After a one-year hiatus, the headline event of the Motor Racing Australia schedule returns to Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend, bigger and better than ever before.
The second running of the Pitcher Partners Sydney 300 – Round 2 of the 2021 Australian 1000 – is set to be etched in the history books forever, as the first AASA sanctioned 300 to be held under lights, with the newly installed permanent lighting at Sydney Motorsport Park set to raise the stature of these 300km races to a whole new level.
This record-breaking event features a whole lot MORE than the 2019 instalment.
– MORE cars
– MORE manufacturers, and
– MORE drivers contesting the race solo.
At the close of entries, 44 cars, representing 13 different manufacturers, are set to contest this event, making it the biggest 300 in nearly FIVE years – provided that no less than 43 cars take the start.
Not since the 2016 Winton 300 have we seen a field of more than 40 contest one of these races – which remain the pinnacle of the grassroots racing season schedule.
86 drivers will contest Saturday night’s race, including seven drivers running solo, and five entries running a three-driver line up. Drivers from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT feature in this field, further emphasising the popularity of these races.
This instalment of the Pitcher Partners Sydney 300 doubles as the second leg of the 2021 Australian 1000 series.
It’s the second time the Australian 1000 series has been staged, but the 2020 edition was abandoned after just one event, of the scheduled three, as the COVID-19 pandemic saw the Sydney 300 meeting cancelled, as well as the Winton 300 in Benalla.
The 2019 Sydney 300 was an instant classic, that ebbed and flowed all the way to the very final corner, where disaster struck for the Mitsubishi Evo of Ed Kreamer and Stephen Thompson, who encountered a box full of neutrals, right with the chequered flag in view, in what was the cruellest way for them to lose a Sydney 300 imaginable.
Todd Herring and Andy Harris won the race, from Phil Armour and David Loftus, in the second smallest winning margin in event history.
For the longest time, it looked like the Division C BMW 328i of Daniel Kapetanovic and David Kruza was going to claim outright victory, because they were in the box seat upon the completion of scheduled pit stops, but in the end, a late race safety car deployment saw the advantage they enjoyed evaporate, as the field bunched up, and they stood no chance of keeping the faster Division A and B cars at bay upon resumption.
To add insult to injury, they then lost an outright podium finish, after copping a five-minute penalty, for a pit-lane infringement, but they were still the Division C winners on that famous day in 2019!
Just as was the case in 2019, the race will be contested on the 11-turn, 3.905km Gardner Grand Prix configuration of the Western Sydney circuit – the layout most associated with Supercars and MotoGP events over the last 31 years.
When you compare the 2019 Sydney 300, and this upcoming edition, there are three distinct differences.
1) The 2019 edition was staged on a hot March Sunday afternoon, whereas this year, it’s the cooler climate that an autumn day in May offers.
2) The division structure has been slightly tweaked. In 2019, the fastest lap a Division A car could clock was 1:41.0000, but in 2021, it’s 1:39.0000.
3) The 2019 meeting was conducted over two days, whereas the 2021 event is a one-day affair.
All of the above create fascinating storylines for this edition of the Pitcher Partners Sydney 300, not least the fact that it’s a one-day meeting.
With the circuit booked out for another event on Friday, competitors won’t have access to the venue until 6am on Saturday morning, and with the 300 scheduled to finish sometime after 10pm AEST, it makes for a very long day in Western Sydney.
Sydney 300 competitors have the luxury of two 20-minute practice sessions on the day, but for support category entrants, the first time they turn wheels in anger will be for qualifying.
One big factor that EVERY competitor and team will have to contend with on Saturday, is limited turn around time, and that’s particularly critical when looking at the Pitcher Partners 300.
Every driver and each team member will be under the pump from the outset, with the entire event to be run and won in just fourteen hours.
Normally, when the event spans the weekend, if you encounter a mechanical on Friday or Saturday, you’ve potentially got time to repair the damage, depending on what it is, and whether it’s a terminal issue or not, of course, but that luxury is gone on Saturday, because if it’s something that would normally be fixable overnight, your meeting is done.
With the fastest legal lap time mark lowered for 2019, it’s highly likely that the practice, qualifying and race lap records will be shattered, and there’s also a chance that the race record will be eclipsed as well, but there are a variety of different factors that will affect that, not least the probability of the Safety Car making an appearance at some stage.
It’s always hard to draw a form guide for the 300’s, because there are so many variables, and the full line-up of each division isn’t normally confirmed until after the completion of Qualifying.
There’s a fierce rivalry forming between Todd Herring and Benny Tran. Whilst Herring is going for back-to-back wins in the Sydney 300, and the Australian 1000 – following his win in February’s Wakefield 300 – Tran is looking to put himself in the history books, as the first driver to take Honda to an outright win, and he’ll have the assistance of Matt Longhurst, for Saturday’s 77-lap mission.
Tran and Longhurst are both seeking redemption, after mechanical issues denied them victory in Goulburn.
