Clipsal 500 2012 – the “support categories”

For me, the term ‘support categories’ at the Clipsal 500 is just a little ironic. I think the V8 Supercars are the support category, and that Australian GT, Carrera Cup, Formula 3 and Touring Car Masters are where it’s at. I was tempted to report on the Clipsal 500 weekend and completely ignore the V8’s, but I’ll write a separate post about them later. For now, let’s look at the good stuff…

The Touring Car Masters provided good racing, as usual. Sadly the Porsche’s didn’t end up figuring in the results although in Sundays handicap race Greg Keene started on pole and managed to hold off John Bowe and Brad Tilley to stay in the lead for more than an entire lap. Sadly Amanda Spark’s 911 was punted off into the wall here when John Nelson attempted to pass on the inside and locked a brake. The poor 911 looked heavily damaged, but a closer inspection revealed it was just mostly fibreglass damage to the front guard and bumper. I have no doubt it will be repaired and back out for the next race.

The Touring Car Masters are great fun to watch. The old but highly tuned V8’s sound fantastic reverberating through the Adelaide city streets, and the old low tech suspension design means plenty of big, sideways powerslides to keep things interesting. It’s no wonder they’re a crowd pleaser.

As are the V8 utes. They’re not really my style, but the racing is fantastically close and often exciting to watch.

After Thursday evenings Australian GT qualifying session we took the 5 minute walk into Rundle Street to grab a beer at the Exeter.

The old Grand Prix posters from the 80’s used the phrase ‘Adelaide Alive’, and it still holds true to this day. Even on a Thursday evening the East End was a hive of activity as the varied cultural groups poured into the city’s watering holes and restaurants from the Fringe and Clipsal, both just a hundred metres or so away. The Exeter was packed full, and you could easily identify which event the various people had come from.

It was good to see this year that the usual greasy chuck truck catering at the track was interspersed with good food. Burger Theory is a favourite of mine, although the damn lines were way to long this time!

The Clipsal track really is a street circuit in the true meaning of the word. This just looks like another cute Adelaide city building, right?

Wrong. This is the Hutt Street office of Bespoke Approach, the private advisory and lobby group that ex Liberal foreign minister Alexander Downer established with former senator Nick Bolkus and renowned consultant Ian Smith upon his retirement. It’s the type of organisation that doesn’t need any sort of contact details or explanation of what they do splashed across the front. This was the only sign and it was very easy to walk past it – fantastic.

One of the unquestionable highlights for me was Friday night’s twilight Carrera Cup race.

For this race we sat in one of the Senna Chicane grandstands…

… and watched a closely fought Carrera Cup battle unfold under one of Adelaide’s trademark summer sunsets. It’s times like this that remind you just how fantastic is it to be alive…

… and makes you secretly promise to yourself that one day you will attend the LeMans 24hr.

Alan Jones was doing parade laps in the new Lexus LFA. To be honest I had my doubts about this car, but in real life it’s V10 sounds superb.

It didn’t sound as good as the Cosworth V8 in the actual Williams FW07B that Jones drove to his 1980 World Championship win, though. Look for a dedicated post soon about this and the other historic Formula 1 cars in attendance.

I’m never drinking again, I’d hate to have Donnelly Automotive.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from any of the Formula 3 sessions, for some reason their track time always seemed to be at a time when I couldn’t shoot. Either way I grabbed this quick shot of the huge Team BRM transporter behind Chris Gilmour’s small trailer. It’s worth pointing out that Gilmour is the current Australian F3 champion…

I think this hippie is a Jim Richards fan. He’s got Jim written on both his legs, and the words ‘Sprint’, ‘Porsche’ and ‘Javelin’ as well. Maybe this is Jim’s new merchandise line?

The Australian GT Championship is where it’s at.

Aston Martin DBRS9 – direct from Europe.

The Erebus Racing AMG SLS GT3’s have really taken car preparation standards to another level altogether. It’s good to see some brand new up-to-the-minute spec cars competing in Australia for a change, and it’s a good sign for the health of Australian racing.

Note the AMG branded centrelock wheels. I guess that’s what happens when a company the size of Mercedes-Benz decides to built a GT3 racer.

Also note the intake restrictors incorporated into the airbox design feeding the 6.2 AMG V8.

Note the custom carbon seat. I’ve never seen anything like this before, it looks like it would take safety to new levels whilst remaining extremely light. The little label just below the drivers left elbow says the manufacturer of the seat is AMG, so it looks like it was custom developed for the SLS. The wiring inside the Gullwing door looks very aircraft spec, too.

Alan Simonsen was once again racing the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3. This actual car currently holds the all time outright lap record around Mount Panorama and was easily the quickest car on track in Adelaide. The end of the Saturday evening race was riveting to watch. After the driver change, Simonsen in the 458 found himself a distant third. After catching and passing Clark Quinn’s 911 GT3RSR, Simonesen rapidly caught Hackett’s SLS with just ten minutes of the race to run. In the space of a lap Simonsen made several close attempts to pass, but it was clear that Hackett wasn’t going to let him pass easily despite Simonsen’s faster speed. It was shaping up to be a photo finish when the pair caught a backmarker Audi R8 who turned in front of Hackett’s GT3, sending him into the wall at turn 4. Simonsen swerved and successfully avoided the spinning SLS and R8 but ended up down the end of an escape road. He recovered to finish a stunning second behind Quinn’s 911, but it would have been good to see him fight the SLS right till the end of the race.

I was surprised to see the 458’s running Motegi Racing wheels. I like how the design of the GT3 race wheels echo the stock wheels on the 458 Italia.

The 458 GT3’s are built in Italy by long time Ferrari race builder and factory supported organisation Michelotto.

But you know what? You can keep your SLS’s and 458’s – the single coolest car on the GT grid was Brenton Griguol’s 360 Modena Challenge. Sure, it might be a decade older than the 458 and visibly slower, but…

… not only does it have a ‘Save Ferris’ sticker referencing the best movie to have ever been made, Brenton’s 360 is road registered! As the only car on the GT grid that you could theoretically hop in and drive home after a days racing, it’s therefore a lot more legit than than anything else. This 360 has also done several Classic Adelaide’s and Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rallies, giving it one of the more interesting histories of the 360 Challenges out there.

Supaloc Racing’s new Ford GT had a tough debut event. It seemed to be dogged with problems all weekend, culminating in a rather costly spin into the Senna Chicane wall on cold tires straight out of pit lane during Saturday evening’s race. The damage looked extensive but I’m sure it will be fixed in time for the next GT round. All of the GT3 spec Ford GT’s were built and developed by Matech in Germany, so I wouldn’t mind betting that this car has a rather interesting history before it came to our shores.

Keith Wong did well in his GT3RSR. Keith also races a 360 Challenge in GT, and has an immaculately built historic group N spec Alfa 105. Lately Keith has been doing more racing in Asia and his native Macau, including racing in the Carrera Cup Asia series for the Asia Racing Team.

Serious Mosler cockpit is serious.

Stay tuned for our look at the V8 Supercar category, coming soon!


3 thoughts on “Clipsal 500 2012 – the “support categories”

      • Yes we are confirmed for 2013 at Clipsal, it will be the swansong for the 360 as it’s showing its age. It will be replaced by another Ferrari, the 360 will reside in the living room with the Lola.

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