Sunshine and warm track temperatures greeted teams as they ventured onto the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the opening round of the 2021 Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge season.
As expected McElrea Racing’s Ryan Suhle topped the timesheets in both the Friday practice sessions. Suhle’s advantage over the chasing Mobil Pro field in the day’s final qualifying session was 0.4secs, in a dominant display from the Michelin Junior driver.
Just behind Suhle was a trio of newcomers to the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge Mobil Pro class including Bayley Hall (McElrea Racing), Callum Hedge (Porsche Team New Zealand) and Courtney Prince (Sonic Motor Racing), who all improved and impressed throughout the days sessions.
“It was good to take poll on that last lap and come across the line in a good position for tomorrow’s race. After the break last year, it was great to have a strong result and some seat time in Sandown last December. That race really helped today, as any time in the car counts and was good preparation for this year” Suhle said.
“2021 is going to be a really competitive season, as it always is in Sprint Challenge. But that’s what you want in a series and a good line-up of drivers is great for the whole series.”
Sam Shahin looks to have started this season where he left off in 2019. The reigning Morris Finance Pro-Am Champion, dominated all three Friday sessions in his brightly liveried HTFU Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, prepared by Buick Motorsport. The South Australian was kept honest throughout the day by a hard charging Sergio Pires and former Class B front runner, David Greig.
After qualifying, Shahin, who celebrates his 100th start in the series in Sunday’s final race, was very happy with his performance after a massive accident sidelined The Bend Motorsport Park CEO in the Bathurst 12-hour a year ago,
Shahin enthused, “I’m very thrilled on so many fronts. I can’t believe I’m in a race car to start with and everyone in the Pro-Am class is fast this year. All the drivers here went out of the gate very fast this morning, but that is what it should be.”
“This is a track that rewards bravery and commitment. Everyone has done exceptionally well and it’s great that there were no incidents throughout the day,” Shahin concluded.
Saturday sees two sprint races taking place in what looks to be a very wet weekend according to the weather forecast. The Michelin wet tyres are likely to be working to their optimum with between 5 to 10mm predicted for tomorrow. Race 1 gets underway at 10:30 AEDT, followed by the second sprint race at 15:05 AEDT. Both races will be broadcast live via the 7plus app.
Full results: https://www.porschesprintchallenge.com.au/results/