The fourth Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Pro-Am event is also likely to be the most competitive ever staged – at least that’s the word from the paddock ahead of the Porsche Rennsport Australia Motor Racing Festival to be contested at Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend.
The 20-strong Carrera Cup field includes 40 drivers and a host of full-time V8 Supercar stars that will all be looking to make their mark on the pair of one-hour, two-driver races.
The Pro-Am format returns to the 3.9km Sydney Motorsport Park circuit this week, having been first contested at the Western Sydney venue during the inaugural Porsche Rennsport festival in 2013. The last two Pro-Am events were contested at Phillip Island in Victoria.
Drivers from all walks of life are excited about the weekend – especially the semi-professional drivers that make up the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge class fight.
“I’m personally looking forward to the qualifying session where it’s just the professional drivers out there in the cars going for it,” enthused Stephen Grove.
“That’s going to be an incredible session and the whole field could be covered by a very small amount and that will be great just to watch that from the side of the track.”
Marc Cini, the most experienced driver in the field, said he enjoyed the Pro-Am format because it put more pressure on the Challenge drivers to perform.
“The Pro field will be so close together that it’s more of a situation of which of the Challenge drivers can do the best job.
“It’s a hard event because while on one hand it’s really good fun, it’s also the most stressful of the year because you know you’re going to be somewhere up there because of the job your Pro driver has done!”
The stacked field includes a remarkable array of drivers and plenty who have tasted Carrera Cup success in the past.
Defending Pro-Am winners Shane Smollen and Nick Percat return to defend their 2015 title, with the #56 Porsche the only entry in the field to feature two former PCCA race winners.
The pair have a remarkable track record together, with two race wins and a second from four Pro-Am starts across the previous two years at Phillip Island. Percat has a further Pro-Am win to his credit, having won the first one-hour race staged in 2013 with Rodney Jane.
Following his Pro-Am round victory last May, Smollen went on to win the 2015 TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge title while Percat famously won the Clipsal 500 Adelaide in March this year.
Meanwhile, inaugural Pro-Am round winner Max Twigg will make a welcome return to the championship this weekend when he suits up alongside Ash Walsh in the #777 entry.
The triple Challenge title winner combined with Luke Youlden to win the 2013 Rennsport Carrera Cup round – his only overall round win from 45 starts in the championship.
Walsh’s teammate Nick McBride will be joined by Dylan Thomas in the sister #77 entry.
Thomas combined with eventual champion Nick Foster to win the second of two Pro-Am races at Phillip Island last year while McBride is in hot form, currently leading the championship following the first two rounds in Adelaide and Melbourne, respectively.
Seven drivers will make their Porsche Carrera Cup debuts this weekend, including V8 Supercar full-timers Garth Tander (driving with James Bergmuller), Lee Holdsworth (Stephen Grove), Michael Caruso (Marc Cini) and Shane van Gisbergen (Paul Kelly).
Also on debut will be the experienced Jake Camilleri – who will share the #8 entry with Dean Fiore, experienced Porsche racer Adrian Flack (driving with David Wall) and American-based Aussie expat, David Calvert-Jones.
‘CJ’ will team up with friend Alex Davison, the pair having contested the Bathurst 12 Hour race together in a Porsche GT3 Cup car in 2014. Calvert-Jones is an experienced Porsche racer – as well as racing a Porsche GT3 R at Bathurst in 2015 he is currently racing in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA.
Calvert-Jones’ addition to the grid adds to an already strong line-up for the Adelaide based Copyworld Racing outfit this weekend, with Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge frontrunner John Goodacre to drive with the in-form Michael Almond in the sister entry.
David Reynolds, the 2007 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia champion, returns to the grid this weekend to drive with TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge leader, Tony Bates.
Reynolds’ inclusion will ensure there are three former champions on the grid this weekend with the Erebus V8 Supercar star joining Steven Richards and Alex Davison in the stacked field.
The Pro-Am field includes a remarkable 13 former PCCA race winners.
The Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Pro-Am commences with practice on Friday April 29 ahead of qualifying – with separate sessions for both Pro and Challenge class drivers – and the first of two races on Saturday April 30. The final race will be held on Sunday May 01.
Friday April 29, 2016
10:25am Practice 1 – All drivers (30 minutes)
12:15pm Practice 2 – Challenge drivers (30 minutes)
2:05pm Practice 3 – Professional drivers (30 minutes)
Saturday April 30, 2016
10:40am Qualifying 1 – Challenge drivers (20 minutes)
12:20pm Qualifying 2 – Professional drivers (20 minutes)
3:10pm Grid Walk
3:30pm Race 1 (34 laps)
Sunday May 01, 2016
10:15am Warm-up (10 minutes)
12:55pm Grid Walk
1:15pm Race 2 (34 laps)
Round 3 – Entry List
#4 Stephen Grove/Lee Holdsworth (Grove Hire)
#7 Matt Campbell/Geoff Emery (Nuveau Constructions/Phase 8)
#8 Dean Fiore/Jake Camilleri (Saint/Porsche Centre Melbourne)
#9 Marc Cini/Michael Caruso (Hallmarc)
#12 Steven Richards/Dean Grant (Laser Plumbing and Electrical)
#13 James Bergmuller/Garth Tander (pricepressure.com.au/MotorOne Car Care)
#21 Garth Walden/Ash Samadi (Commercial Interior Projects)
#24 Tony Bates/David Reynolds (Moveitnet / A.F.S)
#25 Alex Davison/David Calvert-Jones (Wilson Parking)
#26 Michael Almond/John Goodacre (Stone’s Original)
#38 David Wall/Adrian Flack (Wilson Security/PAYCE)
#39 Adrian Mastronardo/Tim Slade (TOGA/Veritas Property Group)
#45 Duvashen Padayachee/Roger Lago (Darrell Lea STIX)
#54 James Abela/Tony Walls (Horsley Park Gun Shop)
#56 Shane Smollen/Nick Percat (McGrath Estate Agents)
#77 Nick McBride/Dylan Thomas (Bob Jane T-Marts)
#88 Dylan O’Keeffe/Sam Walter (All Star Equipment Sales/Dexion Supply Centre)
#222 Paul Kelly/Shane Van Gisbergen (Scott Taylor Motorsport)
#360 Fraser Ross/David Ryan (360fly)
#777 Ash Walsh/Max Twigg (Bob Jane T-Marts/Infants Friend)