Photography by Alex Maher
The Wakefield 300 is an interesting event for both spectators and competitors. It mixes a strange group of improved production, Excel and Pulsar challenges, Super Karts, Aussie Stockcars, Future-Racers and MX5 classes. The result is exciting to say the least.
Run over three days with Friday being practice, Saturday qualifying and class events, and Sunday being the main event divided into the B Group, and the Main Event. Unfortunately it is on the same weekend as the Canberra leg of the ARC. This means it didn’t have as many spectators as it should have, which is a real shame. It is one of the better circuits for spectators as the whole track can be seen from most places, and the Wakefield 300 in particular is exciting to watch.
What it also meant was that our usual Race Magazine photographers had all had better offers, so I asked my friend Alex Maher if he would like to help me on the day. I am not much of a photographer and was relying on Alex to get decent shots. As it turns out he is as bad as I am, and it became a competition to see who could out-ignorance each other. Thankfully, despite everything, we did manage to get some good photos.
Wakefield Park is one of those places that seem to run on extremes of weather. One day it is roasting, and the next there’s torrents of water flowing over it. I’m sure that race tracks create their own weather patterns somehow.
When we arrived on Saturday, it was the latter. Cold, wet and more wet. This meant that the competitors out on their qualifying run had to make the best of the situation. There were spins a-plenty but thankfully no major incidences.
The lower powered front wheel drive cars such as the Excels and Pulsars seemed to take the rain quite well compared to the MX5s, BMWs and the rest of the RWD field. I was surprised to see the AWD Lancers struggle for lateral grip in the wet.
Graham Booth did a nervous lap in his Monte Carlo Stockcar to test the circuit conditions in the rain and still spun out, and like the SuperKarts, the group retired for the day to wait for better weather.
The Pulsar Challenge is a series I had not really had a good look at before, and like the Excel series, is a very cheap way to get into real racing. Like the Excels, the cars are standard except for coil-over suspension and a wheel and tyre package. With the interior removed and a cage fitted, they come in at a cost of only a few thousand dollars to build a basic car.
It’s hard to remember that these are absolute budget racers when they are driven with such determination.
They hold their own on the track too, with times in the mid teens at Wakefield. This gives them plenty of competition in a mixed field like the 300, and the racing is very very close. Peter Green Jr took out each of the three Pulsar Challenges, though Shane Tate was hot on his heels for two of them.
I caught up with Trevor Keene from the father and son team of Midwest Multimedia.
They were enjoying the day and commented on the cost effective Pulsar Cup, and how enjoyable they have found the series to be.
Unfortunately in the first Pulsar Cup race on Sunday there was a coming-together with another competitor who hadn’t left enough braking room, and he stoved in the rear quarter of Trevor’s Pulsar. Until then he had been in second place for most of the race, but the damage was contacting the tyre and the car had to return to the pits for repair. Trevor was understandably bitter, but philosophical about it. The other driver involved was questioned by officials and warned, due to it being the second incident he had been involved in.
The Excel Series was represented by only two Excels, which were driven by Michael Hiscoe and Ross Street in the car26 eCards to Go entry, and Ian Kegg and Dean Evans in the Valvoline/Hankook car 95 team, and put on a great show. Wild driving with the inside wheels off the ground and plenty of sideways slides through the corners kept everyone watching entertained. The guys in car 95 were by far the wildest driver of the event and though he threw the car around like it had nothing left to give, it did not pay off and every lap he was down another place or two, whereas the Ecards2Go entry seemed to keep his place in the traffic reasonably well.
The Excel series and the Pulsar Challenge both offer a cost effective way into real racing, and both cost about the same to buy or build (only a few thousand).
Mazda’s diminutive MX5 has long been an affordable sports car, and their presence at the 300 was not out of place. The Mazda MX5 Cup had a field of 13 cars, and the wet weather kept the lap times slow. Nevertheless, Daniel Deckers in the Deckspeed entry won all four races, with Matilda Mravcic in the Rwsphotos.Net entry taking second place in race 1, 2 and 4, but slipping to 3rd in the 3rd race after receiving a 5 second penalty.
The superkarts were impressive and much respect to anyone that pilots these things at the speeds they do. They are the bare minimum needed to go very fast, and there’s no protection to speak of when they come off the track.
