Monday, Mar 12 11:22am
AUTHOR: Supplied/Ross MacKay

'Spectacular' Phillip Island the perfect venue for F5000 series final

Australia’s Phillip Island circuit proved the perfect venue for the final round of this season’s SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series over the March 10-11 weekend.


‘This place is just off the scale,” said Kiwi racer Aaron Burson (McRae GM1) after a weekend best second place finish in the feature length 12-lap F5000 category final on Sunday afternoon.


“It’s just so different to what we have at home. And it’s hard to pick one bit that I like more than another, the whole place is spectacular. For a start, at almost 4.5 kms around the lap is a lot longer and it’s got lots of elevation changes which you don’t see from watching the V8s when they are here. That, and all the fast, flowing high entry speed corners means it’s completely different to the other tracks we race at.


“The fact that you’re so close to the sea is also one of the things I like about the place. At any other track all you see down the start/finish straight is the car in front of you. Here, the track dips as you pass the pits, then you crest a rise and then all you see is Bass Strait!”


The circuit, on Phillip Island, due south of Melbourne, could well have been built for the robust, stock-block V8-powered wings-and-slicks Formula 5000 single-seaters.


Weekend pace-setter, former Australian Formula 3 race winner Tom Tweedie (Chevron B24/28), was consistently the fastest man at the meeting, qualifying quickest before going on to win all five category races very much as he pleased and only conceding the fastest race lap once – to compatriot Tim Berryman (Lola T332) in the second race of the weekend on Saturday morning.


Tweedie was the only one to break the 1.27.00 barrier (with his pole time in the Saturday morning qualifying session of 1.26.89251. but both he and Berryman ran easily in the 1.27.00s in the races.


Both also beat the two Formula 1 cars – the March 741 of former V8 Supercars ace John Bowe and the Ferrari 156/85 of Sydney driver Guido Belgiorno-Nettis – which joined the F5000 field for the first race on Sunday morning.


By way of comparison the MotoGP lap record round the Grand Prix circuit is a 1.27.833 set by Italian Jorge Lorenzo, and the current Supercars one - set in 2017 by Kiwi Scott McLaughlin in a Team Penske DJR Ford Falcon -  is a 1.31.2142


Like the other four races (a 4-lapper ‘sprint’ on Friday then two five lappers on Saturday, and a third five lapper on Sunday morning) the 12-lap 2018 Phillip Island Classic on Sunday afternoon was another Tweedie master class, the Sydney stock broker leading all 12 laps.


Until the first lap of the feature final Berryman had tucked in behind to head the rest of the 19-strong field home.  In the final however, he was forced to pit to retether his car’s fire extinguisher and could only make it back up to 10th place before the chequered flag came out. That left the way open for Aaron Burson to take second place ahead of fellow Kiwis Ian Clements, Tony Galbraith (both Lola T332s) and David Arrowsmith (Lotus).


After working through gear selection then electrical issues on Friday and Saturday Arrowsmith was back to his giant-killing best in his older Class A car on Sunday, winning an entertaining battle with fellow Kiwi Tony Galbraith for seventh spot in the morning 5-lapper, then finishing a weekend-best fifth – after another race-long battle, this time with Australian ace Dean Camm (Chevron B24) in the feature final.


Behind Camm was another entertaining battle for track and race position, eventually decided in the favour of Kiwi Brett Willis (Lola T330) from Aussie Frank Harris in his Chevron B24).  


Category original Charles Talbot (Lola T332) rounded out the feature race finishers with just three starters failing to finish. Kiwi Grant Martin finally called time on his weekend when he ended up with just one usable gear (4th) while Australian Michael Glynn (Elfin MR8) had a wild ride exiting Turn 1 when a wheel bearing collapsed and pitched his car off the track and into a barrier.


The VHRR’s annual Phillip Island Classic meeting hosted the final round of this season’s SAS Autoparts MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series. The next outing for members of New Zealand’s Formula 5000 Association is to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion meeting at the Laguna Seca circuit in northern California in August where they will get to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Formula 5000 category with fellow owners, drivers and fans from the United States and Europe.


Photo: Jim Lester