Another big field of cars entered the RX8 Cup State Championship round held at Sydney Motorsport Park. A category that is growing from strength to strength, and 21 cars coming out to qualify is testament to that. During qualifying there was some cloud cover, and the track looked fast. Justin Barnes proved that fact by setting a pole time of 1:47.5825, a whole 0.7 sec faster than Jack Pennacchia. Thomas Shaw and Luke Webber secured the second row as Terry Lewis and Justin Lewis occupied row 3. Robert Scott was 7th fastest from Jackson Noakes. Aaron Hills and Ben Shaw rounded out the top 10.
Pennacchia made the best start in race 1 and was closely followed by Barnes and Webber. These 3 leaders were soon to be joined by Tom Shaw. As the race matured the 4 cars at the front changed position multiple times. Barnes and Pennacchia had turns leading. Terry Lewis was having a great race in 5th position holding at bay Noakes and Hills. Further back, Justin Lewis was making his way through the field. Webber was applying plenty of pressure on Pennacchia. Just after the fast turn 1 the two leaders had a small coming together at high speed. Pennacchia car went from one edge of the track between turn 1 and 2, to the other edge and drove onto the grass verge. Credit to him, he kept his foot planted and somehow arrived at turn 2 without hitting the wall. That was the biggest save of the year. The unfortunate Glen Gamble ran into trouble and was the first and only DNF of this race. At the end Webber managed to arrive home in 1st position from Pennacchia. Barnes was 3rd from Tom Shaw and Terry Lewis.
Race 2 saw Webber make the best start and was hounded by Barnes into turn 2. Pennacchia, Tom Shaw and Justin Lewis diced for 3rd position. Further back Robert Scott was having a great battle with Ben Shaw. Justin Lewis and Tom Shaw were in close quarters all race. Unfortunately, they had a coming together just after turn 3. Due to this coming together, Tom Shaw was just a passenger, as his car hit the concrete wall rather hard pushing the right rear inwards. He was able to continue on with plenty of damage, however he dropped from 4th down to last. As all of this was happening, Gamble hit the wall front on as he approached the final few corners. His car was badly damaged, the whole front end was pushed in. This caused the safety car to come out and stabilize the race. The race finished under the safety car. The final order was Webber 1st, Barnes 2nd and Pennacchia 3rd. Justin Lewis was 4th and Noakes 5th.
Webber made another of his great starts for race 3, Barnes was in pursuit just in front of Pennacchia and Justin Lewis. Tom Shaw started from the back of the grid, and by the end of the 1st lap he was already in 9th position. Webber has been showing exceptional speed and proceeded to pull away in front. Pennacchia was the only driver that could keep up with him. In the mid field that was a 4-way dice between David Grice, Jacque Jarjo, James Canellis and Aaron Hills. A little further back, John Papantoniou and Myles Briguglio raced for position. It was noticeable that Barnes was slowing down. He dropped from 2nd place to 6th in just a few laps. His car was slightly damaged, and he was nursing it home to get some valuable championship points.
Webber edged out Pennacchia to win. Justin Lewis finished 3rd. Tom Shaw put on a brilliant drive, from the back to 4th outright. Terry Lewis was 5th. Barnes came home in 7th, a good points haul considering the predicament.
For the final race of the weekend, Pennacchia got the better of Webber and claimed an early lead. Ben Shaw also made a great start, finding himself in 3rd position early on. Tom Shaw was having a heated dice with Justin Lewis. The two drivers had a couple of small coming togethers in the braking area of turn 2, neither driver giving an inch. There was also an aggressive dice between Briguglio and Canellis, the latter making an overtaking move at turn 2. Canellis went on the inside of Briguglio, as the pair drove out of the corner, they touched and Briguglio went off into the outfield and lost plenty of time. Justin Lewis and Tom Shaw had another coming together at the hairpin. This time it was violent enough to damage Tom Shaw’s front and resulting in a DNF for Justin Lewis. As all of this was happening, Bailey Scott lost control of his car at turn one. The car turned a sharp left and made heavy contact with the wall. Thankfully, the driver was fine, but another safety car came out. The field finished under safety car. The order was Webber 1st, Pennacchia 2nd, Ben Shaw 3rd. Terry Lewis finished 4th from Noakes and Barnes. Tom Shaw brought home the damaged car in 7th, Jarjo was 8th from Canellis and Hills.
Congratulations to the 2023 NSW State Champion Jack Pennacchia and a special mention to Justin Barnes and Maisie Place reaching 100 race starts in RX8 Cup during race 4.
The Final round of the 2023 RX8 Cup Series championship will take place at Calder Park Raceway down in Melbourne from the 30th to the 2nd of December!
Written by: Riccardo Benvenuti