FRESH from his first ever Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia round victory and celebrating his 18th birthday, Cooper Murray has continued his remarkable form to top practice ahead of the sixth round of the series at The Bend Motorsport Park this weekend.
The Victorian teenager lapped beneath the existing qualifying record at the 4.9km circuit to take his No. 36 Lodge Brothers / McElrea Racing entry to the top of the charts in practice, a flying 1m51.074s lap putting him the fastest across two sessions at the South Australian circuit today.
Murray, who swept all before him in Townsville in July, edged out fellow Porsche Michelin Junior Cameron Hill by 0.1 seconds on combined times from today’s two sessions.
Wall Racing’s PAYCE entry driven by David Wall was third overall on the strength of his practice one-topping time set earlier in the day.
“It felt amazing out there,” Murray said.
“The McElrea team gave me an amazing car and it felt great for a Friday. Now we’ve just got to convert it into tomorrow. Tomorrow is payday with qualifying and race one so we’ll see how we go.”
Adrian Flack was fastest of the TAG Heuer Pro-Am contenders, just 0.1 seconds faster than title contender Liam Talbot on today’s combined times from both sessions.
“We’re certainly happy to be fast in practice, but it’s qualifying the next one we need to be quick in,” Flack said.
“Conditions are very difficult with the wind the way it is, so it’s hard to gauge how quick you can go into some of the corners, but we’re very happy. The car is quite good and we’re looking forward to the rest of the weekend.
“I love this track, I think it’s the best track in Australia by far. It’s quite difficult to pass because of the quite high speeds which we’re not used to doing but I’m looking forward to it and it will be a really good weekend.”
Murray was the fifth winner from five rounds contested to date this season, his early form in practice for Round 6 increasing his chances of becoming the first repeat winner of the season.
Perfect, if windy, conditions greeted the 23-strong field at The Bend with times rapid from the first flying laps of practice one.
The first session was topped by David Wall, the former champion yet to record a victory this season but showing strong early pace.
Cameron Hill was second in the opening 25-minute session, though 0.7 seconds behind Wall’s late flyer.
Dale Wood was third and Warren Luff fourth, while Adrian Flack topped the TAG Heuer Pro-Am contenders and placed sixth outright in the process.
A majority of the fastest times of the day came from the later session as the circuit rubbered in and conditions improved further thanks to bright sunshine and less wind.
Murray’s fastest lap came on his seventh lap – of nine in total – lap while Cameron Hill was second; backing up his performance in the first session in a positive start to his quest to top the Porsche Michelin Junior title standings this weekend.
On combined times Murray ended up fastest by 0.1 seconds with Hill second and Wall third.
Luff was fourth overall in the second McElrea entry while Jordan Love was the fastest of the Sonic quartet in fifth place. A strong run on newer Michelin tyres saw Nick McBride take his Porsche Centre Michelin entry to sixth overall while The Bend’s 2018 winner Michael Almond was seventh.
TAG Heuer Pro-Am contenders Adrian Flack and Liam Talbot were eighth and ninth, respectively and also topped their class while championship leader Dale Wood completed the top-10.
Exactly one second covered the 10 fastest runners in practice, with the first three all lapping beneath the existing practice record at the circuit.
Sam Shahin was third fastest overall in TAG Heuer Pro-Am and 12th outright, while Roger Lago – fresh from his remarkable outright pole position efforts in Townsville last time out, was fourth in class.
Of other notable stories, Brenton Grove’s return to Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia action saw him finish the day in 14th position overall, though well within striking distance of the top-10.
He was four places higher than his father, Stephen, who was 18th and will make his first Carrera Cup start since Phillip Island tomorrow.
Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge frontrunner Brett Boulton was 19th on his Carrera Cup debut with the returning Dave Ryan and Michael Loccisano just behind.
Round 6 of the Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia continues apace tomorrow with qualifying at 10:55am local time to be followed by race one at 2:15pm.