The 2017 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Pro-Am is likely to be one of the most competitive yet, a prediction supported by the recent co-driver announcements of the series’ leading young guns.
Several of the series’ young drivers, including Dylan O’Keeffe, Nick McBride and series leader Andre Heimgartner, have locked in key partnerships that further boost the depth of an already ultra-competitive grid.
The 19-year-old Melbourne based O’Keeffe has secured former Aussie Racing Cars champion Adam Gowans to co-drive in the two Phillip Island races.
Tasmanian Gowans has become a regular face in the annual Porsche Pro-Am weekend, having twice contested the event with now-Supercars racer Shae Davies; including scoring a second-place finish in the 2013 event.
“Adam has a wealth of experience in all different cars and he’s very adaptable,” O’Keeffe said.
“He slotted into our Porsche very comfortably and I’m confident he will be competitive against the other Am drivers.
“We were looking for someone with some endurance experience, and Adam ticks this box as well – he has raced in the Bathurst 12 Hour.”
O’Keeffe is currently fifth in the standings after a consistent start to the season.
“Our pace has been good in the first two rounds at the Clipsal 500 and the Grand Prix, so we’ll be looking to convert it into podium finishes and hopefully race wins at Phillip Island,” O’Keeffe said.
Meanwhile, fellow title contender Nick McBride will reunite with the experienced Dylan Thomas following their Pro-Am appearance last year at Sydney Motorsport Park where they finished eighth in the first race before improving to a strong second – by a car length – in the final race.
This weekend will mark Thomas’ third attempt at the Pro-Am event having driven with Nick Foster the year prior.
“Because Dylan drives a lot of different cars, he’s been able to adapt really easily to the Porsche,” McBride said.
“Also, his team work ethic has been really impressive. Because he runs his own team (in production cars and Formula Vee), he understands how to be a good team player and he fits in really well.”
McBride currently sits fourth in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia standings, following a pair of race victories at the most recent round at Albert Park.
His Sonic Motor Racing teammate Andre Heimgartner will be joined by Aaron Ireland in the #777 Porsche entry.
Ireland made his GT3 Cup Challenge debut at Sandown earlier this year and despite racing the oldest car in the field – a 996 GT3 Cup car – he still managed to impress on debut in sopping wet conditions.
The Porsche Club Victoria regular has been a long-time supporter of Heimgartner’s racing activities and a regular at Porsche Club events, including competing at last year’s Porsche Rennsport festival.
“It is obviously exciting to have Aaron on board with us for this weekend,” said Heimgartner.
“He has done quite a lot of Porsche racing, which is very positive, and we have a good working relationship together also, so I am looking forward to seeing what we can do.”
Heimgartner launched into the 2017 season with a round victory at Adelaide, storming to two race victories on the famous street circuit. He continues to lead the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia standings by a narrow 37 point margin ahead of David Wall.
At McElrea Racing, Sydneysider James Abela has locked in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge frontrunner and teammate Anthony Gilbertson to co-drive his Horsley Park Gun Shop entry in the pair of one-hour races this weekend.
Gilbertson linked with McElrea Racing for this season’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge season, having finished sixth outright and third in the Elite Class on debut last year.
He qualified third in the opening round at Sandown, with Phillip Island’s event marking his debut in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia.
The Queenslander will be one of a host of GT3 Cup Challenge drivers pulling ‘double duties’ over the Phillip Island weekend, the Gold Coaster set to tackle both Porsche one-make series across the weekend.