Mixed grids make for mega racing

THERE’S ALWAYS a bit of professional envy when I look across the Tasman and see what and how the Kiwi’s go about their motorsport.

Sure, the whole NZ V8’s thing has been a bit of a drama for the last decade or so; but outside of that the Toyota Racing Series is the benchmark for open-wheel junior series in this region and the fact you’ve got ex-Grand Am Sports Cars racing amidst a field of diverse sports cars is epic.

And the SsangYong Utes were what the short lived ‘SuperUtes’ should have been from day one.

There’s some mega tracks and some very cool ideas and while I’m sure it’s not perfect, it’s nice to look over the ditch sometimes and see what happens every now and then, and enjoy it.

And it’s on that note on which I write because outside of the headline enduro races at Mount Panorama we don’t generally do the whole ‘put them all on the grid’ style of races here and I really think that’s to our detriment.

Speed Works Motorsport’s ‘Rush Hour’ races are inspired and something that I’d love to see staged between our national level categories here; sadly I think there’s just too much commercialisation and perhaps a lack of imagination for it to happen.

Fortunately, the climate in which we live has actually delivered something similar to that for what is essentially the first time in Aussie motorsport’s recent history.

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 Supercars event (the first one, anyway) when support categories are not exactly thick on the ground at the moment.

If you didn’t see it, the class mixed GT3, Porsche Carrera Cup, Super 3/V8 Touring Car / TA2 TransAm cars and Toyota 86s on the same grid across a series of half-hour races last weekend.

A cynic would say it was a category 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 other bits and pieces down the back of the field just added another element to the races.

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.

Fortunately, it looks like the concept will be revived in quick succession at the first of two Supercars rounds at The Bend Motorsport Park later this month, with a host of different cars and competitors.

Rush hour, it seems, will be coming to Aussie tracks after all. Now.. to hunt out an old Grand Am car..

Richard Craill

Working full time in the motorsport industry since 2004, Richard has established himself within the group of Australia’s core motorsport broadcasters, covering the support card at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix for Channel 10, the Bathurst 12 Hour for Channel 7 and RadioLeMans plus Porsche Carrera Cup & Touring Car Masters for FOX Sports’ Supercars coverage. Works a PR bloke for several teams and categories, is an amateur motorsport photographer and owns five cars, most of them Holdens, of varying vintage and state of disrepair.


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