Stephen Grove has become the first repeat winner in the 2016 TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge class, a win and a second enough to seal him the round victory at Sydney Motorsport Park at the weekend.
The Victorian driver then capped off the outstanding performance by narrowly winning the first ever combined Porsche Carrera Cup Asia & Australia race in stunning fashion.
Grove won the first championship race on Saturday, however had to push hard in the second to have any chance of securing the round victory.
A slow start dropped him to fifth place amongst the challenge runners and it was only a bold pass on Adrian Mastronardo in the closing stages of the second 16-lap affair that allowed him to clinch round five, ahead of Shane Smollen and Tony Bates.
Smollen won the second race while Tony Bates continues to lead the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge standings, with Grove now third thanks to his successful Sydney weekend.
“I got a terrible start and I knew I had to push and get as far up as I could. I knew that if I didn’t pass Mastronardo I wouldn’t win the round so I took the opportunity and it worked,” Grove explained.
“To his credit he gave me room, he gave me a bit of a touch but it was all far and clean, fair racing.”
Meanwhile, local hero Shane Smollen’s race two victory ensured he continues to apply the pressure to Tony Bates in the challenge points’ battle.
“We rescued a weekend that looked a bit patchy yesterday,” Smollen said.
“It was hard not to look in the mirrors and see what was going on behind! Adrian (Mastronardo) held the race really well until about half a lap to go which would have given us the round, but we came out level on points with Tony and that’s the race for the championship so we’re pretty happy with that.”
Bates’ podium finish ensured he continues to lead the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge standings following the fifth round of the championship, despite dramas in race two that saw him drop down the order in the early stages.
He bounced back to third place at the finish, backing up his second-placed effort in race one on Saturday.
Consistent weekends from James Bergmuller and Mastronardo saw them fourth and fifth, with Marc Cini and Scott Taylor completing the Challenge results.
In the combined Carrera Cup Australia & Asia race, Stephen Grove led from start to finish in an exciting 10-lap affair, fending off a late challenge from Carrera Cup Asia Class B leader Yuan Bo in the closing laps to record a narrow victory.
Grove found lapped traffic in the closing stages and saw much of his early lead diminished in a thrilling final lap that saw the Absolute Racing driver locked to the rear bumper of the leading Aussie entry – Grove able to hold on and record a maiden ‘outright’ triumph in Carrera Cup.
“That was awesome! It’s about Aussie’s winning,” Grove enthused after the race.
“It was a great race. I led from the front and pushed as far as I could. I caught some lapped traffic there at the end and it was pretty cut-throat at the end and he’d get me! I really wanted to win for the Aussie’s and I felt like I was representing them so I’m wrapped!”
Shane Smollen ran strongly early in the combined race, challenging Grove for the race lead before slipping behind Yuan Bo and Thai driver Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak in the closing stages – ultimately finishing fourth.
Tony Bates finished fifth and Marc Cini eighth amongst the 22-car combined grid.