It had been a pretty manic lead-up to the Porsche 'Rennsport' Motor Racing Festival with us doing 'double duty' at the previous two meetings running cars in the Australian GT and the Porsche Carrera Cup categories at Clipsal and the Australian Grand Prix. At these events MR was running a total of 6 cars - so running eight cars and twelve drivers at Rennsport was always going to be handful!
With the exception of Tim Miles leading the GT3 Cup Challenge 'Elite Class' we were coming off a modest start to our Carrera Cup and GT3 Cup Challenge campaigns so we were very keen to make amends and get the party started. We were the defending champions of the Carrera Cup Pro-Am event after Shane Smollen and Nick Percat claimed the title in 2015 at Phillip Island. In any event, we felt we were well prepared and were quietly confident heading down to Sydney.
Both Matt Campbell and Rennsport 'Challenge' co-driver Geoff Emery qualified on pole in their respective sessions.
In race one David Wall got the better of Matt in the drag race off the start and Matt was forced to follow him for the opening laps. He was patient and waited for an opportunity making a forceful pass on Wall on lap 6 and pulling a large gap before being caught by Shane Van Gisbergen (SVG) near the end of his stint. He pitted and handed over to Geoff who did a great job to catch and pass SVG's team mate Paul Kelly and pull an almost ten second lead which he held onto until the end of the race. For such an intense race it was a strangely 'peaceful' final few laps.
In race two Geoff started and did a phenomenal job to be fast and safe racing against the pros and hand the car over in a very strong position. The MR crew completed a flawless pit-stop changing the right side tyres with Matt doing a clinical job to get into the lead with 20 minutes remaining. After building a huge lead, there was safety car period which created a two lap dash, where he nailed the restart and pulled a 3 second lead for a dominant win.
We can't thank Geoff enough for his contribution to our first ever Carrera Cup Australia Pro-Am clean sweep.
Combined driver qualifying times put Shane and Nick on the front row beside Matt and Geoff. A dream grid for MR!
Nick did a great job in race one to run third most of his stint before handing over to Shane. After a tidy pit-stop, Shane also did a great job to run 6th with an eye on third until being knocked off the track by Sam Walter. Water was penalised after the race but this didn't help our track position... 10th was a very good result considering the challenges.
Although they started a fair way down the grid in race 2 Shane did a great job in his stint positioning the car well for a strong result before handing over to Nick. Nick then made excellent progress and really took advantage of the safety car restart forcing his way from sixth to third in the final two laps while holding off some very determined fellow V8 Supercar drivers.
Second for the weekend was a great result, without being punted off in Saturdays race his could have been first in Challenge and second outright.
James started race 1 and produced one of his best drives since joining Carrera Cup by progressing from 19th on the grid to 11th by the end of his stint. He handed over to MR team-mate AGT driver Tony Walls who was knocked off the road by some overly aggressive Pro drivers and they were fortunate to finish the race.
Tony and James were disappointed with the result as it would have been allot better without some of the unnecessarily forceful racing in the mid-pack.
In race two Wallsy started and did a solid job before handing over to James. Due to a tyre shortage from some flat-spotted tyres in qualifying the crew had to save tyres fitting 4 fresh tyres in the final pit-stop so James had his best shot in the final stint. James was making outstanding progress until a miss communication with a slower driver sent him into the wall on the exit to turn three about 10 minutes from the end of the race.
The history books will record an underwhelming result for car 54 at Rennsport, but the truth is that James had his fastest and best Carrera Cup race on Saturday and some very tough luck on Sunday. This is a tough game and James is learning fast.
Duvashen started the race and drove a great race to progress from 10th to 8th getting as high as 5th on the road during a very spirited stint. Roger took over and drove well, but was the victim of a tyre shortage caused by 4 of the allowed 12 being damaged in qualifying and he didn't get any fresh tyres at his pit-stop.
In race two Roger started and raced through the field with Wallsy until handing over to Duvashen around the 27 minute mark. After making solid progress under the green flag conditions, Duvashen's engineer Hayden gave him a tune-up under the safety car and he did a brilliant job to cut through the traffic passing 6 cars launching them from 14th to eighth outright in the last two laps.
