A motorsport story 270 days in the making will see competitors from Australia’s two top one-make categories return to the circuit this weekend in the inaugural Porsche PAYCE and Michelin Cup.
Nearly nine months to the day that the 2020 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne was cancelled due to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, a combined grid of drivers from the Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia and Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge Australia will this weekend go head-to-head at the historic Sandown International Raceway in Melbourne, Victoria.
The field includes the best and brightest from both classes, as well as several rookies making their respective Porsche racing debuts. The Porsche PAYCE and Michelin Cup will also see two generations of Porsche 991 Cup Cars, being the Gen I and Gen II, go head-to-head for the first time in a dedicated Porsche event in Australia.
It will bring Porsche Motorsport’s 2020 story full circle as an interrupted year is completed with three races at this weekend’s Shannons Motorsport Australia Festival: a pair of 25-minute sprint races on Saturday will be followed by a 45-minute enduro on Sunday in a bid to finish the year in style.
The 18-strong grid will have four trophies up for grabs in both Mobil Pro and Pro-Am classes for both Carrera Cup and Sprint Challenge competitors.
The field, for the first time in history, the Australian Carrera Cup and Sprint Challenge grids have been combined at a Porsche-run event, featuring a broad mix of leading contenders from each category including multiple race winners, championship contenders and several drivers making their Porsche racing debut.
Leading the Carrera Cup charge will be established race winners, Michael Almond and Nick McBride.
The pair each celebrated their 50th Carrera Cup round milestone the last time they raced in Melbourne and share six round and 15 race wins between them.
2019 Sprint Challenge champion Harri Jones and runner-up Aaron Love, a pair of Porsche Michelin Juniors who both stepped up to Carrera Cup this season, will also likely challenge while open-wheel graduate Jackson Walls, the son of former Carrera Cup Pro-Am racer Tony, will make his one-make Porsche debut this weekend for McElrea Racing.
In the Pro-Am ranks, three-time champion Stephen Grove leads the charge to Sandown as the most recent round winner thanks to victory in the only race contested at Albert Park back in March this year.
Regular Pro-Am contender Tim Miles and Porsche Motorsport Australia’s most experienced driver, Marc Cini will also be in the mix.
In fact, the most experienced drivers in both categories will compete this weekend: Cini from Carrera Cup and Ross McGregor from Sprint Challenge. While Cini has 109 Carrera Cup starts to his credit, McGregor last year notched up his 35th Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge round start, the most of any driver in that series’ history.
McGregor is joined by a strong Sprint Challenge contingent that includes young-guns Ryan Suhle and Christian Pancione.
Both Porsche Michelin Junior drivers impressed in the 2019 Sprint Challenge series – finishing fourth and fifth outright – and will be keen to benchmark themselves against former rivals like Harri Jones and Aaron Love who have since stepped up to Carrera Cup machinery.
Meanwhile, talented Formula Ford graduate Courtney Prince will make her one-make Porsche debut this weekend aboard a Sonic Motor Racing-run entry.
The Pro-Am Sprint Challenge contingent is deep. Along with McGregor, who was third in the Pro-Am class championship last year, Michael Loccisano, Matt Belford and Nathan Murray will all compete.
Richard Cowen will make his debut aboard a McElrea Racing entry, while 2019 Sprint Challenge Class B title rivals – champion David Grieg and runner-up Andrew Goldie – will continue their ongoing battle by stepping up to the Pro-Am class this weekend.
Sandown is a staple on the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge calendar though has not featured on the Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia schedule since the 2017 season. The winners of the two most recent rounds from each category – Aaron Love (Sprint Challenge) and Nick McBride (Carrera Cup) each feature on the grid this weekend.
Porsche to celebrate 70 years in Australia in 2021
The Shannons Motorsport Australia Festival will also mark the start of Porsche’s celebrations commemorating 70 years for the German sports car brand in Australia. In addition to the Porsche PAYCE and Michelin Cup, the 944 Challenge racing series will also be in action. Three Sprint events have also scheduled for members of the Porsche Club of Victoria, while a Porsche Taycan pre-production vehicle will also be on-track for a speed comparison demonstration.
ENTRY LIST: PORSCHE PAYCE AND MICHELIN CUP
Car # DRIVER SURNAME CL
2 Richard Cowen PSCA Pro-Am Garage Floor Pro
4 Stephen Grove PCCA Pro-Am Grove Motorsport
5 Nathan Murray PSCA Pro-Am Garage 1
6 Tim Miles PCCA Pro-Am No Second Chance
7 Ryan Suhle PSCA Pro Latitude Coffee
8 Nick McBride PCCA Pro Porsche Centre Melbourne
9 Marc Cini PCCA Pro-Am Hallmarc
10 Michael Loccisano PSCA Pro-Am Hallmarc
11 Jackson Walls PCCA Pro Objective
12 Harrison Jones PCCA Pro Helimods
14 Matthew Belford PSCA Pro-Am ID Land
22 Andrew Goldie PSCA Pro-Am Cirrus Aircraft
32 Courtney Prince PSCA Pro Sonic Motor Racing
76 Christian Pancione PSCA Pro VCM Performance
77 Michael Almond PCCA Pro Sonic Motor Racing
78 Aaron Love PCCA Pro Sonic Motor Racing
87 David Greig PSCA Pro-Am Daikin
99 Ross McGregor PSCA Pro-Am Southern Star Windows P/L
FAST FACTS – PORSCHE PAYCE & MICHELIN CUP / SANDOWN
SPRINT CHALLENGE: Harri Jones (McElrea Racing) 1m10.0670s (2019)
CARRERA CUP: Matt Campbell (McElrea Racing) 1m09.6782s (2016)
SPRINT CHALLENGE: Ryan Suhle (McElrea Racing) 1m09.9552s (2019)
CARRERA CUP: Michael Patrizi (Team BRM) 1m10.5295s (2014)
RECENT ROUND WINNERS:
2019: Aaron Love (Sonic Motor Racing) – Sprint Challenge
2018: Cooper Murray (Ash Seward Motorsport) – Sprint Challenge
2017: Sam Shahin (HTFU) – Sprint Challenge
2017: Nick McBride (Sonic Motor Racing) – Carrera Cup
2016: Ryan Simpson (Sonic Motor Racing) – Sprint Challenge
2016: Alex Davison (Copyworld Racing Team) – Carrera Cup
2015: Nick Foster (Sonic Motor Racing) – Carrera Cup
2015: Ryan Simpson (Sonic Motor Racing) – Sprint Challenge