Sydney racer Jimmy Vernon will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of two key graduates of Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia when he joins the series in 2018.
The 20-year-old will join McElrea Racing this year off the back of claimed the Toyota 86 Racing Series title in 2017.
Vernon will drive the same Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car driven to the 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup Australia championship by Matt Campbell, followed by a pair of round victories in the hands of Jaxon Evans last season.
Both drivers commenced their Porsche careers in GT3 Cup Challenge before progressing into Carrera Cup, where Evans now leads the championship.
Campbell’s well-documented career has seen him progress to becoming a Porsche Young Professional driver this year, competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Both team and driver have targeted a similar progression through the ‘Porsche Motorsport Pyramid’.
“After a successful season last year, we sat down and did research on all the pathways in the sport we could think of – and it was the Porsche pathway that spoke to me the most,” Vernon said.
“It has been proven to get drivers not only to the point of succeeding in Supercars, but kickstarted overseas careers as well. It was at that point I started speaking to Andy (McElrea) because I saw them as a proven team that had already helped guys like Matt and Jaxon.
“They’re switched on and the one day I have had in the car was fantastic – they’re a team with so much experience that any question you have, they have an answer for.
“It has been great to put this together with the backing of an awesome support crew behind me and people who are helping me out for the year. We’re still searching for people to jump on board and get involved but the support has already been fantastic.”
Having signed with McElrea Racing earlier in the week, Vernon subsequently got his first taste of Porsche power at Queensland Raceway on Thursday.
“It was good. It’s obviously a big step up from the Toyota or anything else I’ve ever driven. It took a while to get my head around but by the end of the day we were posting competitive times,” he said.
“We’re going into the first round with quite a bit of confidence, but I know the competition is going to be tough from what I have heard and seen about drivers coming into the series.
“GT3 Cup Challenge looks like it’s going to be very strong and I’m looking forward to seeing how we shape up against the others.”
Team owner Andy McElrea said Vernon’s signing would build on their experience of developing drivers through the Porsche pyramid.
“We’re looking forward to working with Jimmy this year in the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge,” McElrea said.
“In Matt and now Jaxon we have shown a solid three-year program of progression through GT3 Cup Challenge and into Carrera Cup and we are following that same model with Jimmy.
“He comes to us with a strong level of experience for someone his age, so we’re looking forward to building on that as he starts his Porsche career and working with him to develop him into a Carrera Cup champion.”
The Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia commences at The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia on April 13-15.