Australia’s Phillip Island Circuit was host to the Red Sox Racing League members in week four of the league’s 2012 Season One schedule. Located on the southern coast of Victoria, Australia, the track is bordered by scenic cliffs and beaches. The area is home to one of the largest bird populations in the world. Visitors can see penguins, short-tailed Shearwaters, Pacific Gulls, and fur seals amongst the sheep and cattle grazing in the farmlands which make up 60% of island.
Deep Blue Ocean waters from the Bass Strait help form beautiful terrain on the southern edge of the race track; including the awe-inspiring Pinnacles. As tempting as it was to take in the sites like the rest of the tourists, RSR drivers instead worked hard to get ready for “The Marsupial 30 at Phillip Island” event.
Les Turner and Dustin McGrew led the way in qualifying as they secured the Class A and Class B pole positions.
Turner led fellow HPD drivers Justin Kirby, Andrew Gantman, Jim Albertson, Terry Daul, Andrew Feldman, Gary Jorgensen, Divina Galica, Kevin Kyle, Wilbur Gildersleeve Jr., William Kabela, and Bill Pawluckie to the green flag.
McGrew led fellow Corvette drivers Tommy Rhyne, Bruce Snelson, Dean Moll, Jeff Thomas, John Koscielniak, Scott Husted, Ed Sutcliff, Larry Krupp, and James Prostell Jr. to the green flag.
RSR drivers had lowered their incident totals in each week of the season coming into Australia, so they were eager to test their skills against the challenging layout at Phillip Island. Seasoned race fans were less optimistic the trend would continue however, because they knew the track is deceivingly narrow at crucial spots. It also has some of the most technically challenging corners on the schedule. Their thinking was that either HPD drivers would be forced to be more conservative, or would risk collecting incident points to make passes.
As it turned out, the fans were correct. Twenty-two RSR drivers racked up 117 incidents in 431 laps of racing in the thirty minute event. The only bright spot in the statistics was that although the total was the 2nd highest of the season, the incidents per lap average, 0.271, was the 3rd lowest. That was of course, of small consolation to the mechanics and fabrication crews who had to repair damaged cars after the race.
The carnage got off to a quick start as six drivers were involved in Lap One incidents. Jorgensen’s hopes of a podium finish were dashed on Lap Two when Galica tagged him in Turn Ten.
Located at the bottom of the hill leading out of Lukey Heights, Turn Ten was the site of trouble for eleven drivers during seven incidents. The tightly configured Honda Corner at Turn Four was also a rough spot for drivers. Eight different drivers collected damage during five separate incidents there.
The accidents, spins, and car contact took a heavy total on pre-race favorites. In addition to Jorgensen’s bad luck, Albertson was knocked out of fourth place in the HPD class when he was collected by the third place car of Kirby on Lap Four. Both drivers returned to the track after pitting for repairs. Albertson dropped all the way back to the 19th spot before battling his way back to a top-10 finish. Kirby was less fortunate and was forced to retire after an ill-timed pass on Sutcliff’s C6R in Turn One a few laps later.
Two time 2012 race winner Dustin McGrew pulled a daring 3-wide pass on the start, splitting the HPD’s of Kabela and Gildersleeve into Turn One bringing Snelson along with him. An unforced error by McGrew on Lap Four allowed Snelson to take over the top spot in the C6R class. A second uncharacteristic error in Turn Two on Lap Eight allowed Rhyne and Moll to take over the second and third C6R spots. Relegated to 4th place in class, Dustin finally retired from the event after speeding onto pit road on Lap Nine.
The hits kept coming when Snelson was knocked out of the lead in the Corvette class on Lap Thirteen. The incident was caused when Snelson moved left to set up for the corner and sideswiped the quickly approaching HPD driven by Albertson. Neither driver saw the other until it was too late. Both ended up in the grass while Moll casually slipped into the C6R lead.
