Successful weekend for Aussies

FORMULA One returns from its midseason break thisweekend, 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.
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Having celebrated his 36th birthday this week in Belgium,the Australian Red Bull driver is no doubt looking forward to the challenge. Heis currently placed second in the F1 world championship, 30 points behindFerrari’s Fernando Alonso.

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

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

Power’s strong finish saw his lead in the championshipincrease to 36 points over Andretti Autosport’s Ryan HunterReay, who was onlyfive 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 tosavour. Marcus Ambrose continued his excellent form in Nascar, posting hisfourth straight top five finish, placing fifth at Richmond. World RallyChampionship debutant Chris Atkinson was fifth in the Rally of Germany; whileBrenden 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 thisscribe, lost his battle with cancer aged 71.

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

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

Warren led the field around the circuit in the very firstArmstrong 500 in 1963 – but it did not finish like that. The following year sawhis 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 wona race in his old Morris.

Warren also loved two wheels – he was a good cyclistbefore he started car racing. When he retired from cars in the early 1970s, heturned his hand to racing motorcycles. He competed in the prestigious CastrolSix Hour races and, at Bathurst in 1978, finished second in the Australian250cc.

He retired from racing the bikes at 40, but assisted atmotorcycle events as a marshall. He gave that away in the 1980s beforereturning to club competition in a Dino Ferrari and later the red number 119 Evo9.

At this year’s Bathurst 1000, many older fans will looktrackside and see a smiling Warren Weldon throwing that big Studebaker aroundlike 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 AnglicanChurch, 402 Port Hacking Road, South Caringbah,tomorrow at 10am. His family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donationsbe made to the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group.

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

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

Phoenix, who masterminded this year’s victory, have had abig season since their Bathurst success. The team has gone on to win the Nurburgring24 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. Asource from Erebus Racing, who ran one of the two SLS AMG GT3’s in this year’srace, said he thought it would happen “down the track”.

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

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

LEADER: Will Power increased his lead in the Indy Car championship after finishing second to fellow Aussie Ryan Briscoe on the weekend in Sonoma.

IN THE PITS: With Brian Nightingale.

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