Five things to watch: S5000 Australian Drivers Championship
WHAT is shaping up as the best season yet in the short history of S5000 racing in Australia kicks off this weekend at the opening round of the Shannons SpeedSeries, at AWC Race Tasmania.
The event at Symmons Plains’ will see the quickest ever cars to race at the 2.41km Tasmanian venue go to battle in the 61st season of the coveted Australian Drivers Championship, with the iconic Gold Star waiting at the end.
Here’s five things to keep your eye on this weekend as the season commences.
THE CLOSEST FIGHT YET
ITS difficult to know where to look when it comes to picking a winner in this year’s S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship field assembled for AWC Race Tasmania.
The grid is stocked with elite talent from diverse racing backgrounds and supported by proven teams.
Of course, everyone is chasing double champion Joey Mawson who desperately wants to match his hero Mark Skaife by claiming a third Gold Star.
Aaron Cameron will do double duties, but won the 2021 Tasman title so knows how to win in these cars, while teammate Jordan Boys was quick on the Gold Coast last year.
And what of Blake Purdie, who ended up on the Podium in Adelaide and after a learning season now looks ready to be a week in, week-out contender.
Of course, James Golding is a Supercars full-timer, and Zane Goddard was two years ago so it’s hard to go beyond their credentials.
Add in a bloke who was on the F2 podium last year and you start to get the picture of just how tasty this grid is.
WATCH out for the likes of James Golding, Roberto Merhi and Cooper Webster this weekend, because although they’re likely to be highly competitive and contend for victories, they are also unlikely to play a role in the championship itself.
While Merhi is a one-off, Webster will soon jet off to Europe to contest the British GB4 Championship so a full season is unlikely on his cards.
Golding, who has a full-time ride with Supercars squad PremiAir Hire Racing, is in a similar situation.
The thing is, all three are very capable of winning races which means pinching valuable championship points away from those locked in for the full season. Those locked in for the year will need to maximise their scores in Tassie while competing against three highly qualified part-timers this weekend.
PUSH TO PASS
TRIALLED for the first time on the Gold Coast and refined in Adelaide last year, this marks the first Australian Drivers’ Championship round that S5000s Push-to-Pass system will be implemented – and what a place to do it.
With it’s two long straights split by two enormous braking zones, Symmons Plains is the perfect place to really see how drivers manage their P2P, and what role it plays in the racing itself.
At Adelaide the extra throttle percentage was worth somewhere up to 0.5 seconds per lap – so in a 48-second lap that’s a big difference.
Using the extra grunt to draw close up Symmons’ long back straight to execute a pass into turn six will be the most likely scenario, while watching drivers’ use it to defend from attack will also be fascinating. It’s going to add an entirely new dimension to the racing this weekend.
LAP RECORD ATTACK
S5000s are already the quickest ever cars at Symmons Plains and twelve months of intense competition has only made the cars’ quicker since they last visited the Apple Isle.
There’s a very real chance that Joey Mawson’s 48.3895s qualifying record and 48.5598s outright Symmons Plains lap records could both tumble again this weekend given the depth of the field and how more advanced teams are with car setup and extracting performance from the Hoosier Tyres this year, compared to last.
Expect qualifying to be a last-lap thing, with the pole time coming after the flag has flown at the end of the 20-minute session.
Weather permitting, Race 1 is the most likely time for the outright lap record to be given another nudge.
SURE, calling them ‘rookies’ is a stretch, yet watching how quickly the relative newcomers to S5000 get up to speed will be one of the key stories of the weekend.
Nic Carroll is plenty experienced in big, V8-powered racers though it’s been a while since he raced one without a roof.
Matt McLean is in the same boat and he’ll not find many similarities between the S5000 and his top-level Karting experience he accrued prior to launching his Super2 career – still, that V8 experience will be critical in adapting to his Versa machine.
Mark Rosser, who races in the still-new Silver Star class, adapted quickly to the cars on the Gold Coast and Adelaide last year and at Symmons Plains has a fantastic opportunity to get even closer to the likes of his BRM teammates, Mawson and Goddard.
|The Fuzzies Game Team BRM
|Team Valvoline GRM
|Garry Rogers Motorsport
|Nippy’s Versa Motorsport
|Team Valvoline GRM
|Crown Windows / Hobart Powersports
|Roberto Merhi Racing