Rhyne almost lost a podium finish when he went off track while letting Gantman’s HPD by in Lukey Heights on Lap Fourteen. The Carolina driver must have thought the racing gods were targeting him for abuse when he was again victimized by traffic in Honda Corner on Lap Eighteen. Rhyne stayed wide as he set up for a smooth entry into the tight right-hand corner. Instead of riding his momentum into the corner, Rhyne was broadsided by Daul’s HPD when he failed to brake in time to complete his cornering attempt from the inside lane. Tommy somehow managed to keep his car on the track.
The final lost podium spot happened on the last lap when Feldman spun exiting Turn Four and gave third position in the HPD class to Gildersleeve. “I saw Andy spinning and couldn’t believe our cars didn’t touch”, said Wilbur while prancing around the podium in his Birthday Suit. “Tough break for him, but I was happy to earn the final spot on the podium tonight!”
When the dust had settled, only two drivers, Les Turner and Wilbur Gildersleeve, Jr. managed to complete the race without an incident and were both rewarded with podium finishes for their efforts.
Class A results:
Turner used the advantage of his pole position to get clean air and avoid the early race incidents occurring behind him. He drove a smart and incident free race, calmly lapping most of the Corvette field at least twice en route to a 13 second margin of victory. The win was his second of the season and gave Turner a four point lead in the Class A championship standings.
“Phillip Island Circuit has always been a great track for us”, said Turner during the post race celebrations. “We got the win here in the Star Mazda in 2010, and had 2 wins and a 2nd place finish in the Williams in 2011. Adding an HPD Multi-Class win in 2012 is another great accomplishment for us. Teamdraft owns Phillip Island!”
Gantman survived a late race incident with Galica to finish in second place. He crossed the line thirty seconds ahead of the third place car of Gildersleeve. Feldman (4th), Kyle (5th), and Daul (6th) completed the race on the lead lap. Galica (7th), Pawluckie (8th), Albertson (9th) were scored one lap down. Jorgensen (10th), Kabela (11th), and Kirby (12th), completed the HPD scoring.
Feldman was still shaking his head about the race after the awards were handed out. “I collected over eight incident points on the opening lap”, said the normally quiet driver. “We got heavy damage when I plowed into the back of Terry. I’m still can’t believe I did that. Very sorry if the contact cost him a podium tonight. I worked hard to come back from that and had made it up to third place before my legs starting cramping up. I lost feeling in my left calf and couldn’t feel the brake properly. It was just bad enough that I spun out in front of Wilbur and handed him third place. What a crazy race!”
Turner, Gantman, Albertson, Daul, and Jorgensen occupy the top five positions of the overall championship battle.
Class B results:
Moll earned his first win of the season by keeping his mistakes to a minimum and avoiding the chaos going on around him. It was his third top-5 of the season and gave Dean the overall lead in the championship race.
“Winning at Phillip Island is a big surprise. It is a tough track and we really struggled in practice and qualifying”, said Moll. “The early racing was wild, but I kept pace with Bruce, Dustin, and Tommy. I got past Tommy and just behind the leader after a great pit stop. I was in the right place and was able to grab the lead in time to get the win. My goals for the season were to be running at the end of every race and hopefully pick up a win along the way. Today I accomplished both.”
Rhyne held on long enough to cross the line in 2nd place. He was just happy to have finished the race. Krupp finished in third place. Sutcliff (4th) held off a furious late race challenge by Thomas (5th) and Snelson (6th). “I honestly thought they would both get past me on the last lap”, said Sutcliff. “My tires were toast at that point. Congrats to Dean on his win.”
Prostell Jr. (7th), Husted (8th), Koscielniak (9th), and McGrew (10th) completed the scoring in the Corvette class.
Moll holds a slim one point lead over McGrew in the C6R standings, while Rhyne, Sutcliff, and Thomas round out the top-5 positions.
RSR drivers head to Japan next week for the “Koraku-en 30 at Okayama” on February 9, 2012.
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