NEW ZEALAND teenager Marco Giltrap has launched his Australian career in style, claiming victory in the opening round of the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge Australia Series at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit.
The Team Porsche NZ / EBM driver won two of Sunday’s three races to take the round overall in a thrilling weekend of competition to kick off the new one-make Porsche season in Australia.
Sam Shahin claimed victory over Brett Boulton and Matt Slavin in Pro-Am, while Lachlan Harburg won Class B to kick off his title defence.
Giltrap’s path to victory came via a consistent day that saw him leap from fourth to win in the first 10-lap sprint race of the year.
He then finished second in the second sprint, behind first-time race winner Aron Shields, to set up a race-three tiebreaker in the 25-lap Jim Richards Enduro opener on Sunday afternoon.
His path to victory was less than clear, however, gaining the lead – then losing it in a hesitation with lapped traffic – before re-passing Harrison Goodman to take the lead and pull away to victory.
It ensured he won the round over Shields and Goodman, who completed the podium.
“I’ve finished with the round win and a couple of race wins – can’t get a much better stuff than that,” Giltrap said.
“We’re pretty sure we had some pretty good pace coming into the weekend. There’s still some room for improvement as always, but that third race was pretty hectic. I mean, it was a long one.
“There’s a bit of tyre conservation and then the traffic got involved and we sort of slipped back to second.
“Ultimately, we knew we had the pace towards the end of the race and we kept strong and ultimately, we came on top.”
Sam Shahin swept the weekend in the Pro-Am class, winning all three races.
Brett Boulton kicked off his title defence with a solid second overall while Matt Slavin scored his second podium finish, scoring third overall for the weekend.
Lachy Harburg was similarly unbeaten in Class B, sweeping all three wins to take the round over Brayden Taylor and Phil Morris.
All three races were thrilling affairs setting the tone for a competitive Sprint Challenge season ahead.
In race one, a flying start saw Giltrap leap to the lead from fourth of the grid, pulling away from a furious fight for second position to claim his debut victory in his first one-make Porsche race.
Aron Shields spent much of his race in a pitched battle for second position with Lachlan Bloxsom, the pair battling until the former slipped through with a few laps remaining to secure second.
That left Bloxsom in third heading a train comprised of Harrison Goodman, Ronan Murphy, Zak Stichbury and Pro-Am winner, Sam Shahin.
Stichbury had challenged for a top-three spot on the last lap before he ran wide at Siberia, surrendering two spots.
Tom Taplin, Brett Boulton and Tom McLennan completed the top-10, while Lachy Harburg claimed Class B.
In race two, the start was again critical as Shields launched into the lead from second position, pulling away from Marco Giltrap to claim a strong win – his first in PMSC competition.
It was also the first race win for TekworkX Motorsport in the series.
Harrison Goodman finished a stout third following a combative drive, while Lachlan Bloxsom crossed the line in fourth – however was later penalised two positions for a breech of driving standards regulations.
That elevated Stichbury to fourth and Murphy to fifth, with Shahin (Pro-Am) and Harburg (Class B) again triumphing.
The Jim Richards Enduro season opener was a wild one, with a battle of tyre conservation seeing drivers rise and fall dramatically throughout the leaderboard.
Marcos Flack was one who charged through the field, running as high as second before he fell close to the finish – Tom Taplin another to star before failing to finish.
Giltrap claimed the lead early but lost it negotiating traffic, Harrison Goodman assuming point for several laps as the pair battled before the young Kiwi re-took the lead.
Ronan Murphy was a big winner – storming past both Flack and Goodman, his two Sonic teammates, to score a personal-best second in the feature race.
Zac Stichbury stormed through to fourth while Hamish Fitzsimmons was fifth, from well outside the top-10.
Sam Shahin ran with the Pro drivers en-route to the Pro-Am class victory, Brett Boulton second in class.
The next round of the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge Australia Series will see the field head to Queensland Raceway for Round 2, racing alongside the Australian Superbike Championship on April 28-30.