MEDIA RELEASE/Soth Australian Sporting Car Club State Championships - Photos: supplied State Championship racing returns…
We asked newly crowned Commentator Sean “Chubby Wombat” Beggs to write us a class report from the Hyundai Excels Federal Tyres Bathurst Challenge event and he came up with this mighty story, a great read from a great class at Bathurst. (Main Photo: Dewi Jones)
As the Series Excel Category continues to grow, fans are excited to see them race on many of the iconic tracks in Australian Motorsport. None more so than Bathurst, where at the 2018 Hitec Oils 6hr meeting we saw 55 Hyundai Excels make the journey to conquer the mountain. Cars from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and even one Tasmanian made the trip to the mainland for the Federal Tyres Bathurst Challenge.
It was a bit of a nervous Friday morning practice session, as most of the field had never driven the track before. At a previous drivers meeting, Jason Bargwanna discussed many of the unique aspects of the Mount Panorama circuit, and the drivers were testing the waters. At the end of the session, the top 10 were quite close, showing that qualifying was going to be a hard fought affair.
Friday afternoon qualifying was everything we hoped it would be! Everyone was chasing the 3:00.15s lap time set by Scott Stephenson in the previous year’s 6hr race. Each lap cars were going faster, using the draft of the cars in front to lower the lap times, and at the end of qualifying, 9 cars would have set times under that time. In probably one of the closest finishes we have seen, Asher Johnston gained pole on 2:58.091s, just 0.005s from Ben Bargwanna, closely followed by Cameron Wilson, Brock Giblin, Cameron Bartholomew and Adam Bywater. The top 6 cars were only 0.1sec apart!
Race 1 was on Saturday morning, and the cars lined up on the grid, heading around Murrays Corner much like the races of old. As the lights went out 55 Hyundai Excels rocketed down the front straight and into Hells Corner. Cameron Wilson grabbed the lead on lap 1 from Asher Johnston, and for the next 5 laps, held off multiple charges for the lead from Johnston, Bargwanna, Giblin and Bywater. Positions from 2nd to 8th kept changing, but nobody was able to get passed the experienced Wilson, who crossed the line 1st, from Bywater in second with Cam Bartholomew third. Giblin finished the race in 8th after spinning in the last corner and crossing the line in reverse.
The crowd were up against the spectator fence for race two and once again 55 cars made the grid. Again the front cars battled hard with multiple lead changes in the first few laps. Adam Bywater was in the lead when the safety car came out due to a car into the wall at Forrest Elbow, and the race then became a 2 lap dash to the end! Bargwanna crossed the line in first sport, and you could see fists pumping in joy of his maiden Bathurst race win! Second was Bartholomew closely followed by Asher Johnston in third. Adam Bywater was third on the track, but was given a 30 second penalty for weaving when the safety car lights were out.
Sunday arrived, and Race 3 was shown to the world on the international livestream. And what a race we showed them! Bartholomew and Johnston swapped the lead, with another 6 cars following closely, almost touching bumpers they were that close. On the third lap, whilst in third Cameron Wilson had a mechanical failure in the dipper, contacting the wall on the right which speared him across the track into Ben Bargwanna, and both making contact with the left hand wall. Brock Giblin also received damage trying to avoid the incident and pulled off half way down conrod straight. This brought out a safety car and then a red flag. The race was classified as a non race, due to the limited laps run.
Due to the non race, the weekends results were determined by the winners of race 2, with Ben Bargwanna taking out the trophy, Cameron Bartholomew in second and Asher Johnston with third place.
Well done to all of the competitors that raced that weekend. It was definitely a show worth watching!