Competitive drivers in equal machinery doing battle always results in some intense and unpredictable motorsport that takes place at a high level of competition and performance. And then there’s the 2021 Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia, which could elevate the cause even further.
When the field rolls out at Sandown International Raceway in South East Melbourne for the first round of the new season, it will have been 53 weeks, almost to the day, that Australia’s pinnacle of one-make racing series last went into battle at the ill-fated Australian Grand Prix.
Since that time, teams have plotted, planned and prepared for a racing return and have subsequently delivered what is – and you’ll struggle to argue against this point – perhaps the strongest field in the 17-year history of Carrera Cup Australia.
At least on paper, no season between Australian motorsport legend Jim Richards claiming the inaugural crown in 2003 to Jordan Love dramatically outplaying his then-teammate Dale Wood on the Gold Coast in 2019, has delivered this kind of potential.
It’s not just the twelve months away from the track: The strongest ever Mobil Pro class is matched with a feisty, deep Morris Finance Pro-Am battle and a bumper grid of 24 cars – that could grow as the year goes on – that leaves us with an enormous amount of anticipation for the year ahead.
It’s set to be a suitable farewell from the premier class to the Gen-II 991 GT3 Cup Car, which has served the championship so well for the last four years.
Mobil Pro – the incredible outright battle
This year 14 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars make-up the Mobil Pro Class of the 2021 Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia series, which is larger than entire field of some other categories.
It’s not just the number that makes the class so good, either – it’s the broad spectrum of drivers hailing from diverse backgrounds and with broad levels of experience and prior success that make it so tantalizing.
Sure, there’s 16 round victories, 51 race wins and 25 Carrera Cup pole positions between the lot – but there’s also eight Bathurst 1000s, more than 120 Supercars victories, 12-hour victories and that’s before you get to the Michelin Junior fleet.
We’ll start with the rookies: 2021 Toyota Racing Series champion Matthew Payne fronts as the recipient of the Porsche New Zealand scholarship, and will race for Team Porsche New Zealand under the guidance of the Earl Bamber Motorsport team this year.
In the rookie class, he’s joined by Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge graduate Christian Pancione, who will dovetail a title tilt in the second-tier series with a five-round Carrera Cup Australia campaign this year.
He’ll be joined by another PMSC graduate in former champion Simon Fallon; who makes a racing return after two years on the sidelines following his 2018 championship triumph in that series. The man he beat that year was Cooper Murray.
Fallon is back in one of the Bob Jane T-Marts entries run by the championship-winning Sonic Motor Racing team.
Queensland teen Jackson Walls joins the fray this year, switching from open-wheel racing to tin-tops and returning the Objective Racing brand to the series – his dad, Tony, was a Morris Finance Pro-Am class contender for several seasons.
The next group of drivers will consider themselves title contenders: Harri Jones (McElrea) and Aaron Love (Sonic) both stepped up from Sprint Challenge in 2020 but instantly proved themselves competitive. Cooper Murray is well proven as a winner across 2019 and the shortened 2020 campaign and though it’s hard to pick a title favourite, he and the McElrea team are arguably the form outfit.
Cameron Hill, meanwhile, has elevated his Canberra-based privateer squad into regular contenders across the last two seasons and won the most recent Carrera Cup points race contested, last year in Melbourne.
Both with 50 rounds of experience in their backgrounds, Nick McBride (Porsche Centre Melbourne) and Michael Almond (Sonic Motor Racing) are always at or very near the pointy-end of the field, while a change of scenery for Dale Wood – who shifts from Sonic to Ashley Seward Motorsport this year – might see fortunes changing for the Victorian; who in two seasons has always been a title contender but has been denied on both occasions.
David Russell is a proven winner and returns to share the Lago Racing #23 entry with Roger Lago this year, while Luke Youlden is an experienced and fascinating addition to the grid on a full-time basis as part of the brand-new TekworX Motorsport squad he’s helped established with Sprint Challenge racer, Rob Woods.
David Wall is the only former champion on the grid, however the Sydneysiders ability to continue to contend year in, year out remains one of the great Carrera Cup stories.
Wall’s Paynter Dixon teammate is none other than multiple Bathurst 1000 winner, Craig Lowndes, who will drive a second Wall Racing entry in at least the first two rounds of the 2021 series. Lowndes made his Carrera Cup Australia debut at the Grand Prix last year and was keen to return for a more expansive tilt and if it goes even half as well as his remarkable track record suggests it could, do not bet on there being more rounds added to the program as the season goes on.
