The inaugural season of the AMRS has reached the half-way mark, and there are already plenty of highlights, standout performances and talking points. Commentator Lachlan Mansell delivers his verdict on the first three rounds of the series.
When the concept of the AMRS was first floated, the goal was to set up a national series delivering a professionally-run but affordable level of race meeting, with a focus on competitor enjoyment.
Based on the quality of racing and feedback from categories and competitors, the AMRS is certainly ticking all the right boxes. From my point of view in the commentary box, here are some of the best moments so far.
The stars of the show
Even in its first season, the AMRS has already attracted some very high calibre drivers, especially in categories such as Formula 3, Formula Ford and Legend Cars.
In terms of raw numbers, it’s hard to look past James Burge and Ric Shaw as the standout drivers for the first three rounds; Burge strung together an amazing 12 successive race wins in Legend Cars, his streak only coming to an end when he suffered a broken axle in Race 3 at Morgan Park. Shaw remains undefeated in Mazda RX8 Cup with eight race wins, and has had to work hard for most of those victories due to the tightly-controlled nature of the category.
Jake Camilleri has been the class of the field in GT-1, the Miniature Race Car category has largely been dominated by Chad Cotton, Hunter McElrea was a comprehensive winner in the Formula Ford season opener, and Cameron Shields and Harri Jones are staging an intense battle for Formula 3 supremacy.
Beyond the outright winners, there have been some other impressive performances which have flown under the radar, but deserve recognition. For example, Aaron Prosser’s podium finish in the Morgan Park Mazda RX8 Cup round came in his first ever circuit racing event on Australian soil. And watching the small, nimble Renault Clio of Damien Hunter nipping at the heels of the more powerful outright cars in the Winton Super TT races was classic David v Goliath stuff.
The best race
While there are a series of national categories doing the complete AMRS circuit, the events have been supplemented by a selection of local classes as well. One of these local classes, Queensland Production Sports, staged a 50-minute enduro at Morgan Park, which just happened to be the best race of the year so far.
In a fine display of motorsport theatre, it was a race where the storyline continually evolved before eventually culminating in a blockbuster climax.
It started with Porsche pilots Wayne Hennig and Steve McFadden battling for the lead. But a mid-race shower of rain saw the running order thrown completely out the window, as lower-class cars on treaded tyres suddenly found themselves with a clear advantage over the more powerful cars on slicks. The sight of James Wilkins’ overtaking Porsche Cup Cars as he hauled his production-spec Toyota 86 into the top three was something to behold.
Later in the race, the rain stopped and natural order was restored. McFadden closed onto the tail of Hennig and in the final five minutes, the two Porsche drivers pushed as hard as they dared, McFadden throwing everything he had at Hennig, but ultimately falling just 0.1s short in a climatic conclusion to an epic race.
Live stream lunacy
The inclusion of live streaming has been popular among competitors and fans alike, and the Blend Line TV team has committed to continually refining and improving the broadcast.
So far, I’ve been joined by three different co-commentators at the three events, all of whom have provided a unique perspective on the racing. From the encyclopaedic historical knowledge of Garry O’Brien at Winton, to the raw enthusiasm of Mark Nancarrow at Mallala and the dry humour of Mark Jones at Morgan Park, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with all three of my co-announcers so far.
Daniel Beckinsale and Shane Rogers keep lifting their game in the stream production as well, and even have a bit of fun with it – just witness the on-screen graphics at Winton when I challenged Garry to name all the Australian Formula Ford Champions on the Supercars grid!
There will be further developments to the streaming package over the remaining rounds of the series, which we look forward to announcing soon.
Code 60s and Kangaroo Flags
To ensure their pit-stop handicap system could be implemented effectively, GT-1 elected to shun the Safety Car and instead introduced a “Code 60” caution protocol, in which drivers would slow down to 60km/h if there was an incident. It was used at Mallala and despite some of the cynical claims that drivers would not be able to resist closing onto the car in front, it worked perfectly.
And making an appearance at Morgan Park was the Kangaroo Flag, due to the high propensity for wildlife to invade the circuit late in the afternoon.
A dedicated team
The on-track action may be the focus on weekends, but the AMRS management team deserves their time in the spotlight as well. It consists of a travelling circus of passionate enthusiasts, many of whom are volunteer officials who generously give up their time to travel interstate for events.
As the series manager for the AMRS, Wayne Williams deserves plenty of accolades for enticing such a healthy array of categories, and he has been ably assisted by Sarah Ackerly, the race secretary at all the events. Other familiar faces include experienced Clerks of the Course Daryl McHugh and Richard Weston, while Benalla Auto Club committee members Bruce Robertson and Gary Gourlay have filled the stewards’ roles.
Along with BAC Group CEO Chris Lewis-Williams (who has also attended each event), these management staff and officials are passionate about the sport, and nowhere is this reflected more than in the down time. Even when the racing stops and we’re all enjoying a more relaxed moment having dinner and drinks at the pub, the conversation rarely ventures far from the series, and how to improve it.
And for the continued growth of the AMRS, that can only be a good thing.