A 27-strong Porsche field will begin a new era of the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia series this weekend at The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia.
The 27 911 GT3 Cup entries will tackle the first ever national-level race meeting at the 4.9km circuit – the largest grid since the series’ opening 2010 round at Mount Panorama, Bathurst.
The 2018 season marks the introduction of the Type 991 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars to the series, the same cars used throughout the past four seasons of the Porsche Wilson Security Carrera Cup Australia championship.
With the new cars also comes a host of young talent looking to progress through the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid following in the footsteps of successful GT3 Cup Challenge graduates that include Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell, Carrera Cup series leader Jaxon Evans and 2017 GT3 Cup Challenge champion, Jordan Love.
Thirteen of the 27-strong grid will be making their GT3 Cup Challenge debuts this weekend; with a pair of recent national champions set to headline the Pro Class at Tailem Bend.
Sonic Motor Racing has locked in 2017 Australian Formula Ford Champion Max Vidau in their bid to extend their remarkable streak as the team to beat in the GT3 Cup Challenge. Sonic has won the last three consecutive titles, including last year’s success with Jordan Love. Vidau hails from Adelaide and clinched last year’s open-wheel title for Sonic in a thrilling final round.
Reigning Toyota 86 Racing Series winner Jimmy Vernon will also likely be a contender, driving for Queensland team McElrea Racing. Vernon enters his first season of Porsche racing behind the wheel of the car taken to a Carrera Cup championship win by Matt Campbell two years ago.
Also in a title winning car will be Chelsea Angelo, who was one of the first announced for the 2018 season and will steer the Wall Racing entry driven last year to the Carrera Cup title by team owner, David Wall.
Teenage karting champion Cooper Murray will join the field this year, racing for Ashley Seward Motorsport. The 16-year-old from Melbourne has targeted a progression to Carrera Cup Australia via GT3 Cup Challenge and brings more than 100 victories in top-level karting to the series this year.
Time Attack champion and former Super 2 Series racer Dan Day will also make his debut this weekend, racing an entry prepared by Adelaide team, Buik Motorworks.
Completing the Pro class battle will be more open-wheel graduates in Luis Leeds and Simon Fallon. Both competed in Australian Formula 4 with Fallon finishing sixth in the series last year. He will join Vidau in a strong two-car Sonic Motor Racing attack on the Pro Class.
Leeds finished sixth in the local open-wheel series in 2015, before progressing his career overseas as a Red Bull junior driver and winning races in British Formula 4. He returns home to tackle the GT3 Cup Challenge with his car to be fielded by new Supercars team, 23Red Racing.
Class racing will again be a feature in the series this year with a strong contingent of Pro-Am and Class B contenders to fight for their own class trophies.
The Pro-Am battle will feature a diverse mix of contenders this weekend, including Carrera Cup Pro-Am racers Graham Williams and The Bend track founder Sam Shahin, who will both use the weekend as a chance to gain experience at the circuit prior to the Carrera Cup round later in the year.
Shane Barwood, Brett Boulton, Daniel Stutterd, Michael Hovey and local Ben Stack are each expected to be competitive amongst the Pro-Am Class, as will series returnees Michael Loccisano, Marcel Zalloua, Rob Woods and Ross McGregor.
Meanwhile, seven drivers will battle it out for Class B, for the previous model Type 997 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.
2017 Class B champion David Greig returns, though is likely to face strong competition from class rivals, including West Australian Andrew Goldie, Adelaide young-gun Tom Taplin and series regular Phil Morriss. Emanuel Palyaris, Adrian Lengkeek, Richard Bloomfield and Christian Pancione will all be making their GT3 Cup Challenge debuts this weekend.
The Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia will tackle three races across the weekend alongside the opening round of the 2018 Shannons Nationals series at the brand-new 4.9km circuit.
Sunday’s racing will be streamed live on the internet, available from www.thenationals.com.au, with all the action to then be covered on SBS Speedweek in the weeks following the round.
Friday April 13, 2018
10:45am Practice 1 (30 minutes)
1:35pm Practice 2 (30 minutes)
Saturday April 14, 2018
10:00am Qualifying (20 minutes)
3:30pm Race 1 (50 minutes, laps TBC)
Sunday April 15, 2018
9:00am Race 2 (20 minutes, laps TBC)
1:30pm Race 3 (20 minutes, laps TBC)
Entry List: Round 1, The Bend Motorsport Park
1. #2 Dan Day (Pro) Tectaloy UNLMTD Racing
2. #7 Jimmy Vernon (Pro)
3. #10 Michael Loccisano (Pro-Am) Hallmarc
4. #13 Sam Shahin (Pro-Am) The Bend /htfu
5. #17 Marcel Zalloua (Pro-Am) 360 Motorsport/Valmont
6. #21 Shane Barwood (Pro-Am) Melbourne Orthopaedic Group
7. #22 Andrew Goldie (Class B) Woodford Trailers
8. #23 Daniel Stutterd (Pro-Am) The Porsche Broker
9. #26 Tom Taplin (Class B) Taplin Real Estate
10. #29 Rob Woods (Pro-Am) Platinum Night Club Broadbeach
11. #36 Cooper Murray (Pro) Lodge Bros Racing
12. #38 Chelsea Angelo (Pro) PAYCE/Wilson Security
13. #50 Adrian Lengkeek (Class B) Wall Racing/JBA Carpet Court/Feltex Carpets
14. #57 Richard bloomfield (Class B) Okey Dokey
15. #65 Ben Stack (Pro-Am) DNA Racing
16. #73 Michael Hovey (Pro-Am) Triffid Bar & Venue
17. #76 Christian Pancione (Class B) VCM Performance
18. #77 Max Vidau (Pro) Sonic / Bob Jane T Marts
19. #84 Brett Boulton (Pro-Am) Bold Living
20. #87 David Greig (Class B)
21. #88 Phil Morriss (Class B) Morriss Racing Services
22. #91 Emanuel Palyaris (Class B) TBC
23. #96 Simon Fallon (Pro) Sonic Motor Racing
24. #99 Ross McGregor (Pro-Am) Southern Star Windows
25. #131 Graham Williams (Pro-Am) Sonic / Williams Racing
26. #222 Scott Taylor (Pro-Am) Scott Taylor Motorsport
27. #230 Luis Leeds (Pro) OPS Gateway