PORSCHE Carrera Cup Australia teams have taken to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the first major pre-season hit out ahead of the season opening Clipsal 500 Adelaide later this month.
15 New and existing teams, drivers and cars used perfect weather conditions to complete extensive preparations for the year ahead, as anticipation builds towards the opening round of what is expected to be one of the most competitive Porsche Carrera Cup seasons yet.
Reigning outright and professional class champion Steven Richards took to the circuit in his newly-numbered No. 1 Laser Plumbing and Electrical Porsche 991 GT3 Cup Car and suggests that reclaiming his hard-won crown may be even harder than winning it for the first time.
“I think we are in for some cracking racing this year,” Richards said.
“It’s great to see so many cool young guys coming into the championship, that’s something that really motivates me and the team to keep pushing and improving.
“We really took time to enjoy the championship win last year and let it sink in and we had a really satisfying break, but it’s great to be back in the car today.”
The champion says he is keen to see both his team cars perform at the front throughout the 2015 season.
“We had a great year last year and are hoping for more of the same – James Bergmuller was in a position to win Elite until the final few rounds last year, so our focus again is not just on my car but getting two Steve Richards Motorsport cars in contention at every round.”
Former full-time V8 Supercars regular Cameron McConville is making his return to regular racing competition this season after several years out of a full time ride.
His new partnership with the Copyworld Racing outfit has seen the team expand this year – McConville to drive the OPS Gateway 991 GT3 Cup Car alongside Michael Almond’s identical Toshiba entry in a sharp-looking two-car outfit.
“Today has probably been the most fun I’ve had in a car in the last 10 years,” said McConville.
“I had 8 or so laps in one last year but to get 40 laps in it today is just great. I’ve had a ball.
“We’ve only just scratched the surface of what the car can do but we have been working on very small changes and making sure I can feel the changes, which I can, so that’s a good sign.
“I’m really enjoying working with the Buik (Motorworks) boys and looking forward to going and testing at Mallala next week, which I think will be a bit more representative for racing at Clipsal.”
Others testing at Phillip Island today included Team BRM’s new signing Richard Muscat and teammate Duvashen Padayachee, Sonic Motor Racing drivers Nick McBride and Adrian Mastronado, and two cars from Porsche Centre Melbourne Motorsport.
Marc Cini, Australia’s most experienced Porsche Carrera Cup racer, shook down his brand-new for 2015 car while Craig Baird drove Cini’s 2014 example as he begins his quest for Carrera Cup title number six.
Meanwhile, reigning Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champion Fraser Ross finally stepped up to the top level of one-make Porsche racing in Australia today, shaking down his new ride for the first time.
The Melbourne driver is the latest in a line of GT3 Cup Challenge series winners to make the step to Carrera Cup including Roger Lago and Richard Muscat.
In the always-competitive Elite division, experienced racer Ash Samadi returns for another season of Porsche competition in a brand-new 991 GT3 Cup Car.
The Apartment Hotel-sponsored car is also sporting slick new livery and will again be run by Sydney-based Garth Walden Racing this season.
“We started the day shaking the car down and running it in and it feels great,” said Samadi.
“We have already lapped quicker than I went here last year. The car feels the same as the old one – but it’s always nice to have something new!
“The Elite division is really close racing and that’s what I like about Carrera Cup. Every round is different and before we had three DNFs in a row I was first or second in every round last year, so we are keen to start the season.”
The competitive Elite division ranks are expected to again provide close competition this year with 2014 champion Stephen Grove, Tony Bates, Shane Smollen, Roger Lago and James Bergmuller all set to return this year.
To win the Elite division this year Samadi will have to go through reigning class winner Stephen Grove, who enlisted the support of an expert to help shake down his Grove Group Racing 991 GT3 Cup Car today.
V8 Supercars ace Scott McLaughlin completed several turns behind the wheel of the Grove Porsche to help the defending champion dial the car in to the circuit, with both reporting positive improvements to the No. 4 entry.
McLaughlin’s V8 Supercar rival Tim Slade was assisting his old team – Sonic Motor Racing – and also drove Adrian Mastonado’s VERITAS-sponsored car today.
Queensland-based teams will test at Queensland Raceway tomorrow (Friday, February 13) ahead of the season-opening Clipsal 500 Adelaide event between February 26 and March 1.