ALEX GARDNER and Elliott Schutte have staged an intense battle for the win in the opening Workhorse Radical Cup Australia race at Sydney Motorsport Park – the title decider being tomorrow.
The pair, split by just 18 points heading into the four race season finale, ran nose to tail for the entire 25-minute duration and were never split by more than 1.5 seconds throughout duration in an intense duel.
Schutte started fourth but braved a big send around the outside of turn one to climb to second on the opening lap, putting the pressure on Gardner.
The young-gun in his Volante Rosso Motorsport entry gradually edged away by fractions of a second per lap before holding the margin at one second for much of the race, the pair finishing in that order in Radical’s first night race in Australia.
Gardner had earlier qualified on pole – his third for the year - and converted that to a lead in turn one.
With a larger points haul on offer this weekend, Gardner’s result saw him climb a further five points clear of Schutte with three races to come tomorrow.
Cooper Cutts rued a slow jump from the line and dropped to third position early, however maintained that place to the line for a strong podium finish.
Fourth was Peter Paddon, while former champion Chris Perini was fifth.
Another rising star from Arise Racing, karting and FSR series graduate Brandon Duncombe, finished sixth on his strong Radical debut while Simon Arthur, Melinda Price, Terry Knowles and Ash Samadi completed the 10.
An early issue for Josh Hunt ended what had been a promising run for the Queenslander, his Volante Rosso entry slowing on the fourth lap of the race and forcing him to limp back to pit lane.
It was a similar story for Zig Fuhrmeister, who started last after engine issues in qualifying.
He had charged through to 11th position by mid-race however his car slowed around the back of the circuit, eventually pulling to the side on Sydney Motorsport Park’s short circuit and out of contention.
Battles through the field were intense, with Stephen Champion – on his return from the Radical World Finals – fighting with Brad Russell for much of the race just outside the top-10.
With four races to go the battle for the Workhorse Radical Cup Australia will step up a notch on Sunday in Sydney.
The grid for race two will be set by the second quickest lap in qualifying, meaning Cooper Cutts starts from pole for the first time.
The race will be key for Elliott Schutte’s title hopes, the Arise Racing driver qualifying second for race two.
Between he and Alex Gardner, in sixth, will be Peter Clare, Chris Perini and Peter Paddon meaning the title battle could take another turn tomorrow.
While Race 2 won’t be broadcast, Race 3 will be shown live on the Nine Network around Australia, while race 4 will be live on Stan Sport to complete the season.