Excels and Sports Racers on song at The Bend

Monday 28 September, 2020
Photos: Bob Taylor
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship support categories have once again put on an entertaining show during the Championship’s latest round, the OTR Supersprint at The Bend Motorsport Park.
With the highly popular Lawn Hub Excel Shootout and the debut of the OTR South Australian Sports Car Invitational getting three races each over the course of the two-day event, both categories enjoyed large fields and good racing. 
For the Hyundai Excels, there were 37 entries taking part in the category, but it was the experienced Asher Johnston who saluted, converting his pole position into three races wins – one of which by more than 20 seconds.
Johnston’s closest rival during the weekend came through Jayden Wanzek, who finished behind in all three races, despite having to constantly fight off challenges from Daniel Errigo and Lee Stibbs.

In the opening two races, Errigo proved quite tough to handle with less than two tenths of second separating he and Wanzek, while Stibbs got the better of Errigo in the same race to finish third.

For Johnston, he was thankful his team gave him a strong car, allowing him focus on his own race and produce a perfect weekend.
“All the hard work the boys put in between race meetings is how we do so well. The car was amazing. There has been lots of work in the background and without their help, it would be much harder,” Johnston said.
“We felt comfortable in our drive pace. We were struggling a little bit during the rain, but as soon as it dried up, I knew we would be around the mark.
“It was a case of executing what we knew what we could do from them on and just trying to build a small gap to the others, as well as letting the others dice with each other, which is what happened most races. 
“Jayden had a bit more time to himself in race one and three, so the gap was constant, but when he had to fend of Danial and Lee and race two, it let us extend our margin.”
While Johnston was carving up the Excels, the battle for top spot in the 21-car field of Sports Car Invitational was a much closer affair with separate winners for each race.

Despite the experienced entry list, which included a number of competitors from the Australian Prototype Series, it was the youngest driver on the grid in Blake Purdie who ended up coming away with the outright round victory.

Making his official debut in a sports car, Purdie showed no signs of intimidation during the weekend as he finished with two podiums and a fourth place.
Remarkably, fellow Jam Motorsport teammates Mark Laucke and Jason Makris made up the outright podium, despite neither winning any races, highlighting the need for consistency as two-time race winner Sebastien Amadio finished fourth due to missing the middle race. 
“It wasn’t a bad debut. Didn’t really know what to expect going into it but after the first practice, I knew I had a bit of pace and I was ready to give my all,” Purdie said post-event.
“During all three races, I was going pretty well but lost positions because of the balance of performance pitstops, which was based on times from the previous race, meaning I was held in a little longer. Although I came back out quite far down the field, I ended up making ground in every race.
“I have been practicing all year in our Aussie Car, so my driving is still all right. Even in the first practice session I was up there. It took me a couple of laps to get the feel of jumping around the car but after lap five, I was in amongst it.
“Thanks to Jam Motorsport for giving me a wicked car and my sponsors Nippys and PJK Transport.”
The OTR South Australian Sports Car Invitational continues at Mallala Motorsport Park on 10-11 October.
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