good at this motorsport caper. His 33sec win after 14 laps in the Saturday afternoon TCR race in the rain is proof. An absolute smoking. Also, very strong in GTs. Plus, his efforts to shine the spotlight on social media hate are top notch.
A real mixed bag of lollies on the results sheets – even though Mostert won the opening two races, he had to settle for fourth in the final weekend run down, with the top-four drivers spread by only six points. Is this round the making of the category? High quality racing and excitement throughout was the most convincing on-track show yet for what is essentially a category in its second season.
The best weekend of racing yet from the big bangers. Impressive show and impressive driving from a really good group of racing talent.. but the stars here are definitely the cars. On Australia’s fastest track, they were simply breathtaking to watch. More, please.
5. National Trans Am
Great racing at the front between Aaron Seton, Nathan Herne, Owen Kelly, Kyle Gurton and Tim Brook. Should this platform be the basis for Gen 3 Supercars? They are five seconds a lap slower than Supercars around PI, which would probably be a hard sell to the masses, but we just enjoy Trans Am for what it is: Bloody good stuff.
6. Cooper Webster
What a performance from this young man! Stunning drive in horrific conditions to nail his first S5000 victory in incredible circumstances. Another future star unearthed..
7. Fast Kiwi rookies
Callum Hedge: Another fast Kiwi and another Kiwi fast in the rain and now, a Porsche winner.
Kaleb Ngatoa: Zero practice, never seen the track or the car and ends up fighting for a podium in the final race. Enormously impressive performance; commentators attempts at his last name not so much.
Fast Kiwi racing drivers: They keep breeding them, we keep enjoying watching them drive. Good result for everyone.
8.Yasser & GT in GT
Two from two, these guys were a class act and stout combination against from decent competition in the racing return of Aussie GT. Yasser is probably the fastest ‘Am’ in Australia at the moment, while Garth Tander continues to win in anything he drives. Or Commentates.
9. The Rain
For excitement: just add water! It eventually got to much after the second Porsche race, and the proceedings were canned for the day, but up until that point, it sorted the men out from the boys.
10. The Crowd
Capped at 3,500 punters per day, it looked and felt like a decent audience trackside. The on-track action was bang on, and when the gates are thrown wide open, you feel there is the potential to grow the off-track fan experience into something big.
11. BONUS – TRT gets results
A massive part of the TRT Power Rankings (The Original and the Best) is that it is you, our loyal readers, who nominate what makes the Hot, the Not and the What in this fair column. We also like to think we speak to the industry and the call-out for nominations for this week’s column has proved that the heavy-hitters are indeed watching.
Full credit to PIARC for getting involved in the chat that the great Simon Wills deserves a gong for hanging on to the outright lap record at Phillip Island for the 21st year in succession. For the record, we agree..
David Reynolds – Never Change
These absolutely idiotic animals.
1. Porsche Pile Up
Awful crash involving Jonathan Glicksten, Michael Hovey and Ross McGregor and it speaks volumes for how well the 911 GT3 Cup Car is built that all three walked away, if after a brief trip to the medical centre.
2. TCR Big Guns
Jordan Cox came into the weekend as the TCR points leader, but scored the least points of anyone over the weekend thanks to multiple issues. Michael Caruso ditto had drama after drama, while James Moffat had a tough one in his return after being wiped out at Symmons Plains. Lee Holdsworth scored a podium on Saturday, but this stall on Sunday morning was costly, though he rebounded well later in the day.
3. GT Biffo
Some very expensive cars were tossed at the scenery. It always breaks our heart when expensive GT cars get turned into expensive garden ornaments.
4. Herne Airways
This was such an unfortunate incident. Thomas Randle breaks into wheelspin (S5000s do that) while moving across to defend his position – which he is allowed to do – while Hearn, having made a superb start, makes contact with the rear wheel of Randle’s machine. The result: A GRM car sent skywards.
Safety features did their job, Hearne was battered but otherwise undamaged and social media got one for the highlights reel. But never good when a wings-and-slicks car gets airborne.
5. Traffic Blues
Traffic getting off the Island is as much a constant as Cape Barron Geese and ridiculous circuit noise curfews, but it still gets the ‘NOT’ treatment because there’s nothing the Power Rankings (the original and the best) hates more than a traffic jam. Still, what a good problem to have at a Shannons round!
Speaking of which, the traffic hassles getting into the circuit if you were an early riser were also something of a hassle. A 25 minute wait on Friday became 10 on Saturday as the kinks got taken out of the system – and we get that there’s so many more Covid-related procedures to adhere to – but still. Not.
6. The complexities of GT Racing
The simple fact is, GT3 racing in this form is too complicated. Between Balance of Performance, timed pit stops, Pro drivers, Am drivers and everything else, selling this form of racing to anything other than the hardest of hard-core fans remains a massive challenge. It’s geared towards the competitors and it shows.
The Bathurst 12 Hour works because it’s a more pure endurance race with a grid comprised mostly of professional drivers. Shorter races like what we saw on the weekend are not that. What’s more, the moment you get a Safety Car, any BoP-related pit stop times are completely negated, too.
The frustrating thing is that GT3 racing is awesome when it’s a bunch of Pro drivers going at it (witness the opening few laps of Tander versus Whincup versus Mostert) or a group of talented Am’s having a crack. And it was great to see a 20-car field after the category endured a few rough years in the wilderness.
Good to see it back, but there’s much to be done to find a happy medium between managing the ‘Am’ component of the field, and just having a field of incredible cars – and they are that – putting on a great show.
7. Radio Dead Air
While we realise the focus is on the TV production, the at-track experience was somewhat lacking. With the exception of audio from the main commentary position, there was absolute dead air. With 3,500 “customers” paying money to be trackside, it really wasn’t good enough – sort out the technical issues, or go full old school and employ a couple of circuit commentators.
9. Nine Car Field
While we would never criticize the Porsche 944 (You’d be sacked if you did – signed, the 944-driving Ed) or knock the quality of racing, having a nine car field wasn’t a great look. This was a prime opportunity for a state level class to step up onto a big stage, and sure, these guys would be placing an emphasis on their own calendar, but surely someone could have filled a field with more entries?
9. The Rain
As hot as the racing in the rain was, standing in the Phillip Island-spec wind and rain is an absolute Not experience.
10. Scheduling for the Volly’s.
From reader, Scott Long, via Facebook:
Not: the lack of volunteer officials (possibly/probably?) due to Motorsport Australia scheduling this race meet either side of major race meetings in Victoria.Phillip Island Classic last weekend, Victorian State Champs weekend before that, Shannon’s this weekend, Supercars at Sandown next weekend, Vic State Champs again the weekend after that. It’s a huge drain on resources that feels like it’s being overlooked by the governing body.
In this case, the dramas came because the original date for the Phillip Island round was lost on account of Covid-19, so the only available weekend was grabbed to get the event in – but it’s a valid point. The most valuable resource in our sport – the volunteer officials – must be looked after, otherwise it won’t be Covid stopping the wheels from turning.