This season’s TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge will feature speed, skill and vast experience from some of the best semi-professional racers in the country.
Porsche Carrera Cup Australia will begin its 12th season in Australia at this weekend’s Clipsal 500 with six racers battling out the Challenge division – a ‘race within a race’ for semi-professional drivers in the one-make championship.
TAG Heuer will continue as the naming rights partner of the Challenge class as part of its greater classification as the championship’s Official Watch.
All TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge drivers this season come with substantial experience in Carrera Cup, led by the championship’s most capped racer, Marc Cini.
Equipped with a fresh looking Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and new team mate in Dean Fiore, Cini will start his 81st Carrera Cup round this weekend, more than another other past or present Porsche driver.
With 36 round starts, Shane Smollen enters this weekend’s event as the second most experienced racer in the Challenge class and looks to continue his strong form having taken the 2015 class title at last season’s Gold Coast finale.
Smollen was impressive in his title winning year, but believes defending his crown will be a tough ask in 2016.
“Consistency alone isn’t enough to win in the Challenge class; whilst one DNF will probably cost you a championship, you have no choice but to push from start to finish, as the Challenge class competitors are never too far away,” said Smollen.
“I want repeat last year’s achievement of completing the most fastest race laps, but also finishing every race. If Stephen Grove wasn’t ahead, then he was likely in my rear view mirror and we remained close in the standings throughout the season and I can’t see that changing.
“Likewise, Bates also has great speed so if he has a consistent season this year, he will be right in the title battle, much like the other Challenge drivers. It’s clearly a competitive class and a tough championship. I’m really looking forward to getting the season underway in Adelaide this weekend and setting the tone for our 2016 defence.”
Smollen captured the Challenge title from rival and previous victor Grove, who was triumphant in 2014 with a consistent season on track. Grove had yet another consistent year in 2015 though was unable to catch Smollen in the points race. Now, after recently taking the Class B crown at the Bathurst 12 Hour alongside V8 Supercars driver Scott McLaughlin and 2015 Le Mans 24 Hour winner Earl Bamber, Grove is eager to add another Challenge class title to his trophy cabinet.
“It’s been a good start to the 2016 season and I’m hoping it continues in Adelaide for the start of the Carrera Cup season. It hasn’t necessarily been my strongest event in the past but I certainly love heading to Adelaide for round one. It’s going to be a competitive year in the Challenge class with a bunch of experienced, fast drivers returning this season. As usual, I’m going to go out and race my own race and see where I end up at the Gold Coast finale,” said Grove.
Tony Bates will look to continue his strong form at the Adelaide event. The Melbourne based racer has won the last six races in the Challenge class over the past two Adelaide events and, having dominated the last three events of the 2015 season, enters the 2016 opening round as a favourite in Adelaide.
James Bergmuller is another driver with momentum on his side. After an inconsistent 2015 season, Bergmuller showed his best form as the season came to a close, taking his equal best round result of second in Surfers Paradise.
Meanwhile, Adrian Mastronardo will be a driver to watch this season. The Sydneysider has the least Carrera Cup experience in the Challenge class, lining up for his 17th Porsche round this weekend, though his impressive rise up the order over the past 12 months suggests Mastronardo will be standing on the round podium more times in 2016 than ever before.
Porsche Carrera Cup Australia’s 2016 season will kick off this weekend at Adelaide’s Clipsal 500, with three races to be held across the four day motor racing festival.
Thursday March 03, 2016
1:15pm-1:35pm Practice 1 (20 minutes)
4:50pm-5:10pm Practice 2 (20 minutes)
Friday March 04, 2016
8:45am-9:05am Qualifying (20 minutes)
3:05pm-3:30pm Race 1 (16 laps)
Saturday March 05, 2016
11:35am-12:05pm Race 2 (20 Laps)
Sunday March 06, 2016
2:10pm-2:40pm Race 3 (20 Laps)