FROM THE BOX: Season 2 awaits
There is a lengthy break before season two of the S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship roars into life this September, which means there’s a chance to look back at the remarkable debut for Australia’s new premier open wheel category.
To do just that, we’ve roped in the man who called the action on the screens of Seven this season – S5000 commentator Richard Craill.
Growing up with the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide has ensured that open-wheel racing has flowed through his blood from an early age; that enthusiasm and passion for the sport clearly apparent in his calls – alongside fellow Adelaide Grand Prix disciple Matt Naulty – on the 7mate & 7plus broadcasts this year.
As such, we’ve tasked ‘Craillsy’ with penning a series of columns, exclusive to S5000.com.au, reflecting on the 2021 Championship and looking ahead to the exciting 2021-22 season that is yet to come.
In the final part of the series, we look ahead to what Season 2 of S5000 has in store.
I spoke with S5000 chief Chris Lambden recently and he reported that the phone has been running hot with people looking to come Down Under and tackle season 2.0 of S5000.
And why wouldn’t they?
Even with the ongoing Pandemic and the travel restrictions in place, I know plenty of drivers who would sacrifice a 14 days in a hotel room for the sake of racing a 560 Horsepower wings and slicks car on the circuits locked in for the 2021-2022 championship.
Of course, while the prestigious place on the support program for the Australian Grand Prix is an enormous lure, the two other headline events confirmed are equally important.
For starters, S5000 and the Gold Coast street circuit should go hand-in-hand because that place was born out of top-level open wheel racing.
Each year the Gold Coast would come alive with the international sights and sounds of IndyCar racing as some of the world’s best came to do battle on a circuit that was fast, challenging, exciting and spectacular.
All the big names raced there and between 1990 and 2008 created a remarkable heritage as one of the most well-known open wheel street circuits on the calendar, anywhere.
Supercars have continued the tradition superbly but having S5000 on the program for the first time will be pretty nostalgic for those who grew up with the Surfers Paradise event as ‘Indy’.
Even on the shorter circuit the cars will be spectacular there; the thought of a strong field trying to negotiate the Beach Chicane on lap one gets me pretty excited.
The Boost Mobile Gold Coast 500 is always an enormous party and having it in December this year will make it even bigger.
And then there’s Bathurst, the most famous place in our sport.
It’s known as a Touring Car mecca but the Mountain has a long and impressive history of supporting open-wheel racing that included hosting the Australian Grand Prix on four occasions, between 1938 and 1958.
Bathurst has hosted a round of the Australian Drivers’ Championship on 13 occasions, for 17 races in total, with cars ranging from the original Formula 5000s right through to more recent Formula 3 cars.
Neil Allen’s 1970 outright lap record, set driving a McLaren M10-B, of 2m09.7s stood for nearly 30 years while Formula 3 cars dusted the record on several occasions; including the first ever racing lap in the 2m02s at that iconic circuit.
All the big names – Davison, Stillwell, Mildren, Patterson and yes, Sir Jack Brabham – won Gold Star races on the Mountain.
S5000 racing there will be a huge moment for so many reasons, but the international appeal of Bathurst will mean that it’s watched by people all around the world, keen to see just what a big open wheeler is like at a place famous for Touring Car racing.
Braydan Willmington’s demo laps at the Bathurst 6 Hour earlier this year were a nice taste-test and proof that the cars can tackle the circuit, no dramas.
What else? Well I think the shift to Summer is a great move for the long-term future of the class because it’s the best time to go racing in this part of the world in these types of cars.
The most famous era of F5000, the Tasman Series era, was built on international drivers coming Down Under during the European and American Winter to race where the sun shone.
The fact S5000 is already a proven thing when it comes to drawing crowds and bringing people to the TV, there’s every chance that a Summer-centric series will do the same in this day and age.
The three-round ‘Triple Crown’ concept running at Bathurst, the GP and the Gold Coast makes an enormous amount of sense and three pretty incredible weeks of racing.
The grid is going to be bigger; more teams and cars will be involved and the category is continuing to build its place as a destination for drivers wanting a big thrill.
The entire 21/22 season is set to change the way we go racing here and set the building blocks for a summer-based future for the category, which is hugely exciting.