CAMERON HILL has stormed to a stunning victory in the opening Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia race at Albert Park, the opening Enduro Cup race of the 2020 season.
The Canberra-based privateer took advantage of slip-up from polesitter Dale Wood on the opening lap to grab a lead he would never lose, though had to survive a mid-race restart and constant pressure from Nick McBride and Cooper Murray before winning the dramatic 19-lap affair – the longest ever at Albert Park.
It was the second win of Hill’s career, the Michelin Junior also taking Mobil Pro class honors in style.
Stephen Grove won the Pro-Am class in another highly competitive battle; Roger Lago second and Sam Shahin third on his comeback following injuries sustained at the Bathurst 12 Hour earlier this year.
“It was a tough race,” Hill said. “Those 45-minute endurance races, you’ve got to be on your game and you can’t make any mistakes. I was a bit fortunate; Dale ran wide and I got the lead and then I just wanted to hit my marks and make sure they couldn’t touch me.
“For us and the whole team at CHE Racing it’s just massive. We’ve been working at this for three seasons now and we got it right last year at Darwin but missed it a few times at rounds since, but it all came together today and I’m stoked.
“The sprint races are gong to be intense so it’s just a matter of getting a good start and putting my head down.”
Starting in the late Melbourne afternoon, polesitter Wood led the field on the opening lap – however a slow puncture saw him spin off the road at turn 13.
Wood would later pit for a replacement tyre before resuming in last place; Hill assuming the lead over McBride and Wall.
Murray climbed to third on the second lap, with fellow Michelin Junior Love also passing Wall in a competitive battle – however more drama was to come for Wall the coming lap as contact saw his Paynter Dixon-supported car turned around at turn three.
Wall resumed in 15th position and began his march through the field.
A massive battle then unfolded for most of the sports in the top-10; friendly fire between the Sonic pair of Max Vidau and Michael Almond sending the latter tumbling down the order.
A mid-race Safety Car to recover a stranded Indiran Padayachee closed the field up; allowing drivers to recover track position but negating Hill’s lead – though a perfectly judged restart saw him retain his position and pull away from McBride in second.
Murray attempted to pass the Porsche Centre Melbourne entry but couldn’t find his way through; the leaders all caught by Wall who completed his sensational recovery to finish fourth.
Hill ultimately won by under a second, McBride a season-best second and Murray continuing his title-leading form in third.
Wall recovered to fourth while Aaron Love had a combative race to fifth position.
A strong day saw Duvashen Padayachee run as high as fourth but finish sixth while Harri Jones held out a charging Dale Wood and Max Vidau at the line to grab seventh.
Pro-Am winner Stephen Grove finished tenth outright and spent much of his race both holding off his key class contenders and keeping tabs on the battling Pro drivers in front as well.
“19 laps is a long time around here, but for me I didn’t know whether to keep watching the Pros in front, because that was very entertaining, or watch the Am’s behind me – there was so much going on,” Grove said.
“The pace was good all the way down. What a race – it was really entertaining and I had to stay focused on what I was doing to make sure I didn’t go off.
“It was fantastic racing and to be in and among the Pro’s is fantastic.
“I love the long races – if you make a little mistake you’ve got plenty of laps to make up time and get back the time you lost.”
Lago finished second in ProAm in his first race of the year, while Sam Shahin’s third was a remarkable result following back and rib injuries sustained in a crash at the 12-hour earlier this year.
His speedy recovery enabled him to race this weekend; the South Australian running as high as second but ultimately finishing third after a late spin.
On his Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia debut, Craig Lowndes showed his potential with a storming drive – though it ultimately didn’t get a result.
Starting 11th, Lowndes gained two spots on the opening lap and climbed as high as sixth position by lap five – however a trip off track saw him drop back to thirteenth. The seven-time Bathurst winner climbed back to eighth by lap 13 however a puncture put paid to his race – ultimately failing to finish.
Earlier in qualifying, Dale Wood scored his first pole position in twelve months to continue his reign as the current King of Porsche qualifying at Albert Park.
The Timken / Sonic Motor Racing driver edged out Cameron Hill by just 0.17 seconds while Nick McBride was bumped to third late in the session. Adelaide polesitter Cooper Murray was fourth with David Wall and Michael Almond rounding out the top six.
Stephen Grove grabbed his first Carrera Cup pole since Darwin, 2018, when he edged out Max Twigg for pole in Pro Am.
Grove, Twigg and Adelaide Pro-Am polesitter were separated by just 0.4 seconds in a tight session, with the returning Roger Lago fourth.
The Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia series switches to sprint mode tomorrow with the second race of the weekend scheduled to start at 2:55pm on Friday. The race will be shown live on Fox Sports 506, Kayo Sport and Network 10.
Results, Race 1:
|1||Cameron Hill (ACT)|
|2||Nick McBride (VIC)|
|3||Cooper Murray (VIC)|
|4||David Wall (NSW)|
|5||Aaron Love (WA)|
|6||Duvashen Padayachee NSW|
|7||Harrison Jones (QLD)|
|8||Dale Wood (VIC)|
|9||Max Vidau (SA)|
|10||Stephen Grove (VIC)|
|11||Roger Lago (QLD)|
|12||Michael Almond (SA)|
|13||Sam Shahin (SA)|
|14||Max Twigg (VIC)|
|15||Marc Cini (VIC)|
|16||Tim Miles (NSW)|
|17||David Ryan (NSW)|
|18||Scott Taylor (QLD)|
|19||Greg Ward (NSW)|
|20||Dean Cook (VIC)|
|21||Indiran Padayachee (NSW)|
|DNF||Craig Lowndes (VIC)|