A SUPPORT category suffering the frustration of a cancelled race at a big motorsport event is an all-too-familiar story.
There are numerous reasons why an event typically falls behind schedule and a support race is dropped, including the clean-up of on-track incidents and weather events such as heavy rain or fog.
But the cancellation of the final race of the 2003 Nations Cup season at the Gold Coast Indy 300 was a very unusual case.
It’s a story touched on during this week’s special V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco looking back at the short-lived Nations Cup category, run by Ross Palmer’s Procar group.
PODCAST: Nations Cup – Tales from Australia’s own GT series
Scheduled to take place just before 9:00am on Sunday morning, the race was scrapped at the last moment when a suspicious object was found underneath a grandstand near the northern hairpin.
The offending item was later found to be harmless; reportedly a briefcase full of electronic equipment left behind by a camera crew.
“Police decided to evacuate the grandstand for precautionary reasons,” explained Indy 300 general manager James Ashworth at the time.
“As part of the event’s evacuation procedures, this necessitated clearing the area within a certain radius which, in this instance, included the race track.
“A possible rescheduling of the Nations Cup race was investigated, but given the current programming of events, it wasn’t deemed possible.”
Procar and the Nations Cup competitors were furious with the decision not to reschedule the race and threatened legal action.
The incident compounded frustrations from the previous evening, where lengthy clean-ups from two incidents meant the majority of Race 2 had been run under Safety Car.
That race had actually decided the title; Team Lamborghini Australia and Paul Stokell secured a breakthrough series win in their fourth year of trying.
Stokell’s closest rival entering the weekend, John Bowe, was on the backfoot having switched to a Porsche 911 GT3 RS following the sale of PHR Scuderia’s fleet of Ferraris.
It was Bowe’s third car in as many meetings having earlier raced a Ferrari 360 N-GT and a Chrysler Viper ACR, and he was in yet another – a BMW M3 GTR – at the subsequent Bathurst 24 Hour!
Stokell scored pole position on the Gold Coast but was involved in an incident with Holden Monaro driver Nathan Pretty early in Race 1, the duo out-braking themselves into ANA Corner.
The Lamborghini driver recovered to second behind Peter Brock in that race and then was first across the line in the abbreviated Race 2, despite a scrappy opening lap.
“What a way to win the championship,” said a bemused Stokell.
“It’s not really the way you’d want to do it – the second race was just about the worse race I’ve ever had – but to finally get it is fantastic all the same.
“The first lap was the shoddiest first lap I’ve ever put in. I don’t know what was wrong, maybe I was nervous or something, but I was all over the place!”
Stokell went on to win the Nations Cup title again in 2004; when the category’s fifth and final season was completed in the wake of Procar’s collapse.