Herring, on the other hand, won’t be as busy as he was on Wakefield 300 weekend. Normally a two-car team, he is the sole Herring Racing entry this weekend, but they were originally planning to run three cars, until just recently.
The plan was for Verne Johnson to fly solo in #79, with Tim Herring and Richard Herring in #78 as per usual, but after Richard suffered a heart attack recently, he’s on the sideline for the moment, and that prompted Tim to withdraw as well, because, as Todd Herring put it to this reporter, “It didn’t feel right for Tim (to race without Richard)”.
Then, Verne Johnson opted to withdraw as well, to save Herring the stress of prepping two cars, both before and during this very long one-day event.
Johnson will still be trackside, trying to help Todd win a third 300, but he’ll be doing so from pit-lane, calling the shots for Herring, via pit-to-car communication.
Also vying for Division A honours will be Glen Wilson (Holden Commodore), Greg Boyle (Nissan Skyline GTR), and the pairing of Adrian Wilson and Andre Nader (BMW M4).
Elsewhere in the field, a mix of 300 regulars and heavyweights, a couple of debutants, and the competitors of the new NSW Production Car Series, along with the BMW E36 brigade.
Any combination steering a Mitsubishi Evo is always considered a threat, whether it’s in respect to the outright podium, or a particular division fight, and 2021 will be no different.
The fact that this race is being staged in May, and in rather cool evening conditions, works to their advantage. It’s been well documented in the past how much the turbo charged cars really don’t like the heat that’s often associated with the events staged in Goulburn and Benalla.
Whilst there’ll still be an emphasis placed on nursing the car through 300 kilometres of racing, overheating shouldn’t be an issue they encounter.
Expect the six strong Evo contingent to go harder than ever on Saturday night, with Ed Kreamer and Stephen Thompson on the hunt for redemption, and Jimmy Vernon and Harry Gray a threat in the fight for outright honours as well.
What’s works against Mitsubishi here however, is history, as the Japanese manufacturer has only been successful in securing outright victory four Wakefield 300’s – they’re winless at every other venue.
The only Lotus in the field will be piloted by ‘300’ regular, Glenn Townsend, who will be flying solo this weekend, as his regular co-driver is based in Queensland. It will be a tremendous test for Townsend – who has always had the speed to win these races, but never the mechanical reliability – as this is the first time he has flown solo in a ‘300’.
Daniel Flanagan and Merrick Malouf are back together again. Having previously contested these 300km races in a Commodore, they’re back in a Mitsubishi Evo on Saturday night.
The pair will be hoping for much better luck than they had in Goulburn, where they ran into mechanical problems during the Sunday morning sprint race, and were unable to start the 300.
Family entries are nothing new to these 300km races, but one of particular interest this Saturday night, will be the Holden Clubsport of Tony and Corrine Virag, with Corrine one of only two female drivers contesting this race.
No female has won a ‘300’ outright before – Linda Devlin came very close in with 2nd in the 2016 Winton 300, but history awaits for Corrine if they’re first across the line this weekend.
Barry Sternbeck was a late addition to this entry, thus making it one of the five entries fielding three drivers in this event.
In the lower divisions, Parry Anastakis starts his 19th ‘300’ on Saturday night. The race veteran teams up with Angus Lithgow in a Peugeot 206.
Expect the contest in the lower divisions to be dominated by BMW E36’s and Nissan Pulsars, but the great thing about this race is the variety – the same variety that saw five different manufacturers win the five divisions in the last two Wakefield 300’s, and the 2019 Sydney 300 as well.
Unsurprisingly, Mazda is the best represented manufacturer in the 2021 Pitcher Partners Sydney 300 field, with 9 entries, while Honda is responsible for seven cars on the grid, including Charlie Viola and Ben Hanrahan, who claimed Division D in the 2019 race, along with Lloyd Godfrey and Josh Buchan, who’ll be fighting for victory in Division A.
BMW and Mitsubishi have six entries each, while there’ll be five Nissans in the field.
For the first time ever, the Pitcher Partners Sydney 300 will be streamed LIVE across the platforms of Blend Line TV – who are broadcasting their first AASA sanctioned ‘300’ in nearly four years (November 2017’s Winton 300) – on what is an amazing weekend of Motorsport for the renowned grassroots motorsport broadcaster.
From 10:30am AEST right through until the end of the Sydney 300 presentation ceremony, viewers will be treated to over 11 hours of on-track activity, plus interviews from around the paddock, and so much more.
Every single race, plus Sydney 300 second practice, and knockout qualifying will be shown commercial free.
Commentary will be headed by former MRA regular, Zak Caban – calling his 13th ‘300’, alongside Auto Action reporter, and Blend Line TV regular, Garry O’Brien, and the doyen of Australian Motorsport commentators, Will Hagon, who first started commentating Motorsport in the early 1960’s, and remains on top of his game into a seventh decade of Motorsport writing and broadcasting.
