Stephen Grove will have a target on the rear of his Porsche this season as his closest rivals aim to dethrone the 2014 Elite Class champion.
Grove enters the Clipsal 500 as the class titleholder following his success last season. While the class has undergone a name change – now the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge – the battle among the championship’s semi-professional drivers will be as intense as ever.
This weekend the two racers who narrowly missed out on the 2014 Elite Class title, Tony Bates and Shane Smollen, are preparing to begin their 2015 campaigns with one clear objective – claim Grove’s class title.
“Last year was not necessarily won by the fastest driver but the most consistent. Grove did a great job keeping his car out of trouble and his bad rounds still netted him good points. He drove well and for that he won the title. Shane and I won’t make it so easy for him this year; we’ll all push harder in an effort to etch our own name on the title trophy,” said Bates, who placed third in the class last season, winning the equal most races in the class.
In 2014 Smollen was awarded for posting the most Elite Class fastest laps for the season. Now the Sydneysider will aim to translate this impressive pace into consistently strong results.
“Grove certainly proved last year that championships are built on race finishes and it only takes one poor result to put you behind the eight ball, though this won’t take away from my desire to win races,” said Smollen.
“We all have a season of the new car under our belt which will assist the newer drivers from last year so the competition will be more even than ever. With the assistance of Warren Luff as driver coach and the experience of McElrea Racing, I’m hoping I can take out a lot of the guess work to piece together a successful season in the Carrera Challenge class.”
As the season nears, Grove won’t change his approach to racing in his attempt to defence the title.
“I’m treating this season like any other, solely focussing on my own performance each race,” said Grove. “It will be a competitive year in the Carrera Challenge class and I’m looking forward to racing against some great drivers. The Clipsal 500 hasn’t traditionally been a great event for me though I’m hoping to overcome this and start the season on a great note.”
The battle for the Carrera Challenge extends to more than three drivers; the entire class will be eager to reach the Clipsal 500 podium.
The most experienced driver in the championship, Marc Cini, enters the Adelaide round having contested 209 Carrera Cup Australia races, trailed by Ash Samadi with 110 races; both hoping to draw upon their experience to challenge for Carrera Challenge trophies.
James Bergmuller and Roger Lago both claimed silverware last season and hope to revisit the Carrera Cup podium while Adrian Mastronardo and Scott Taylor now have substantial experience and are looking to make their first podium appearance in the championship.
Thursday February 26, 2015
1:05pm-1:25pm – Practice 1 – 20 minutes
5:10pm-5:30pm – Practice 2 – 20 minutes
Friday February 27, 2015
8:30am-8:50am – Qualifying – 20 minutes
2:55pm-3:15pm – Race 1
Saturday February 28, 2015
9:40am-10:00am – Race 2
Sunday March 1, 2015
12:50pm-1:10pm – Race 3