Within the Mobil Pro class fight, watch for the Michelin Juniors to have their own inter-series battle: Walls, Jones, Payne, Murray, Pancione, Love, Hill and Fallon will all be battling for the Junior trophy, which comes with significant support from series tyre partner and long-time supporter, Michelin.
Morris Finance Pro-Am – class war with outright designs
Two very fast newcomers with proven track records could upset the establishment as the Morris Finance Pro-Am class battle steps up another notch in 2021.
The addition of Geoff Emery and Ben Stack to the grid add even more depth to an already competitive fight brewing between a group of ultra-competitive drivers who as well as fighting for their own trophies, love nothing more than mixing it up with the Mobil Pro competitors and, on more than one occasion, beating them as well.
Emery is perhaps the most qualified Pro-Am ‘Rookie’ in series history; a five-time Commodore Cup champion, he’s also been at the front in Michelin Sprint Challenge races, has won Australian GT Championships and, simply, been fast in everything he’s raced.
Emery will line up in a Force Accessories-backed car run by Ashley Seward’s Melbourne team.
Ben Stack, another second-generation driver, originally from Adelaide, is another to have proved his performance potential in other categories in the past. He’ll line up aboard a GT3 Cup Car entered by Duttons EMA Motorsport this year.
Beyond the rookies, the remaining contenders are all battle-hardened in the art of winning Morris Finance Pro-Am races. Three-time class champion Stephen Grove will be out to make it a record-breaking fourth this year, as he splits Carrera Cup duties with GT World Challenge Astralia hopes aboard the brand-new Grove Racing 911 GT3R. The Grove Group driver won’t be short on seat time in 2021.
Tim Miles returns for another tilt with McElrea Racing with three round and eight race victories to his credit, while Adrian Flack and Sam Shahin are both multiple race and round winners; between them they split the last two rounds of the 2019 season, while Shahin recently grabbed a podium in the opening round of Michelin Sprint Challenge as he embarks on duel campaigns this year.
Porsche Carrera Cup Australia’s most experienced driver, Marc Cini, returns aboard the Hallmarc / Porsche Centre Melbourne #9 car, the Victorian now well into his second century of round starts. Scott Taylor (STM) and Rentcorp Racing’s Indiran Padayachee will also continue to show their improvement as they each return for another year.
ENTRY LIST: Round 1, Sandown
CAR # Name Surname SPONSOR NAME CLASS
4 Stephen Grove Grove Group Morris Finance Pro-Am
7 Tim Miles No Second Chance Morris Finance Pro-Am
8 Nick McBride Porsche Centre Melbourne Mobil Pro
9 Marc Cini Hallmarc Morris Finance Pro-Am
11 Jackson Walls Objective Racing Mobil Pro
12 Harri Jones Helimods Mobil Pro
13 Sam Shahin The Bend Motorsport Park/HTFU Morris Finance Pro-Am
20 Adrian Flack AGAS National Morris Finance Pro-Am
21 Matthew Payne Team Porsche New Zealand Mobil Pro
23 David Russell Lago Racing Mobil Pro
28 Luke Youlden TekworkX Motorsport Mobil Pro
35 Indiran Padayachee RentCorp Hyundai Forklifts Morris Finance Pro-Am
36 Cooper Murray Lodge Brothers Mobil Pro
38 David Wall Paynter Dixon / Shannons insurance Mobil Pro
48 Geoff Emery Force Accessories Morris Finance Pro-Am
74 Ben Stack Duttons EMA Motorsport Morris Finance Pro-Am
76 Christian Pancione VCM Performance Mobil Pro
77 Michael Almond Sonic / Bob Jane T Marts / PSA Mobil Pro
78 Aaron Love Sonic Mobil Pro
100 Dale Wood Timken / ASM Mobil Pro
111 Cameron Hill CHE Racing Team Mobil Pro
222 Scott Taylor Scott Taylor Motorsport Morris Finance Pro-Am
338 Craig Lowndes Paynter Dixon / Shannons Mobil Pro
777 Simon Fallon Sonic / Bob Jane T-Marts Mobil Pro
2021 CALENDAR: Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia
Round Event State Date
1 Sandown VIC 19-21 March
2 The Bend SA 8-9 May
3 Townsville QLD 9-11 July
4 Sydney Night NSW 20-22 Aug
5 Perth Night WA 11-12 Sept
6 Bathurst NSW 7-10 Oct
7 Melbourne VIC TBC
8 Gold Coast QLD 3-5 Dec