There’s nothing like a red-flagged race to cause controversy, and that’s what happened in Race 1 at Ruapuna last Saturday.
As the cars surged towards the startline for the rolling start, Paul Radisich’s Falcon hurtled into the lead from grid one, dropping the rest of the field off on the charge to the crucial first corner.
Officials initially questioned the speed at which he crossed the startline, but ultimately, no penalty was imposed.
The leading cars had just completed lap one when the race was red-flagged after Luke Youlden’s Ford Falcon cut a tyre and hit a barrier.
The second controversy surrounded the grid order behind Radisich for the single file restart.
Angus Fogg had crossed the line second after passing Kayne Scott, but officials reverted to the original grid order and signalled for Scott to start from second place.
Fogg and his team boss Lyall Williamson were furious and lodged a protest.
Fogg said he got word that the officials were reinstating his second place just as the race went green – it was too late.
Officials later ruled that when a race is red-flagged, the restart order is the order at the start of the lap before the red flag was flown – in this case, the original start.
There was an almost identical restart in Race 2, and Scott again started second behind Radisich.
Radisich drove to a flag-to-flag win in Race 1, but with the possible time penalty hanging over him.
“I was pushing for the whole race,” Radisich said. “We were wondering if we might have had a 10-second penalty to overcome.”
Scott finished second after easing off a little to conserve tyres: if Radisich were to be penalised, and it looked like he would, Scott saw no point in using up the car to try to take the lead. The penalty would give him the win anyway.
The furious Fogg finished third. Race 2’s starting order is based on fastest lap times from Race 1. Radisich was off pole, followed by Scott, Fogg, John McIntyre, Paul Manuell and Mark Pedersen.
Fogg, then Manuell got past Scott soon after the start, but incidents caused officials to red-flag and stop the race before the lap was completed.
Radisich led from the restart, and Fogg and McIntyre got past Scott, who repassed McIntyre. There was a fine battle among McIntyre, Manuell and Mark Pedersen until Pedersen’s gearbox broke.
Radisich was leading from a closing Scott, when a Safety Car period was called for an on-track incident.
Radisich led from the restart and Scott closed right in on Radisich, but decided to settle for second place and not risk going off-track in a bid to pass the HPM Ford. Then came Fogg, Manuell and McIntyre.
Inky Tulloch and Kevin Williams started from the front row in the reverse grid final. Radisich started 29th and last with Scott, Fogg, McIntyre and Manuell immediately in front of him.
McIntyre worked his way through the field to take the lead, and Scott and Radisich took a cautious approach to working their way through the pack.
Pedersen got to fifth before his gearbox broke for a second time. Williams held the lead until lap 13, when McIntyre got past. Williams hung on to finish second.
Manuell and Radisich fought a torrid but clean battle for third place, with Radisich finally prevailing. Manuell placed fourth and Scott, his car’s engine overheating, came home fifth, ahead of Fogg.