Riley tops first AUSF1000 race weekend
Ben Riley has dominated the opening round of the 2014 Australian F1000 Championship at Barbagallo Raceway, setting the fastest qualifying lap time and winning all three races.
The round saw four Formula 1000 cars on track, with mechanical issues effectively eliminating two cars.
In qualifying Riley was over 1.5 seconds quicker than second-fastest driver Stewart Burns.
Bruce Allen was third, 2.5 seconds off pole.
Mechanical issues meant Fastlane Driver School’s Daniel Gate struggled during qualifying.
Riley struggled with race starts all day and immediately fell from pole position to third at the beginning of the opening race.
The yellow Ribuck Industries-sponsored car of Stewart Burns lead Bruce Allen into Turn 1.
After getting off the line, Riley quickly made his way back on to the tails of the lead pair and after some close driving overtook second-placed Bruce Allen at the final corner on lap two.
Two laps later the lead pair entered the final corner side-by-side.
After the pair raced down the main straight, Riley emerged in the lead going into Turn 1.
His lead remained unchallenged and he finished 2.2 seconds ahead of Stewart Burns.
Allen finished third after mechanical issues hampered his progress.
“I hit a curb and everything just went,” He said post-race.
“Something must [have worked] loose.”
AUSF1000 series president Derek Burns later revealed Allen had a major mechanical issue all day.
“Allen was suffering with a problem with a fuel pump,” He said. “It’s not delivering to the engine cleanly.”
“At the next race meet he’ll be up there with the others.”
Riley again struggled off pole position and dropped to third at the beginning of the second race.
In a copy of Race 1, Burns lead Allen and Riley at the end of the first lap.
By the end of the second lap Allen’s mechanical issues saw him fall into Riley’s sights, who cemented a pass into the first corner on lap three.
A lap later Burns appeared to run off-line while exiting the Esses which allowed Riley the opportunity to challenge for the race lead at the end of the lap.
A move around the outside of the track’s 90-degree final corner put Riley back into the race lead as the pair entered the main straight.
Though they remained close, Riley’s lap times were consistently half-a-second quicker than the second-placed car.
The order remained unchanged to the end and Riley lead Burns by 1.7 seconds as the pair crossed the finish line.
Allen ended the race five seconds behind.
Riley’s 58.323s lap in Race 2 was quicker than pole and was about nine seconds quicker than any series at Barbagallo Raceway on the day.
Another poor start from the pole sitter meant Riley dropped to second, behind Burns, by the first corner.
A move against the race leader put the pair side-by-side into the first corner on lap two and Riley again resumed his place in the lead.
Riley’s mechanics had increased his tyre pressures before the start of the race on the chance rain would begin to fall, but as the track remained dry he now began to struggle with overheating.
The issue slowed the race leader and allowed Burns to retake the lead into the first corner on lap five as Riley struggled to slow the car down.
The pair continued to battle closely as Riley tried to overcome his issues with front-end grip.
As they raced for position toward the first corner on lap seven, a non-F1000 lap car found its way into the mix.
With the slower car on the racing line, Burns yielded the position and allowed Riley to retake the lead.
Burns later and very commendably said he didn’t want to risk any accidents at the first race meet of the year.
The pair continued to lap closely until the end of the race and crossed the finish line less than a second apart.
Riley took his third race victory from three with Stewart Burns second.
Allen was third, nine seconds adrift of the lead pair.
Riley said post-race he’d struggled to keep the car ahead of Stewart Burns in the final race.
“I was running [the tyres] about 4psi higher than we should have been so the grip just wasn’t there,” He said
“That allowed Stewart to catch up.
“I pushed a bit [too much] . . . and then I came down into Turn 7 and downshifted but only went down to fourth instead of second.
“[Stewart] came past and we had a nice two-lap scrap. A backmarker got involved going into Turn 1. . . But it was good. We all gave each other enough room and it worked out well.”
Stewart Burns said the Race 3 scrap was “good fun”.
“We still give each other plenty of room because [the car’s] still new and we’re still learning a lot,” He said.
“It’s much more fun when there’s someone right next to you doing the same speeds and you’re trying to battle with them.
“There’s a lot more personally from myself. I’m still learning how to drive and how my fitness is also for these kind of cars. You’ve got to be a lot fitter than I am.
“It’s a game of trying to work everything out and make it win.”
Riley left the opening round of the 2014 season with 75 points, while Stewart Burns and Bruce Allen scored 54 and 45 respectively.