At the beginning of the year we expected it to take two or three rounds for DP to get used to our set up and the crew before starting to get some serious results. Things are going to plan and we are very happy with his progress.
After being very quick in Friday practice Tim qualified an uncharacteristic 4th after not getting the most out of his slicks on a drying track. In race 1 he had an even more uncharacteristic bad start dropping a few spots on the run to turn 1. He wasn't happy with the handling balance of the car so did well to salvage 5th.
In race two Tim started 8th and he was much happier with the balance of his car and had one of his usual blinder starts to make a few spots then he spent the rest of the race chasing down Pro team-mate Jake Klarich, to finish 1st in Elite and 4th outright.
In race three his start was 'a little too good' earning him a five second penalty. With his demon start, he lead Jake until lap 7. We were constantly on the radio keeping him posted with the gap back to David Ryan behind to secure him his second 1st place finish for the weekend which he achieved by 1/10th second!
Tim is putting together a great championship run by being consistently fast and when there are challenges he salvages the best result he can.
Jaxon had a perfect start to the weekend by qualifying on pole outright by over 4/10ths of a second. In race 1 he got a cracking start to lead the field into turn one and after a very focused and determined drive Jaxon won by over 12 seconds, reminiscent of Matt Campbell's breakthrough weekend in GT3 Cup Challenge in 2014.
In race two although a recent rain shower left the pole side of the track more damp than the right side of the track Jaxon got a cracker start and lead the field from start to finish. It was a dominant display.
Despite his great performances in races one and two, he produced his smartest and most aggressively measured performance since progressing from karts to cars a little over a year ago. He just undercooked his start and dropped to second then stalked and pressured then finally passed Hardemann after 22 of the 24 lap final race.
This weekend was pivotal in Jaxon's career where he fixed his starts and drove with increased hunger and control to win three from three.
Like Jaxon, Jake had a career best GT3CC race in race 1 at SMP. He qualified and raced 3rd. While he had a rather lonely race 1, he worked on a few elements of his driving style which was very productive and he was chuffed with his result.
For race two we made some minor adjustments to his car to suit his driving style which helped his problem but created another so it was a case of doing the best he could with the handling of the car. He had a quiet race with the exception of Elite team mate Tim Miles relentlessly closing in over the final laps of the race.
In race three his far more experienced team mate Tim got the jump and led for six laps until Jake made a decisive move on him at turn 6 but was too far from Jaxon and Hamish to mount a challenge.
It was great to have Jake's Mum and Dad join us at Rennsport to see him produce a tremendous performance in his second race weekend in the Porsche. It's fair to say his progress is very good.
Despite missing the first round at Sandown Jim got up to speed brilliantly in Friday practice and backed it up by qualifying 6th from 14 Elite Class drivers. In race he 1 he got off the line well but was the unfortunate victim when another driver lost control directly in front of him and damaged his radiators forcing his first ever DNF in 18 GT3 Cup Challenge races.
In race two Jim got a good start from grid 15 and made the most of it. He then proceeded to carve through the traffic against more experienced drivers to drive up to 5th in class and 8th outright!
In race three Jim started 8th and made another place off the start then went about the business of chasing down Gilbertson and was ready to make the move when his gearbox failed sending him to the pits for a very unfair DNF.
Jim is a fantastic team player and a pleasure to have in the team. On paper he had his worst GT3CC weekend since starting last year, but the reality is his growth and improvement is outstanding and he will be a pain in Tim's butt before too long!
Well what can we say? It's every teams wildest dream to go to a race weekend, qualify on pole and win every race you enter. Quite delusional really... Well that is exactly what happened for us!
It was all the more flattering being the outstanding bi-annual Rennsport 'Porsche only' race weekend and motorsport event after the long and enjoyable relationship MR has had with Porsche Cars Australia.
Many thanks to our Carrera Cup co-drivers Roger Lago, Tony Walls, Nick Percat and Geoff Emery as well as the parents, sponsors and supporters of all of our regular drivers.
And finally, many thanks to the AMRC (awesome MR crew) who know how to work hard and play hard... That's how we roll.