Young gun Cooper Murray has driven a faultless opening race of the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia season to claim a 20-second victory at the series’ first appearance at The Bend Motorsport Park, while Danny Stutterd and Richard Bloomfield were the class of the Pro-Am and Class B fields.
Murray started second on the grid alongside pole-sitter Simon Fallon though gained the lead soon after the start, just before the safety car was called to the circuit. Murray led on the restart, though was soon challenged by fellow 16-year-old Max Vidau.
The reigning Australian Formula Ford champion, Vidau started ninth after an interrupted qualifying session – both by weather and red flags – and was challenging Murray for the lead before exiting the circuit on lap nine and dropped to sixth. Vidau quickly moved back through the field and ultimately progressed to second following a late battle with Fallon and Luis Leeds, though was unable to challenge Murray, who ultimately won by the impressive margin of 19.8 seconds.
“I’m very happy with that race. I passed Simon at the start and then I wanted to get into a rhythm and not try to burn the tyres out. That’s what we did and came away with the win. I didn’t expect to pull away like I did. I was expecting a hard race for the whole 50 minutes but it didn’t turn out that way,” said Murray.
“The team did a fantastic job throughout the 50-minute race and it’s a fantastic way to start the season.”
Behind Murray and Vidau, fellow Pro drivers Leeds and Fallon placed third and fourth, respectively, following a thrilling battle in the closing laps. Chelsea Angelo and Jimmy Vernon were fifth and sixth for the opening race of the season.
Danny Stutterd and Sam Shahin were the standout Pro-Am performers for race one. Stutterd gained the class lead just after the restart when Brett Boulton was hit by a competitor, allowing Stutterd to establish a lengthy class lead and eventually take the class win. Shahin’s race was very different; starting 20th after failing to post a qualifying time, Shahin charged through the field to place eighth outright and second in class. Michael Hovey placed third in class from Michael Loccisano in fourth.
“It’s good to be back in the series and great to get the class win. Boulton got in front of me and I thought we were going to have a great battle but unfortunately, he got taken out. That cleared the path for me and I saw Shahin coming so I just held the gap. It’s a great track and it was good fun to drive.”
Richard Bloomfield was the best of the Class B drivers; finishing 12th outright and placing ahead of class rivals Phil Morriss, Andrew Goldie and Emanuel Palyaris.
Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge Australia will return on Sunday for two 20-minute races, both of which can be viewed via a live stream on the Shannons Nationals website – www.thenationals.com.au.
Sunday April 15, 2018
9:00am Race 2 (20 minutes, laps TBC)
1:30pm Race 3 (20 minutes, laps TBC)
Results: Race 1
|Position||Car||Driver||Class||Laps||Race time||Fastest lap|
|12||57||Richard Bloomfield||Class B||22||48:36.0754||2:01.4955|
|15||88||Phil Morriss||Class B||21||46:45.9495||2:02.2653|
|16||22||Andrew Goldie||Class B||21||46:48.7178||2:01.5986|
|19||91||Emanuel Palyaris||Class B||21||47:39.4466||2:03.2628|
|20||76||Christian Pancione||Class B||21||48:30.7801||1:59.0009|
|21||26||Tom Taplin||Class B||20||46:53.1903||2:00.1929|
|22||50||Adrian Lengkeek||Class B||20||47:44.1625||2:13.2190|