The Porsche Carrera Cup Australia presented by Michelin ‘king of Clipsal’ has continued his reign after round one of the 2016 TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge on the Adelaide streets.
Tony Bates swept to his third straight victory on the streets of Adelaide, taking his race winning streak in South Australia to nine straight across the last three years.
Bates won the opening round of the 2016 championship ahead of Marc Cini – who scored his first podium in the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge since the 2011 season – and James Bergmuller.
After narrowly missing out on the class pole to defending champion Shane Smollen, Bates stormed to victory in the first of three races of the weekend, before passing Smollen with two laps to go in the second race to grab a narrow victory.
He then took charge in a dramatic third race to race with several leading outright contenders before taking his third straight victory and the round win.
“I was really disappointed about qualifying – I was disappointed that we didn’t do a better job but it’s all about racing,” Bates said.
“The first race was great, then Shane got me in race two and I just kept chipping away but in the back of my mind was the fact that I don’t like losing here. I had the one chance and got Shane on the second last lap which was great.
“Race three was just mega. Being able to hang on to someone like Dean Fiore was fantastic and my lap time in the race was quicker than my qualifying time. I love this place and though we say it each year, it’s about getting off to a good start and banking points early and trying to keep safe and out of trouble for the championship.”
Bates’ fourth round victory in a row equalled a category record previously held outright by former dual class champion, Rodney Jane.
After two seasons of starting strongly but being unable to go on and seal the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge class championship, Bates says he is taking a new approach into the 2016 season.
“We just have to focus on the rounds where we’ve not had a lot of luck at, for one reason or another,” he explained.
“I’m not going to focus on the championship – we did that after Eastern Creek last year (where Bates’ crashed in practice and failed to start) and we won the last three rounds.
“We’re not going to use that naughty word ‘championship’ this year and just keep chipping away round by round.”
In his 81st Porsche Carrera Cup Australia presented by Michelin round, Cini scored his best TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge round result in six seasons by finishing second overall this weekend thanks to a trio of consistent results.
He finished fourth in race one and two before taking advantage of non-finishes from key rivals Shane Smollen and Stephen Grove in race three to grab second place.
“It’s been a long time,” Cini said.
“It was a really good weekend. The first two races were very good, nice and consistent and I finished fourth in both. The last race was one of those races where everything fell into place. I got a really good start, got to where I needed to get and a couple of guys in our field had a bit of attrition so that helps as well.
“I would have finished third if nothing had happened, but unfortunately Shane had the incident and I finished second for the weekend which was great.
“You’ve got to be a little but lucky around here because I missed a couple of incidents that happened and I was lucky to get through them cleanly. I was in the right spot and consolidated from there.”
Bergmuller finished third for the round, kicking off his 2016 season in style after starting slowly last year.
Defending class champion Smollen finished second in the first two races however was caught up in the lap one incident at the Senna Chicane that saw Ash Walsh find the wall.
Smollen spun in avoidance of Walsh’s spinning car and was forced to retire, however still sits fourth in the standings ahead of the next round.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge continues with the second round of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia presented by MIchelin championship at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix on March 17-20.