Successful weekend for Aussies

FORMULA One returns from its midseason break this weekend, with the Belgian Grand Prix at the magnificent Spa Francorchamps. While Mark Webber has never won on the circuit, he claims it is his favourite.

Having celebrated his 36th birthday this week in Belgium, the Australian Red Bull driver is no doubt looking forward to the challenge. He is currently placed second in the F1 world championship, 30 points behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Not that Webber would need motivation, but his blood would be pumping following Sunday’s IZOD Indy Car race at Sonoma. Australian Team Penske drivers Ryan Briscoe and Will Power greeted the flag in first and second positions, respectively.

That result came after an Australian lock out at the front of the grid in qualifying, with Power taking pole and Briscoe alongside him.

Power’s strong finish saw his lead in the championship increase to 36 points over Andretti Autosport’s Ryan HunterReay, who was only five points behind coming into the event. After he was involved in an accident, Hunter-Reay finished 18th.

The weekend was one for Australian motor sport fans to savour. Marcus Ambrose continued his excellent form in Nascar, posting his fourth straight top five finish, placing fifth at Richmond. World Rally Championship debutant Chris Atkinson was fifth in the Rally of Germany; while Brenden Reeves earned fifth in the WRC Academy section of the event.

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ON Monday, we lost another of our motor racing legends. Warren Weldon of Sydney, not only a champion driver but a good friend of this scribe, lost his battle with cancer aged 71.

The timing was ironic, for Warren often attended the Muscle Car Masters, which will be run this weekend. That, and the fact this year will be the 50th running of the Great Race at Bathurst.

A daredevil, Warren had starts in the first six Bathurst races in his Studebaker Larks, a powerful car that was heavy on tyres and brakes, and had a tendency to lose wheels. However it was the sort of car one would have expected him to drive, something spectacular.

Warren led the field around the circuit in the very first Armstrong 500 in 1963 - but it did not finish like that. The following year saw his best result: first in class and fourth outright with Bert Needham.

In the early days he had an MGTC, then a Morris Minor, followed by an old Humpy Holden and then an EH before the Studebaker.

At the very first Oran Park race meeting in 1962, he won a race in his old Morris.

Warren also loved two wheels - he was a good cyclist before he started car racing. When he retired from cars in the early 1970s, he turned his hand to racing motorcycles. He competed in the prestigious Castrol Six Hour races and, at Bathurst in 1978, finished second in the Australian 250cc.

He retired from racing the bikes at 40, but assisted at motorcycle events as a marshall. He gave that away in the 1980s before returning to club competition in a Dino Ferrari and later the red number 119 Evo 9.

At this year’s Bathurst 1000, many older fans will look trackside and see a smiling Warren Weldon throwing that big Studebaker around like it was never designed to be!

He is survived by his wife Judy and children Anthony, Matthew and Joshua.

His funeral service will be held at St Philip’s Anglican Church, 402 Port Hacking Road, South  Caringbah, tomorrow at 10am. His family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group.

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PHOENIX Racing is the latest high profile team to post an entry in next year’s Bathurst 12 Hour race, with an Audi R8 LMS Ultra.

At this stage, they have only entered one Audi. However it is believed a second car will be added in a matter of time.

Phoenix, who masterminded this year’s victory, have had a big season since their Bathurst success. The team has gone on to win the Nurburgring 24 Hour race in June, before taking out the recent Spa 24 Hour.

With McLaren and now Audi confirming their involvement, that leaves Mercedes to announce a return after making its debut in 2012. A source from Erebus Racing, who ran one of the two SLS AMG GT3’s in this year’s race, said he thought it would happen “down the track”.

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FORMER Bathurst driver Garth Walden competed in the Radical Euro Masters at the Red Bull Ring Austria over the weekend.

He qualified second for race one, and fourth for race two. In heavy rain, he finished second in race one. The second race was stopped due to the rain, so he was classified as finishing fourth.

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