RaceTHIS RACE WAS EPIC!
So far it's the only thing I can say for sure - the most action packed race of this season took place today in Fern Bay. Not only because of numerous overtakes, spins, battles and so on.
Race started off as usual, with Phillippe Nicolas and Douglas Mann running away. Ismail Sbai jumped into 13th position after starting from dead last - not in the points, but still an impressive start! Nicolas was pushing to the limit right from the start, setting the fastest lap at the time. It paid off with a massive lead of 5 seconds over Mann, although his tires were worn off after 10 laps and Frenchman was sliding on every corner, much to the cheering of 15000 spectators.
In the meantime Douglas Mann and Shinobu Katayama battled for 2nd. Damon Cannon, one of the contenders, was 5th followed by Kirsty Price. Phil McCracken had a horrible start and was closing the field with Rhys Davies in 19th. He benefited from this position later.
After 15th lap Douglas Mann started to close on Nicolas, beating Frenchman's time by over a second, still holding Katayama behind him. As for the ladies - Kirsty Price (she also was one of the fastest drivers on the grid, and was even the fastest for a moment) was 6th and Pippa Mann 8th at the moment. It's worth noting, that Katayama was one of the drivers fighting for the championship.
Nicolas was leading the race confidently before he had to lap three cars of Zimmer, Shellhammer and Davies (18th, 19th and 20th). Phillippe hit Davies' rear wheel and spun out on the chicane, giving away the lead to Douglas Mann, with Shinobu Katayama and Barii Mori advancing to 2nd and 3rd. Things got bad to worse when another lapped driver, Joey Tempest, spun in front of French driver. Nicolas had no chance to avoid hitting him. Then Nicolas was hit by Price and Damon Cannon benefited from it, going from 5th to 4th.
On lap 24 Katayama made a mistake when exiting the chicane and being clearly slower than Mori, she had to let him past. Damon Cannon was having a run for his championship, going as high as 3rd. He lost his position as quickly as he gained it when he cut the corner while lapping other drivers and spun out.
Barii Mori was in the lead until lap 26, when he had to pit and repair and retank his car, and so did Pippa Mann, Groves, Nicolas and Price. Vincent de Nieuwe benefited from it, and jumped in to 4th position when Mori left the pits behind him in 5th.
As of lap 27 the top 3 was Shinobu Katayama, Douglas Mann and Damon Cannon, with Katayama and Cannon for valuable points. Shinobu Katayama and Douglas Mann pitted on lap 28, giving the lead back to Mori. Pippa Mann had to visit the pitlane once again for her drive-through penalty, whilst Frank Zimmer was earning one for exceeding the speed limit in the pitlane.
On lap 28 Daniel Melrose was on his one-stopper and without pitting in, he was as high as 3rd, behind Mori and Katayama. Japanese driver was in the lead but Adam Armenta didn't want to let him past and held him, reducing the gap between Mori and Melrose to 3 seconds. Frank Zimmer finished his drive-thru penalty, whilst Mori angrily waved his hand at Armenta, as well as using some hand gestures. "I'm going for first! says Barii Mori".
When Armenta left what seemed to be enough space to let him go, Spaniard closed the gap and Barii desperately had to escape into the gravel. Shinobu was only waiting for it and quickly retook the lead. Although it seemed that Katayama will hold the lead to the end, she got stuck between Armenta and Davies, letting Mori retake the lead. Then exactly the same happened to Barii, but "Shi" couldn't make much out of it.
Daniel Melrose - unnoticed - went up to second, when Damon Cannon decided to do a banshee move and jump up from 5th to 1st. He got past Pippa Mann, Katayama and Melrose, pushing Mori into the tyres and taking the lead - Damon Cannon is a fighter every inch of the way!
As of lap 31, the top 5 was: Cannon, Melrose, Katayama, Mann, Nicolas, Douglas Mann with poor Mori falling back to 7th and then 8th, when Vincent de Nieuwe used Scuderia de Cesaris' only advantage - top speed. Pippa Mann and Phillippe Nicolas were battling for 4th.
