Tuesday, Oct 1 04:03pm
Velocity News

Highlands plays host to Radical Australia Cup final

The Radical Australia Cup is set to returns to Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell this weekend to conclude the championship.


After a year away from the circuit situated just over 50 km from Queenstown, the series returns with an 11-car grid. Peter Paddon, Chris Perini and Mitch Neilson will fight for the outright title Drivers’ Championship.


Friday will see three practice sessions followed by Qualifying on Saturda. Come Sunday, two 50-minute races will determine who is crowned champion.


Paddon holds a 66-point lead over Neilson. With 84-points still on offer, there is still much to play for.


It might be a tough task for Perini and Neilson though. Over the past five races at the South Island circuit, no one has ever beaten Paddon in qualifying or a race.


For Perini and Mitch Neilson - both of whom are still within reach of the title - neither have competed at Highlands in the past. However, both have carded multiple race wins this season, both sharing three wins apiece, equal to Paddon’s record set last year.


Perhaps of note is that Paddon has not won a Cup race since early March, whilst Perini has bagged all three of his wins since. In fact, Paddon has only seen the podium three times in the last six races, whilst Perini has been there in all but one event. Neilson has also carded three podium finishes.


They won’t be the only drivers contending for a win at Highlands, with the field including six drivers who have competed at the South Island circuit in the past, four of them as starters in both 2016 and 2017.


Team-mate to both points-leader Perini and former champion Paddon, Kosta Pohorukov is also a former podium finisher at Highlands (race one and race two in 2016), as is the returning Phil Anseline (race two in 2016). A


fter a challenging season on his Cup return, Tilton Interiors driver Pohorukov will be keen to close out the year with a result in a car that has some history in New Zealand, the ex-David Crampton SR3RSX that landed on the podium twice in 2017..


Series veterans Chris and Bill Medland can never be discounted, nor the returning Peter Clare who is looking for another strong close to the year after a mid-season podium at Sydney Motorsport Park and a tough run last time out at Tailem Bend, the Volante Rosso driver hoping to push for another podium trophy before the season draws to a close.


Brad Neilson will make his debut at Highlands in the SR3 that took he and son Mitch to victory at the opening round of the season at Bathurst, whilst Mitch will be looking for victory in his fight for the title with Perini and Paddon after a couple of setbacks with technical issues in the ex-Rowan Ross SR3RSX at both Tailem Bend and Phillip Island.


Paul Braico is one of five Highlands rookies, the round four podium finisher alongside GWR team-mates Paddon and Perini hoping to impress on his first run in New Zealand, having been caught up in much of the pre-event hype to find a spare car on site allowing him to make his third start of the 2019 Cup season.


Whilst the action will continue to provide for the teams and the passionate local crowd, the focus will be very much on the championship with the returning Peter Paddon (who completed just a partial season last year), looking to add a fourth title, whilst both Perini and Neilson will quickly need to find their feet if they have any chance of upsetting the historic balance at Highlands.


With snow still on the nearby mountains and spring still slowly emerging after a long winter, conditions will be typically unpredictable, with some rain scheduled on Saturday, whilst low overnight temperatures (zero predicted on Saturday night) will ease to provide much more pleasant conditions with daily highs expected in the mid teens.