Fifty-three weeks after claiming the final victory on offer in a shortened 2020 season, Cameron Hill has swept to a remarkable victory in the opening round of the Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia Championship at Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway.
Meanwhile, Stephen Grove commenced his hunt for a record fourth Morris Finance Pro-Am class title in style by winning the weekend.
Hill was superb in a day of mixed conditions at Sandown, the Canberran emerging from a race-long battle with fellow Michelin Junior Cooper Murray to win the Enduro Cup season opener held in wet conditions early on Sunday afternoon.
Later in the day he battled with seven-time Bathurst 1000 champion Craig Lowndes for victory in the final race, emerging in front after Lowndes spun off and in increasingly wet conditions.
After finishing second to Sonic’s Michael Almond in race one on Saturday, Hill’s sweep of Sundays races handed his Squadra Bespoke-backed team an early lead in the Mobil Pro and Michelin Junior standings after the first of eight scheduled rounds.
“It was an awesome win for us,” Hill said after securing his second Carrera Cup round victory – but his first in one staged over multiple races.
“To get the round win in really difficult conditions was incredible. The first race was fully wet and it was sprinkling through the second.. through all that I am just stoked to get the win.
“It’s a great result for our little team and everyone who has got behind us for the championship this year.”
Sonic star Aaron Love secured second position overall for the weekend thanks to a consistent series of races, finishing fourth in race two and third in the finale’.
Cooper Murray completed the Mobil Pro podium however was lucky to secure a podium finish after an off in the final race nearly proved costly.
After leading much of the enduro cup race before ultimately finishing second to Hill, Murray again found himself chasing the same car in the finale’ – before slipping up on a wet kerb and impacting the tyres at turn four. The McElrea driver was able to continue, though slipped to the back of the field.
A late race Safety Car helped him regain lost time, racing his way to 11th position by race’s end and doing just enough to grab the final step on the podium.
His cause was helped by Lowndes’, who was in the box seat to score his first Carrera Cup podium before a late spin in race three dropped him down the field.
Running second, Lowndes was putting the pressure on Cameron Hill for the race lead only to be caught out by the slippery exit kerb at turn one. The Paynter Dixon-backed Wall car spun across the circuit, dropping Lowndes to the back of the Mobil Pro field and just off the podium.
Through all that, David Wall found himself in second position and Aaron Love third – Lowndes dropping down the order to finish 20th.
The weekend was full of starring performances – among them Dale Wood, who charged his Timken entry from last place to fourth in the final race and Luke Youlden, who stormed from the back to fifth in the Enduro Cup race earlier in the day.
In Morris Finance Pro-Am the batting was no less serious as Stephen Grove and Adrian Flack split the Sunday victories.
The par finished 1-2 for the weekend, while Sam Shahin completed the round podium amidst a fiercely competitive field.
The Sandown victory marked Grove’s 16th round victory from 59 Carrera Cup Australia rounds.
“It’s always important to start the season strongly and we’ve done that this weekend,” Grove said.
“The conditions were really challenging today and we had some great battles with Adrian. It’s going to be a really competitive season but this was the best way to start.”
Grove led all the way in the Enduro Cup race held in the wet conditions, edging out Flack and Sam Shahin for the victory.
Tim Miles and Geoff Emery were also in the mix, before the former slipped on a kerb at turn four and spun, forcing the latter to do the same in evasive action.
To that point the top five Morris Finance Pro-Am cars had run line-astern in their remarkable battle for the lead.
Flack returned serve on Grove in the finale’, beating him to turn one before taking a narrow victory by less than half a second, with Geoff Emery third in the race.
The Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia field has six weeks to prepare for the second round of the championship, Round 2 to be held at The Bend Motorsport Park’s OTR SuperSprint event in South Australia on 8-9 May.
Standings – After Round 1
- Cameron Hill 174
- Aaron Love 132
- Cooper Murray 120
- David Wall 112
- Michael Almond 105
- Nick McBride 91
- Dale Wood 89
- Craig Lowndes 89
- Christian Pancione 84
- Harri Jones 63
Morris Finance Pro-Am
- Stephen Grove 174
- Adrian Flack 146
- Sam Shahin 128
- Marc Cini 97
- Tim Miles 90
- Geoff Emery 85
- Indiran Padayachee 84
- Ben Stack 84
- Scott Taylor 68