AN EARLY form guide has been set following practice for the third round of the 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Championship at Sydney Motorsport Park today.
Three sessions were held for the Porsche Pro-Am event, with Matt Campbell (Pro) and Geoff Emery (Challenge) topping both of their respective sessions in a strong performance for the McElrea Racing Porsche squad.
Emery topped the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge drivers-only session while Campbell topped an intensely competitive 30-minute shootout for professional drivers later in the day. The pair were second quickest in a combined session earlier today.
“I couldn’t be happier to be in the top two throughout all the practice sessions today. Geoff has done an awesome job and we’re really happy with where the car is at. It’s really balanced and because these cars are so good around here it makes it so much more enjoyable,” Matt Campbell said.
“You never know how these races are going to play out. You look at the last couple of years and it’s been up and down for a lot of people. It’s a mixed up weekend with drivers and everything like that. Hopefully we can stay out of trouble and get some points.”
Emery said he was instantly comfortable with both car and co-driver today however was aware that Campbell’s season-long championship campaign was going to play a role in his role this weekend.
“It’s not in the back of my mind – it’s in the front of it. It’s the most important thing of the weekend,” Emery said.
“If I’m going to get harassed by a Pro I’ll be safe and move over for them. Obviously if I’ve got the pace I’ll be driving as hard as I can but I’m not going to let that get in the way of his championship.
“I’m very comfortable, and the car is fantastic. The McElrea boys have put an awesome car together and Matty has worked hard to get it where it is as well. It’s been so easy for me to get into the car. We’ve got a very similar seating position and we’re a really good match so I think we’re going to have a very solid result.”
Combinations with the most evenly matched pair of drivers are most likely to succeed in the Pro-Am format and as such it was the combination of Adrian Mastronardo and Tim Slade who ended the day second – both drivers second quickest in their respective sessions.
Seven of the 20 combinations had drivers inside the top 10 in both the stand-alone Challenge and Professional practice sessions today.
“I’ve been working really hard to get where I’m am so I’m really happy, understanding where I’m at right now is making my job a lot easier,” said Mastronardo, who returns to the Pro-Am event with his now regular co-driver, Tim Slade.
“It’s hopefully the third time lucky.. or unlucky for us! I’ve entered with no expectation other than to go out there and have fun and the results will take care of themselves.”
Sonic Motor Racing driver Ash Walsh topped the first practice session of the weekend – his 1m30.7s lap ultimately standing as the fourth fastest time set today.
Campbell and Emery were second while Shane van Gisbergen’s first laps in a Porsche Carrera Cup Car were unsurprisingly very quick – he ended the session third fastest.
Emery topped the stand-alone 30-minute session for TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge drivers, ending it 0.4s faster than Mastronardo, who in turn was 0.1s quicker than third-placed James Bergmuller. Tony Bates was fourth while defending Porsche Pro-Am winner Shane Smollen finished fifth.
David Calvert-Jones (sharing with Alex Davison) was sixth while Adrian Flack (David Wall), Roger Lago (Duvashen Padayachee), Paul Kelly (Shane van Gisbergen) and Sam Walter (Dylan O’Keefe) completed the top-10.
The final session of the day was a 30-minute run for all professional drivers and it ended as one of the closest ever in Porsche Carrera Cup history.
Campbell, Slade and David Wall locked out the top three, all three drivers split by just 0.078s at the top of the charts.
Former series champion Steven Richards, current championship leader Nick McBride, Dean Fiore, Shane van Gisbergen, David Reynolds, Alex Davison and Garth Tander completed the top-10.
14 of the 20 cars were covered by just 0.9 seconds, while Campbell’s 1m30.4099s benchmark was 0.4s underneath the race lap record.
A pair of qualifying sessions – one each for Challenge and Professional drivers – will be held on Saturday, to be followed by the first of two one-hour races.
All of the action will be streamed live via MotorsportsTV or Speedcafe.com.au tomorrow and Sunday.
COMBINED PRACTICE RESULTS:
1. Campbell / Emery 1:30.4099
2. Mastronardo / Slade 1:30.4809
3. Wall / Flack 1:30.4884
4. Walsh / Twigg 1:30.7595
5. Kelly / van Gisbergen 1:30.8594
6. Richards / Grant 1:30.8801
7. McBride / Thomas 1:30.8899
8. Fiore / Camilleri 1:30.8966
9. Bates / Reynolds 1:31.0023
10. Davison / Calvert-Jones 1:31.0340