Barii didn't give in and tried to regain his position, but - far from gaining a place - has lost one!
Damon Cannon met an obstacle named Ismail Sbai - Moroccan refused to give way and slowed him down. Melrose closed on him and was about to get past him, when he clipped some sand and spun. Katayama took his second position, but not for long, when Melrose once again made a fantastic comeback. Sbai still held Cannon back, unaware of the fact that he was the lapped one and he wasn't battling with him.
With 5 laps to go the top 5 were: Cannon, Melrose, Katayama, Pippa and Douglas Mann. It seemed that Damon Cannon will effortlessly cross the line in the lead and win not only the HWNSNBM Challenge, but the championship. It wasn't so - his mirrors were full of Melrose. Thankfully Cannon finally find his way around Ismail and could easily push the tempo.
In the meantime Phil McCracken, the leader of the championship was far in the back, stuck between the likes of Tempest and Armenta.
Cannon once again got stuck behind the backmarkers - this time it was Shellhammer, Cockburn and Zimmer. Just as he was going around them, the gearbox failure caused him to go sideways. With Melrose behind him, it was clear that Australian driver will make use of this situation and he did. Melrose jumped in to 1st but not for long as Cannon once again put all his qualities together and got back in to the lead, having to deal with lapped drivers once again. This time they were suspiciously cooperative. Why it was so became clear after the second sector.
With one lap to go, Damon Cannon was leading the race, with Katayama and Melrose following.
Phil McCracken was just behind Cannon, and as the fast chicane in the woods began, he used his low position and... executed a handbook PIT maneuver. Damon spun onto the grass and - as he tried to get back on the track - Katayama, Melrose and Pippa Mann got past. Shortly after th peloton of Mori, Douglas Mann, White, de Nieuwe and Nicolas also got past Cannon and the soon-to-be champ was as low as 10th.
Shinobu Katayama held the lead till the end, with Melrose finishing a close second and Pippa Mann finishing 3rd.Results
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1. Shinobu Katayama ...... 1:35:05.81
2. Daniel Melrose ...... +0:01.70
3. Pippa Mann ...... +0:24.07
4. Kirsty Price ...... +1:01.72
5. Barii Mori ...... +1:20.98
6. Richie White ...... +1:21.69
7. Phillippe Nicolas ...... +1:31.98
8. Damon Cannon ...... +1:32.27
9. Vincent de Nieuwe ...... +1:38.67
10. Sammy Jones ...... +2:35.84
11. Phil McCracken ...... +1 LAP
12. Joey Tempest ...... +1 LAP
13. Ismail Sbai ...... +1 LAP
14. Adam Armenta ...... +1 LAP
15. Rhys Davies ...... +1 LAP
16. Daniel Cockburn ...... +1 LAP
17. Frank Zimmer ...... +1 LAP
18. Sebastian Groves ...... DNF
19. Bernard Shellhammer ...... DNF
20. Douglas Mann ...... DNF
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1. Shinobu Katayama 28
2. Phil McCracken 24
3. Damon Cannon 22
4. Barii Mori 20
5. Richie White 18
6. Sammy Jones 15
7. Ismail Sbai 14
8. Joey Tempest 13
9. Sebastian Groves 12
15. Daniel Melrose 12
10. Daniel Cockburn 11
11. Vincent de Nieuwe 10
12. Bernard Shellhammer 9
14. Phillippe Nicolas 9
13. Rhys Davies 6
14. Pippa Mann 6
15. Kirsty Price 5
16. Douglas Mann 4
17. Frank Zimmer 3
18. Adam Armenta 3
DRIVERS' CHAMPIONShinobu Katayama (Sunshine Infiniti)TEAMS' CHAMPIONSunshine Infiniti (Shinobu Katayama, Barii Mori)
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Sunshine Infiniti 48
Parklife Motorsport 40
Virgin Inter Corse 34
Castrol Jones Racing 28
Scuderia de Cesaris 25
QANTAS MRT 21
Engine Failure Racing 15
Sega Blastcorp-Aqua F1 14
Foxdale Auto Racing Team 10
Rosenforth Engineering 9