HE MIGHT have been a late call-up for a return to the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia championship, but Aaron Love still delivered to take his maiden TAG Heuer Pole Position award at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.
Love, driving a Bob Jane T-Marts entry for Sonic Motor Racing, topped a shortened qualifying session today in Melbourne with a 1m 49.3236s flyer to lead Max Vidau and Luke Youlden to the start of the brand-new season.
Returning former Morris Finance Pro-Am champion Liam Talbot topped the runners in Morris Finance Pro-Am ahead of Geoff Emery and Stephen Grove.
The session was contested under blue skies and in warm conditions at Albert Park, times tumbling quickly throughout as teams and drivers continued to adapt to the new circuit and surface.
31 cars were on track making for a busy circuit as teams rushed through a brief practice session prior to qualifying to set the grid for the season opener.
West Aussie-based Love, who will move to Europe following the Grand Prix to chase an international racing career, topped the order as several drivers peeled into pit lane to prepare for a final run – only for the red flag to fly when Christian Pancione crashed his VCM performance car at turn five, with five minutes remaining in the session.
With a repair to the circuits barriers required, the session was not restarted leaving Love on pole position for the first time in his Carrera Cup career.
His lap time was more than seven seconds quicker than the previous Albert Park best thanks to the revised layout and new surface, coming at an average speed of over 174 km/hr.
Max Vidau was second – his best ever Carrera Cup qualifying performance – while hometown hero Nick McBride qualified third to continue his strong track record of performing well at Albert Park.
Luke Youlden qualified fourth, completing a strong day for TekworX Motorsport with two cars in the top four, while Christian Pancione was fifth despite bringing out the red flag. Jackson Walls, Ryan Suhle, Angelo Mouzouris and Brad Shiels completing the top 10.
The latter three are all making their respective Carrera Cup debuts this weekend, while five of the top 10 in qualifying have less than 10 rounds of experience pointing to the massive influx of new talent within the field this year.
Liam Talbot celebrated his return to Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia by scoring pole position in Morris Finance Pro-Am, qualifying 18th overall in his Wall Racing-prepared entry.
Sporting a stunning ‘art car’ livery, Talbot topped a remarkably competitive Pro-Am field at Albert Park.
Multiple champion Stephen Grove qualified second in class with Matt Belford qualifying third on his debut in the championship.
The biggest loser of the qualifying red flag was reigning Morris Finance Pro-Am champion Sam Shahin, who failed to complete a flying lap and ended up 30th overall after suffering mechanical issues aboard his The Bend-backed entry.
Earlier, the sole practice session earlier in the day was topped by Luke Youlden, who ended the 20-minute session 0.3 seconds faster than New Zealander, Callum Hedge.
Dale Wood was third with Ryan Suhle completing a strong session for the Earl Bamber Motorsport squad in fourth. Max Vidau completed a strong session for TekworkX motorsport in fifth, with Nick McBride, Brad Shiels, Aaron Love and Harri Jones completing the top-10.
Defending champion Sam Shahin was fastest in Morris Finance Pro-Am in practice ahead of Stephen Grove and Geoff Emery.
The Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia championship season proper launches tomorrow with race one at 11:00am and race two at 5:15pm.
Aaron Love – Pole position, Pro class
“Getting pole is a great way to spend my flying visit here to Melbourne,” Love said.
“It’s so great to come back and have all the support from the team, especially Rod with Bob Jane T-Marts on the car,. The effort from the team after Practice 1 made it great to get back out there and have an unreal car to drive around. There is no better place to get my first pole position in Carrera Cup, so I’m feeling great.
“The track is quite a bit of fun now and down the back is so much faster, and it definitely suits these cars better than the old track because you can really use that aero grip for racing especially with the big draft down the back. I can’t wait to get racing.”
Liam Talbot – Pole Position, Morris Finance Pro-Am
“It was an eerily smooth session and nothing really to report, except obviously the track is still lacking any sort of grip which make the car a little loose in the rear, but they are really first world problems,” Talbot said.
“We just got a pole position in the first round which is a great way to start the year.”