Porsche Carrera Cup Australia will feature its largest ever driver line-up this weekend when 44 racers take to Phillip Island for the annual Pro-Am round.
Round three of the 2015 season will feature 22 entries, the championship’s largest Pro-Am grid comprising more experience and titles than ever before.
The most experienced pairing will be Craig Baird and Max Twigg; the duo has amassed 104 round starts, five Carrera Cup Australia championship wins and three TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge titles. Baird and Twigg also competed in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia last weekend in South Korea, giving them crucial recent mileage in the one-make category.
Among the many combinations in contention is also Steven Richards and Dean Grant – the reigning Carrera Cup champion is gunning for three straight round wins, something not achieved since Baird’s effort in 2008 where he actually achieved four straight at Perth, Sandown, Ipswich and Phillip Island.
V8 Superstars Tim Slade and Nick Percat will also aim to steal Grove and McLaughlin’s Pro-Am crown, pairing with talented Challenge regulars Adrian Mastronardo and Shane Smollen, respectively, as will German sports car ace Christopher Mies and Carrera Cup’s most experienced driver, Marc Cini. Mies will enter the round on a high having won the gruelling Nurburgring 24 Hour race last weekend.
Nick Foster experienced a disastrous Pro-Am round last year, though expect him to perform in qualifying. The young Queenslander will be shooting for his third straight pole position at Phillip Island. Impressively, Carrera Cup qualifying has seen six different drivers take the last seven pole positions.
Grove and McLaughlin are aware of the tough competition and are eager to replicate their 2014 form at the seaside circuit. Last year the duo not only won the event, they uniquely became just the fourth round winners to have claimed round honours without winning a race and also set a new record for the lowest qualifying position for a round winner/s in the championship’s history – 15th.
“The format for this event is fantastic. I learnt a lot from Scott last year; the ability to have him in the car, go through the data and pick up some driving tips is awesome for us,” said Grove.
“I traditionally haven’t gone well at the first two rounds – Clipsal 500 and the Grand Prix – so it’s good to get them out of the way, even though they are great circuits and great events. It’s ‘game on’ from here.”
McLaughlin is also looking forward to his Carrera Cup return, aiming to add to his single event win from as many starts.
“Steve is a good mate and someone who has supported me a lot throughout my career and for me, coming back and doing this race with him is great. It’s awesome getting into a different car and really enjoy my racing. There’s not much pressure; I just have to focus on doing a good job for my co-driver and bring it home straight as I’m also racing for Steve’s championship. We had a great round last year; we won the event and came away with the Challenge championship lead so hopefully we can do the same this year,” said McLaughlin.
“This year it will be even harder with guys like Christopher Mies in the field in addition to Percat and Slade. It will be a great challenge for both myself and Steve and we’re looking forward to it.”
Five drivers will make their Carrera Cup debut in the unique, two-driver, endurance round. German GT star Mies, Indiran Padayachee, David Ryan, Dean Canto and Dylan Thomas will all make their first start in the category.
Padayachee will co-drive with son Duvashen, making it the first time in the history of Carrera Cup Australia – as well as Porsche Carrera Cup worldwide – that a father and son combination has teamed up in a race.
There are 12 former Carrera Cup Australia race winners in the entry list for the Phillip Island round. Just six combinations have remained intact from last year’s two-driver round at Phillip Island – and tellingly, three of them are ‘winning’ combinations from 2014. Defending overall Phillip Island round winners Grove and McLaughlin return while 2014 race one winners Baird and Twigg are back together and race two winners Smollen and Percat again pair up. The other combinations carried over from last year are Tony Bates/Daniel Gaunt, Michael Almond/John Karytinos and Mastronardo/Slade.
Both Saturday and Sunday on-track sessions of the Shannons Australian Motor Racing Nationals event will be streamed live online, available free-of-charge and worldwide, while the Carrera Cup races will be broadcast on television three weeks later on ONE and SBS.
Friday May 22
12:25pm Practice 1 – Challenge (30 mins)
2:45pm Practice 2 – Professional (30 mins)
Saturday May 23
09:10am Qualifying 1 – Challenge (15 mins)
11:00am Qualifying 2 – Professional (15 mins)
12:45pm Race 1 (36 laps)
Sunday May 24
09:30am Warm up (10 mins)
10:35am Race 2 (36 laps)
#1 – Steven Richards/Dean Grant (Professional) Laser Plumbing & Electrical
#4 – Stephen Grove/Scott McLaughlin (TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge) Grove Group
#6 – Ash Samadi/Dean Fiore (TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge) Apartment Hotel
#7 – Matt Campbell/Tim Miles (Professional) Phase 8
#8 – Craig Baird/Max Twigg (Professional) Porsche Centre Melbourne
#9 – Marc Cini/Christopher MieS (TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge) Hallmarc
#10 – David Russell/James Koundouris (Professional) Finanze Ezi
#11 – Simon Hodge/Ray Angus (Professional) Team BRM
#13 – James Bergmuller/Alex Davison (TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge) MotorOne Car Care
#14 – Cam McConville/John Goodacre (Professional) OPS Gateway
#22 – Richard Muscat/Sam Walter (Professional) Wilson Security/PAYCE/Genis Steel
#23 – Roger Lago/Steve Owen (TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge) JBS Australia
#24 – Tony Bates/Dan Gaunt (TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge) AFS/Ned Whisky & Cola
#26 – Michael Almond/John Karytinos (Professional) Copyworld/Toshiba
#39 – Adrian Mastronardo/Tim Slade (TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge) Veritas/Builtform
#45 – Duvashen Padayachee/Indiran Padayachee (Professional) VIP Petfoods
#56 – Shane Smollen/Nick Percat (TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge) McGrath Estate Agents
#65 – Fraser Ross/David Ryan (Professional) Porsche Centre Brighton
#77 – Nick McBride/Neale Muston (Professional) Bob Jane T-Marts
#88 – Shae Davies/Geoff Emery (Professional) Davbridge Constructions
#222 – Scott Taylor/Dean Canto (TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge) Scott Taylor Motorsport
#777 – Nick Foster/Dylan Thomas (Professional) Bob Jane T-Marts