He’s probably best remembered for a near forty-year association with the ABC, but his voice was also part of the soundtrack to Seven’s coverage of the Bathurst 500/1000, from 1965-1975. His presence at the 2019 Sydney 300 proved popular among many competitors, who associate his voice with their early motorsport memories.
Caban and Hagon called the inaugural Sydney 300 together in 2019, while O’Brien was in the booth for the recent Wakefield 300.
The support category bill for the Sydney 300 is massive, and is headlined by the latest round of the 2021 Series X3 NSW Championship – a quick turnaround for them, as they were only on-track for their 90-minute endure three weeks ago.
The Superkart Club of NSW will also feature, as well as MRA favourite Super TT – sharing the track with the thunder of the Stockcars – plus Clubmans and the Alfa Romeo Racing Series as well.
So, the field is set, and the form guide has been written, but we don’t know how the script will play out on the day, as the countdown to the Pitcher Partners Sydney 300 intensifies, and we wait for 77 laps of LIVE, unscripted theatre and drama – all of which will unfold before our eyes this Saturday night – at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Make sure you’re there, but if you can’t get trackside, then make sure you’re watching all the action, on your visual home of grassroots motorsport, Blend Line TV.
Gates open at 6am, with on-track activity commencing at 8:30am, and entry is FREE for all spectators.
Motor Racing Australia 2021 | Event #3 | Saturday, May 15
Australian 1000 – Round 2 | Pitcher Partners Sydney 300 – Entry List.
|Number||Driver A||Driver B||Driver C||Car|
|2||Glen Wilson||Holden VE|
|3||Ian Joyce||Josh Craig||Nissan Pulsar N14|
|4||Anthony Soole||Andrew Smith||BMW M4|
|7||Charlie Viola||Ben Hanrahan||Honda Integra|
|11||Wayne Cooper||Craig Masters||Mitsubishi Evo|
|19||Connor Roberts||Andrew Wilton||Toyota 86|
|20||Jason Miller||Mitsubishi Evo 9|
|21||Jason Walsh||Anton Mechtler||Kia Proceed|
|22||Shane Fowler||Gavan Reynolds||Nissan Pulsar N15|
|27||Matt Shylan||Honda Integra|
|29||Lloyd Godfrey||Josh Buchan||Honda Integra|
|31||Charlie Khoury||Andrew Trampus||Honda Civic|
|33||Gerry Burges||Leigh Burges||Mitsubishi Evo 5|
|35||Gene Phillips||Scott Freestone||Mazda 3|
|39||David Bailey||Matt Thewlis||BMW E36|
|42||Corrine Virag||Tony Virag||Barry Sternbeck||Holden Commodore SSV Redline CL|
|45||Michael Sheargold||Ryan Godfrey||Mercedes AMG A45|
|47||Rod Everitt||Brayden Everitt||BMW E36|
|48||David Johnson||Martyn Voormeulen||Jamie Martin||Mazda MX5|
|50||Jimmy Vernon||Harrison Gray||Mitsubishi Evo X|
|51||Cem Yucel||Iain Salteri||Volkswagen Golf|
|57||Ed Kreamer||Stephen Thompson||Mitsubishi Evo 9|
|66||Jake Lougher||Maisie Place||Marcus La Delle||Toyota 86|
|69||Phil Alexander||John Connolly||Mazda MX5|
|73||Glenn Townsend||Lotus Exige|
|74||Brad Harris||Will Harris||Bill Harris||Mazda RX8|
|75||Michael Hall||Mitchell Hall||Terry Johnson||Mazda MX5|
|77||Todd Herring||Mazda MX5|
|81||Benny Tran||Matt Longhurst||Honda Integra|
|82||Adrian Wilson||Andre Nader||BMW M4|
|82||Travis Worton||Jack Winter||Nissan Pulsar|
|86||Daniel Kapetanovic||Adam Thompson||BMW 328|
|111||Jonathon Hovey||Daniel Smith||Nissan Pulsar|
|117||Nathan Jackson||Matthew Cosier||Mazda RX8|
|134||Kenneth Davis||James Burge||Mazda MX5|
|142||Julian Burke||Matthias Herberstein||BMW M Coupe|
|173||Tomislav Vucicevic||Bob Pupovac||Honda Civic|
|177||Travis Condon||Rohan Ambrose||Toyota Corolla|
|255||Steven Head||Owen Boak||Mazda MX5|
|321||Chris Sutton||Subaru WRX|
|426||Angus Lithgow||Parry Anastakis||Peugeot 206 RC|
|551||Daniel Flanagan||Merrick Malouf||Mitsubishi Evo 8|
|696||Greg Boyle||Nissan Skyline R32|
|818||Jimmy Tran||Drew Hall||Honda Civic|
Motor Racing Australia is proudly supported by: Pitcher Partners, ClubRacer Engineering, TrackDay Club, Liquid Clothing Co, and Liquid Race Apparel.