McElrea Racing top the timesheets in Pro and Pro-Am Porsche finale
Ryan Suhle has saved his best to last in qualifying for the final round of the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge, taking his first pole position of the season today in the Grand Finale’ at The Bend Motorsport Park.
His teammate Brett Boulton made it a double delight for McElrea Racing, taking pole position in TAG Heuer Pro-Am as he attempts to overhaul local favourite Sam Shahin for the class championship.
In the dying laps of the 20-minute qualifying session, Suhle’s second-set of Michelin tyres worked superbly as his 1m50.9918s flying lap jumped him to the top of the charts on his penultimate lap of the session.
His lap was 0.2 seconds faster than the next best, Sonic Racing’s Aaron Love, and was so fast that it would have placed him fifth outright on the grid for the recent Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Australia round at The Bend.
After having already scored a pair of front-row starts this year, a breakthrough pole position came as a relief to the open-wheel graduate
“For me, it’s awesome to come out and do the job. We haven’t really shown our pace this year. We’ve been really fast but I’ve just made a few mistakes which means we’re not where we should be in the championship, in my opinion,” he said.
“I’ve never run here on new tyres. The first set I didn’t maximise the grip but the second set I put the lap time in and it was really good.”
Suhle said he was taking a measured approach to the final round off an often challenging season, as he looks ahead to a title tilt in 2020.
“I think this year I’ve tried to get involved a little bit too much which has meant I’ve had a few DNFs along the way, which has hurt my championship, so I’m trying to dial it down, get some good points and get some practice at that sort of mentality for next year – because next year I want to win the championship.”
Love was second, two spots ahead of championship leader and nearest title rival Harri Jones.
The pair were split by the second Sonic entry of local hero, Max Vidau, who qualified third.
Jones carries a 92-point lead into the final round of the season and while fourth place may not have been an ideal result for the title leader, it’s the third time this year the Queenslander will have started from that grid position.
Jones still retains a perfect podium finishing record this season with a series of solid top four results likely enough to see him crowned champion tomorrow.
Christian Pancione was fifth, less than a second from pole, while fellow Michelin Junior Tom Taplin qualified sixth.
In just his second-ever Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge round, Oliver Shannon qualified seventh and will start alongside TAG Heuer Pro-Am polesitter Brett Boulton.
Boulton trails class leader Sam Shahin by 76 points heading into tomorrow’s three races: his chances aided by The Bend Motorsport Park entry of Sam Shahin completing just one lap in qualifying after the car spun a belt on his out-lap.
As a result, Shahin will start race one from 16th position while Boulton’s hopes for a come-from-behind victory gained momentum.
“It’s going to be massive – I need a good sleep tonight,” Boulton said.
“I got a bit lucky because he had a few dramas, but you never know in this business so we’re going to come out all guns blazing tomorrow and see how we go.
“It’s unreal, it’s definitely a drivers track and perfect for these cars. I’ve had a fair few offs here trying to find the limit but it’s great fun, awesome.”
Andrew Goldie, who trails class leader David Grieg by just 18 points in the Class B battle, qualified on pole in his category and also an outstanding ninth outright – Grieg two places back in 11th.
Matt Belford rounded out the top 10 with second in TAG Heuer Pro-Am, one of the best performances of his season.
Ross McGregor – celebrating a record-breaking 35th GT3 Cup Challenge round this weekend – was 12th while Graham Williams, Rob Woods, Michael Loccisano, Shahin, Nathan Murray, Marty Ewer, Jonathan Glicksten and Tony Martin completed the field.
The three final races of the 2019 Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge series will be held tomorrow (Saturday) at The Bend Motorsport Park; all three to be streamed live via thenationals.com.au.
For more race information throughout the weekend, follow the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge social pages: Instagram – @CupChallengeAus / Twitter – @CupChallengeAus / Facebook.com/CupChallengeAus
Schedule – Round 6, The Bend
Saturday, 16 November
09:00-09:20 Race 1
11:45-12:05 Race 2
15:40-16:00 Race 3
TV Broadcast details
All three races will be streamed live via www.thenationals.com.au website