THE INTENSITY at the pointy-end of the 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia championship fight shows no signs of abating at Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend.
Championship rivals Matt Campbell and Alex Davison finished official practice split by just 0.09 seconds after a full hour of track time at the Western Sydney circuit today, as the pair look to entrench their position at the top of the Carrera Cup ladder.
Meanwhile, Tony Bates topped practice in practice for the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge runners, the class leader topping local driver Shane Smollen by nearly 0.8 seconds today.
Campbell leads Davison by just 4.5 points with four rounds remaining – including two races this weekend – and the pair have been the dominant force in the championship to date.
Today’s pair of 30-minute sessions were held in mostly sunny conditions but it was the second outing – held later in the day – that set the scene for the weekend’s racing.
All except three drivers in the 20-strong field set their fastest time of the day in practice two with the top 11 cars covered by just 0.9 seconds.
Campbell’s best of 1m30.23s was also comfortably quicker than the fastest time in practice set at Porsche Rennsport earlier this year – the top six runners all quicker than the practice best set in April.
Behind the championship leaders, Dean Fiore was third fastest today with former champion Steven Richards fourth and impressive rookie Dylan O’Keefe a strong fifth.
The Allstar Equipment / Dexion Porsche driver has continued the strong from Hidden Valley, where he qualified fourth and finished the first race in the same position.
Ash Walsh finished practice sixth (0.35s from the fastest time) with Duvashen Padayachee, Michael Almond, David Wall and Nick McBride completing the top-10.
Walsh had topped practice one earlier in the day, leading Campbell, Fiore, Wall and Davison in the morning session, held in cooler conditions.
Almond bounded back into the top-10 in practice two after gearbox issues limited him to just three laps in practice one.
Bates’ early pace is promising for the Victorian driver given the incredibly competitive fight in the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge championship battle this year.
The Victorian driver leads defending champion Shane Smollen in the standings by 28.5 points amidst a title battle that has seen four different round winners from the four rounds held to date.
Bates’ practice best of 1m31.76s put him within striking distance of the fastest professional cars and comfortably ahead of Smollen, Stephen Grove and James Bergmuller in the Carrera Challenge standings. Adrian Mastronado, Scott Taylor and Marc Cini completed the Challenge running order today.
A monster day on Saturday sees the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia drivers tackle qualifying at 12:15pm and the first of two, 16-lap Championship races at 2:45pm.
The second race for points will be held on Sunday morning, prior to the Carrera Cup Australia runners joining with their compatriots from Porsche Carrera Cup Asia in a pair of combined races – one each for the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge / Class B and Professional runners from each respective series.
All sessions on Saturday and Sunday will be live on FOX Sports / Channel 506.