AARON LOVE has dominated the opening Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia Championship race at The Bend Motorsport Park, leading from lights-to-flag to win by the biggest margin of the 2022 season to date.
The Sonic Motor Racing driver launched away from pole and led every lap to claim his fourth win of the 2022 season, winning by 5.7 seconds over Dylan O’Keeffe and Callum Hedge.
Liam Talbot claimed victory in the Morris Pro Am class, winning over Adrian Flack and Geoff Emery, while early contender Sam Shahin struck dramas not far from the finish having earlier battled for the lead.
Love led the 29-strong field into turn one, while there was drama behind as title contender David Wall and Max Vidau made contact at turn two – both cars ending up off the road and off the circuit. The incident is being investigated post-race, with Vidau ultimately finishing 16th and Wall 18th.
That elevated Callum Hedge to third, the Earl Bamber Motorsport driver spending the remainder of the race chasing Dylan O’Keeffe in a close battle for second.
David Russell followed them home in fourth with Christian Pancione finishing fifth and Luke Youlden sixth.
Championship leader Harri Jones started ninth but gained two spots to finish seventh, taking maximum advantage of his nearest title rival Wall finishing further down the order.
Ryan Suhle, Jackson Walls and Dale Wood completed the top-10, the latter having worked his way through a furious four-car battle that included Brad Shiels, Bayley Hall and Simon Fallon.
The latter had led the group for much of the race but a damage front splitter slowed his Sonic entry, setting up the furious fight that at one point had cars three abreast heading downhill through the high-speed Turn 7.
The battle in Morris Pro-Am was for much of the race battled between Liam Talbot and Sam Shahin, the pair swapping the lead in class after a tense battle in the race’s early laps.
They looked to finish that way before a reported off at turn 14 late in the race dropped Shahin down the order.
That elevated Adrian Flack to second in class, having passed championship leader Geoff Emery for position with a strong move at turn one late in the race.
Emery was third with Dean Cook and Matt Belford completing the top five.
Harri Jones provisionally leads the championship by 55 points heading into tomorrow morning’s 20-lap enduro cup race, with Wall second and O’Keeffe third. Emery continues to hold sway in the Morris Pro-Am title race.
Two races complete the fifth round of the championship on Sunday at the OTR SuperSprint at The Bend Motorsport Park.
Aaron Love, Race 1 winner, Pro
“It’s nice to convert it from putting it on pole, we had a fairly smooth race and we got a good start. I managed to get a bit of a gap and then just maintain it. We have a little bit of work to do with the car as always, but we’ll just fine tune it, there’s nothing too wrong with it, so we’ll regroup and go again tomorrow, fingers crossed.”
Liam Talbot, Race 1 winner, Morris Pro-Am
“Stoked with that, race wins are hard to get, so great to start the weekend with pole and a race win, it was very satisfying. It was a bit hard with the circuit owner behind me. Sam was putting a bit of pressure on, but we weathered the storm and are looking forward to race 2. The Pro-Am battle is fascinating this year, you never really know who is going to be stronger and be weaker, practice doesn’t mean anything, but qualifying is where it counts and the race means something else completely. But it’s all fun, exciting, edge-of-your-seat for us drivers.”
LOVE, TALBOT SEAR TO TAG HEUER POLE AWARDS IN RECORD PACE
EARLIER in qualifying, Aaron Love and Liam Talbot (Morris Pro-Am) became the first repeat pole winners of the 2022 season as they charged to the top spot in a compelling 20-minute session.
The pair, who were both on pole in their respective classes at the Australian Grand Prix season opener in April, topped an intense session where cold track conditions and blustery wind made conditions extremely challenging.
Love’s best lap came late in the session and on his second set of new Michelin tyres.
He edged out Dylan O’Keeffe by 0.1 seconds for his second career TAG Heuer Pole Award, with David Wall close behind in third.
While not as quick as his Friday flyer, Love’s 1m50.1212s best stands as a qualifying record for Carrera Cup at The Bend.
Callum Hedge lost his final lap to traffic and had to settle for fourth, while Christian Pancione continued his strong recent form in fifth.
David Russell, Max Vidau, Luke Youlden, championship leader Harri Jones and Ryan Suhle completed the top-10.
Talbot jumped to Morris Pro-Am pole on his final flyer to edge out Geoff Emery by under one-tenth.
Adrian Flack was third while Sam Shahin showed his frustration after qualifying fourth.
TAG Heuer Pole Position, Pro, Aaron Love:
“It’s a really nice feeling to get a good result, especially after Townsville. I made it hard for myself as I usually do, but we’ll get over that and put our heads down for the race. It was relatively good with the traffic, just because the track is so long here you get clean space which we managed to do that, but it was definitely tough out there as the wind has been quite strong, there’s corners that it helps you with, which you’ve got to take advantage of, but it really makes it hard to read and maximise the car. It will be great to convert the pole, but for sure it will be a tough race, we’ll go back debrief and get our heads down for the race.”
TAG Heuer Pole Position, Morris Pro-Am, Liam Talbot:
“Fantastic to get pole position, had to dig deep as the tyres were going off, we committed to one set of tyres and we had big moments through (turns) 8 and 9 almost going off, but somehow got through it only to get held up by Dale Wood, so that was a bit of a shame in the last corner after doing all that hard work. To get back up again on the last lap though, was very satisfying and I want to say a big thanks to the Wall Racing team. It was hard to manage the temperatures with the tyres, a one set strategy worked for us but you had to commit to it and you couldn’t be 50/50, but in the end it worked out well.”