RAIN GIVES WAY TO FAST LAPS AT THE BEND CLASSIC
A SATURDAY afternoon happy hour has seen a flat-out sprint between some of Australia’s fastest racing cars at The Bend Classic.
After a brief morning warm-up, torrentially wet weather forced the Formula One and open-wheel machines into the garages for much of Saturday.
However, a change in the weather from rain to late afternoon sunshine – and a substantial track drying effort from volunteer officials and The Bend Motorsport Park staff – saw a 30-minute session contested at the end of the day; one that sets the scene for a high-speed Sunday at the circuit.
There was no Spa Francorchamps-style issues in sight as on a rapidly improving track, late on Saturday afternoon, tumbling lap times saw the day end with Yasser Shahin setting a 1m10.723s flyer.
That benchmark, set aboard a Formula Renault 3.5 V8, is only a few tenths off The Bend’s West Circuit lap record set by Josh Kean in a Footwork Arrows Formula One car last year.
It means Shahin tops the tables heading into Sunday’s sessions which will culminate in a top-10 shootout for the 10 fastest cars of the entire event on Sunday afternoon.
It’s likely to result in a lap record chase as the wings and slicks cars attempt to crack the 1m09s for the first time on The Bend’s 3.4km West Circuit.
The maiden and highly anticipated run of the ex-Giancarlo Fisichella Benneton B198 ended with Sam Shahin, last year’s Classic winner, finishing the day second fastest with a 1m14.602s best in his first serious run in the car.
While a fuel issue cut short his running to just 11 laps, the car was a massive drawcard throughout the day as crowds watched from the rear of the pit garage each time the car was fired up – the V10 sound echoing across The Bend Motorsport Park both from pit lane and when on track.
17-year-old teenager Sebastien Amadio was third fastest in his S5000, his 1m15.505s best an impressive lap on his first competitive outing in Australia’s premier open wheel racing cars.
Craig Lowndes elected to conserve his Dallara F189 Cosworth for Sunday’s running, but still ended the day fourth fastest overall thanks to his 1m15.612s best – achieved in just five laps of running.
Chris Slursarski was fifth fastest (1m18.633) in his Formula Toyota FT-50, while a cautious Brenton Grigoul ended the day 9th in the greasy conditions aboard his Lola-Larrousse Cosworth.
The predominantly wet weather failed to dampen the spirits of the competitors on Saturday with six classes each logging plenty of laps.
Rob Atkins’ VY Commodore topped the Classic Production car class in the pouring rain, while well known racing identity Peter Gazzard was second aboard a Toyota GR Yaris. David Wilson was third in his Commodore.
Mark Haig’s stunning Datsun 510 (1m41.084s) edged out Bruce Coombe’s ex-IMSA Mazda RX7 Rotary in the historic Sports Sedans category, the final margin between the pair in mostly dry running just 0.7 seconds. Charlie Carter’s Ford Anglia was third.
Mark Rosser’s GT World Challenge Australia Audi R8 LMS topped the Modern Sports Car class, with David Smoker not far behind in his similar R8. Keith Wong was third in his Porsche GT3 Cup Car.
That class is set to fire up further tomorrow as Kevin Weeks (Ford GT GT3) and Time Attack star Dan Day (Subaru Impreza) await dry conditions to make their mark.
Longstanding South Australian Competitor Jim Doig topped the Open Sports & Racing Sprint in his Motorlab ASP, while Gerard Miller’s 1938 Plymouth Special topped the Vintage category.
Kent Patrick’s Bugatti Type 37A was second while Lindsay Hick’s 1949 MG TF Special completed the top three.
The Bend Classic continues on Sunday with a full day of action and better conditions forecast for Tailem Bend, an hour outside of Adelaide.
Tickets are available at the gate for just $10.