Chris Perini has claimed the 2019 Radical Australia Cup over three-time series winner Peter Paddon in a battle that came down to the closing laps of the category’s final race.
Perini had an eight-point advantage over Paddon heading into the final round of the season in New Zealand, but a frantic opening race of the weekend saw Paddon take the first win after a number of Safety Car interventions.
The veteran’s race victory set up a thrilling final season finale as Perini needed to finish ahead of him to pick up the title.
In the second race of the weekend, it was the safety car period which once again which played a role in the outcome as the intervention saw all the cars bunched together in the closing stages.
Sitting behind Paddon on the restart, a fast start from Perini saw him get level with his teammate before passing the leader when he slipped off the circuit.
Holding his newly earned position for the remainder of the race, Perini crossed the line first ahead of Mitchell Neilson, while Paddon grabbed third to secure outright second place for both the round and the season.
As Perini managed to win his maiden title after coming so close last year, the thrilled second-year driver put his victory down to his patience and maturity.
“Pete had a shorter pit-stop penalty time than me, so after the pit stops he was a fair way ahead in both races, but the late Safety Car in Race 2 allowed me to close in,” Perini said.
“At that point, I knew I needed to be patient, and if I kept the pressure on, an opportunity would arise… and eventually, it did.
“After I made the move, it was a very big relief. During the last four laps, I made sure I concentrated on the job and didn’t get distracted by the realisation of what was about to happen.
“I’m over the moon, and it might sound cliché but it hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m just so thankful to the GWR team for their amazing performance as a team, and to Pete and Mitch (Neilson) for being great competition throughout the season.
“We all put in a 10 out of 10 performance, and it came down to the wire as it should.”
Despite Paddon being one mistake away from taking out his fourth title, he was just happy for a victorious Perini, believing it was a good reward for his effort.
“Chris has been very fair to race against all year, he’s driven incredibly well and he deserves this win,” Paddon added.
“The competition this weekend was particularly close, which made for good racing.
“Coming into the weekend, I knew I needed a perfect round. I did what I needed to do in qualifying and race one, but in race two I made one little error and that was what made the difference in the end.
“Looking back at the season as a whole, I’m pleased with how competitive I was with the older car… maybe I’ll need to think about upgrading now though.”