TENSE victories for Callum Hedge and Sam Shahin and one of the greatest comebacks in Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia championship history highlighted a dramatic opening race at the Gold Coast 500 on Saturday afternoon.
In one of the best races in recent Carrera Cup history, Callum Hedge spent much of his race fending off David Russell to claim his second championship race win this season.
Hedge led from lights to flag but was never more than two or three car lengths in front of Russell, who pressured the young New Zealander hard despite damage to his front splitter.
Dale Wood finished third, spending much of his race defending from championship leader Harri Jones.
Interest however lay with Aaron Love, who started the race in 15th position after being denied a flying lap due to a red flag late in qualifying.
With little to lose, the young West Aussie driver was in inspired form and set about scything his way through the field with relentless agression and racecraft.
He made the top 10 by lap two and had climbed to seventh by lap seven when he reached clear air.
He then smashed Nick McBride’s existing circuit lap record on lap nine as he set about chasing the leading group of six cars.
After passing McBride first, he then dispatched Dylan O’Keeffe on lap 14 and Harri Jones on lap 16.
O’Keeffe also passed Jones to relegate the championship leader back to sixth position.
Ultimately, Hedge won the race over Russell and Dale Wood, with Love’s remarkable recovery ending him in fourth place – up 11 spots from where he started.
O’Keeffe was next with Jones in sixth, with McBride, David Wall, Luke Youlden and Ryan Suhle completing the top-10.
In Morris Pro-Am, Sam Shahin claimed a memorable victory to continue his strong track record of recent success on the Gold Coast streets.
He grabbed the lead with a strong start, while Liam Talbot also jumped polesitter Adrian Flack on the opening lap to climb to second.
The trio then spent the remainder of the race locked together in a tense battle, Shahin edging out Talbot and Flack at the line.
Geoff Emery and Dean Cook finished line astern in fourth and fifth position, respectively, as the ongoing battle for the Morris Pro-Am Championship gains intensity in the closing stages of the year.
Provisionally, Harri Jones continues to lead the Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia Championship, by a reduced margin of 64 points over Aaron Love.
It remains one full race victory clear of his nearest rival, with 60 points up for grabs for winning each of Sunday’s two races.
Dylan O’Keeffe remains in third position, now 74 points from the championship lead.
In Morris Pro-Am, Emery now provisionally leads Liam Talbot by 29 points heading into tomorrow’s two races, with Dean Cook third and a further 8 points behind.
Two races conclude the dramatic 2022 Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia Championship tomorrow, including the Jim Richards Endurance Trophy decider on Sunday morning.
Harri Jones holds a narrow 15-point lead over Aaron Love in the Enduro Cup standings, while Liam Talbot leads Sam Shahin by a more comfortable 43 points in the Morris Pro-Am standings.
Callum Hedge, Pro Race 1 winner:
“It was a really good race, I was very nervous on the grid, my ear plug fell off – so I had one in my left and none in the right – so my ears are ringing now and I’m ready for a sleep after this. But really thankful to get the win, just controlled the pace. Every time Dave was a little bit close, I would push a bit harder to get a gap and every time he dropped back, I would slow down and cool the tyres. I managed the gap from there and got the win. In terms of the pressure, I looked in the mirror on one lap and made a mistake, so I stopped looking in the mirror for the last five or six laps, but big thanks to Team Porsche New Zealand and Earl Bamber Motorsport for a great car, hopefully we can do it all again tomorrow.”
Sam Shahin, Morris Pro-Am Race 1 winner:
“There are always mixed emotions coming to the Gold Coast, I had one of my worst races here in 2018 and hurt myself, 2019 was my redemption when I won here… I love this track. Qualifying didn’t go quite to plan but this race was just mega, I got a good start and just had to put my head down and pushed. There’s always a lot of pressure from behind which is always expected with the quality of racing in this Championship, its just unbelievable and so tough. All was going to plan, until we caught up to the four Pros in front of us. There was tyres smoking and cars two wide into every corner so the guys caught up. It got pretty messy for the last four laps. Luckily we kept it together and I just need to keep winning and see what happens to tomorrow.”
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