In comparison to the tin-tops, the karts are dwarfed by the width of Wakefield Park. The 100km event must be gruelling in a superkart. Mark Robin piloted his Italkart Rapido to a win in both races.
We have not covered Karts in Race Magazine, and we would love to hear your thoughts on whether we should.
The Aussie Stockcar field ran a tidy race and sounded fantastic from behind the pit wall. Steve Coulter led the field to a convincing win.
Wakefield 300 B Main
The B Main category is for cars that lap significantly slower than the main event competitors, but this didn’t diminish the action at all.
The field was largely made up of MX5’s, BMW’s and the Pulsar/Excel cup cars. The huge variety was great to watch, and while there was close to a third of the field that retired due to mechanical failure, most didn’t bow out until the last few laps. This kept the field large and busy! The Excels were by far the rowdiest racers, and I think a few times some of the BMW drivers would hang back just to see what they would do.
The B Main race was won by Adam Dodd/Terry Nightingale in the Targa Racing Mx5, with Dylan Thomas/G. Holland in the CXC Global Mitsubishi Evo IX taking second place.
When the main race started it quickly became apparent it was going to be a battle between team Downer in the Skelta, and the Rik Shaw/Steve Anslow Business Wealth Builders team driving the LS1 powered Series 8 RX7.
Rik Shaw took the first drive in the RX8, and moved through the traffic with enviable expertise. Rik is something of a quiet achiever, and it shows in his driving style too. He kept his race neat and tidy, and was very good at using backmarkers to his advantage while being chased by Ray Vandersee in the Skelta.
Ray would be caught behind someone Rik had just passed so many times he must have been fuming by the time the RX8’s differential failed, allowing him to temporarily take the lead.
The Skelta performed admirably but it too eventually suffered issues. While it completed the event, three of the Lotuses in the field eventually passed it, and took first, second and third places.
I caught up with Rik Shaw, and Steve Anslow. The team had spent many long days preparing the car for the 300, and had debated whether they should change the suspect differential before the race. Steve decided to risk it, as he didn’t want to put the team through more last minute work, but unfortunately it cost them the race.
He said that they had a great time at the event and were happy with how well they had been doing. It will be interesting to see how they go next year!
I asked Rik if he felt dirty driving a Chev powered Mazda.
“Because I have done a lot of work with Mazdas over the years, people seem to think I’m a fast Mazda guy. In reality I’m a fast car guy. I have had the good fortune to race Aston Martins, Porsches and all sorts of cars”. Rik is tackling the Nurburgring later in the year in a GT3, and we will be following his progress with Race Magazine.
The AMAC Motorsport Lotus Exige of Andrew Macpherson and Brad Shiels worked their way to the lead and won the event by a significant margin, with the Exige of CRM Motorsport driven by John Prefontaine and Robert Hackwood coming second. Glenn Townsend and Anthony Soole brought their Property Investment Store Elise home in third, even after suffering some major damage to the rear quarter. They are beautiful cars with striking styling, and while they don’t tend to move around in the corners like the production-based cars, they were a sight to see. There’s just something about flames on overrun to keep everyone peering over the pit wall to watch.
One of the more unusual cars to run in the Wakefield 300 was the Hyundai Sonata of the Supreme Dry Cleaning Canberra team. I have to say I have never seen one in competition before, and it was far from being a well-presented car. The paint was rough, it seemed to be made from cable ties, and the team looked like they were there having a good time and there was some sort of event going on around them. First impressions of the car were not the greatest, but it was very competitive. The guys drove it smoothly and it held its place in the field with stoic determination. By the end of the event I was impressed with their achievement; the 1:14 lap times around Wakefield are nothing to be sneezed at! My hat is off to these guys; to me this is what motor sport is all about.
The six cylinder class was won by the Nightingale Motorsport team in the EF Ford Falcon, which stood out in the gloomy weather thanks to the bright green headlight covers. Mark Coxall and Michael Cruse ran a smooth race with a clean driving style that paid off for them, and they were understandably proud.
There is very little opportunity to compete in endurance circuit races in Australia, particularly at the level of motor sport accessible to the rest of us. The Wakefield 300 is a very well-run event and a great aspiration for motor sport competitors everywhere. If larger or international teams don’t keep an eye on this field for up and coming talent, they will be missing out on some exceptional drivers.