Porsche Carrera Cup Australia is preparing for the closest title fight in the championship’s history this weekend in Surfers Paradise, while Stephen Grove has one hand firmly on the Elite Class crown.
For the final of eight rounds, just 31 points separate three of the championship’s greatest competitors – Warren Luff, Steven Richards and Craig Baird.
Luff and Richards charged ahead in the opening rounds while Baird has clawed his way back into contention throughout the second half of the season to be within striking distance with three races remaining.
The result: The closest ever Carrera Cup Australia points battle leading into the final round featuring three immense Porsche talents:
Warren Luff – 831 points
Season 2014: Race wins – 6, Top 3 race results – 13, Round wins – 2, Top 3 round results – 4
Championship leader Luff planned to set the tone of the 2014 season from its outset, claiming a clean sweep of race wins at the opening Clipsal 500 round followed by victory at Albert Park. Since then, however, momentum shifted and Luff has only finished on the round podium a further two times and failed to finish three races – inconsistencies that have allowed Richards and Baird to remaining in title contention.
Steven Richards – 810 points
Season 2014: Race wins – 3, Top 3 results – 13, Round wins – 1, Top 3 round results – 4
The Australian touring car great and son-of-a-gun, Richards is looking to make Carrera Cup history this weekend. His father, Jim Richards, won the inaugural Carrera Cup Australia title in 2003. Now, Steven Richards is aiming to be part of the first ever father and son combination to win a Carrera Cup championship. Only 21 points, three races and the concrete canyon of the Surfers Paradise Street Circuit stand in his way.
Craig Baird – 800 points
Season 2014: Race wins – 4, Top 3 results – 6, Round wins – 1, Top 3 round results – 3
The master has had a difficult season in 2014 though remains in the title chase with three races remaining. A horror opening two rounds were followed by a string of solid performances while his rivals suffered several dramas throughout the season. And while all looked lost in the closing stages of the previous round at Bathurst, a crash on the final lap involving points leaders Luff and Richards gave Baird a fighting chance to claim his six Carrera Cup Australia crown. Don’t discount Baird – the only multiple Carrera Cup round winner at Surfers Paradise.
The previous closest championship battle was in 2007 – just 63 points separated David Reynolds, Alex Davison and Baird come the end of that year’s championship, won by the now-V8 Supercar ace Reynolds.
While the outright Carrera Cup title is closer than ever, conversely, Stephen Grove holds a convincing 135 point lead in the Elite Class.
Grove’s strong points standing follows top-five finishes in all but one Elite Class race for the season and was highlighted with outright victory in May’s Pro-Am round at Phillip Island when teamed with co-driver Scott McLaughlin.
Grove can secure the Elite Class title in Race 1 this weekend by finishing in the top three of his class, should his nearest points rival Shane Smollen win the race.
Smollen’s Bathurst dominance – three Elite Class race wins – promoted the Sydneysider to second in the Elite Class points from Tony Bates and James Bergmuller. Just 43 points separate these three drivers.
In what is Carrera Cup Australia’s tenth visit to the Surfers Paradise circuit, all eyes will be on the Porsche championship as it enters one of its most anticipated rounds, concluding its tenth season on Australian race tracks.
Porsche Carrera Cup Australia will hold the first of its three remaining title deciding races this Saturday at 1:20pm. Two races will also be held on Sunday, the final of which will be broadcast live on the Seven Network around the country.
Friday October 24th, 2014
10:50am – Practice 1 (20 minutes)
4:15pm – Practice 2 (20 minutes)
Saturday October 25th, 2014
9:10am – Qualifying (20 minutes)
1:20pm – Race 1 (16 laps)
Sunday October 26th, 2014
9:30am – Race 2 (16 laps)
12:30pm – Race 3 (21 laps)
Race 3 (live)
Date: Sunday October 26th, 2014
Time: 12:30pm (QLD – local time)
Channel: Seven (7mate in Perth)