Vidau takes Race 1 victory in Queensland, while Jones wins Race 2
The battle at the sharp end of the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge field has never been tighter between the categories leading teams and drivers, with lap times thus far being the fastest ever recorded at the Queensland Raceway for this generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
While McElrea Racing drivers Harri Jones and Ryan Suhle topped the Friday practice sessions, it was the turn of Christian Pancione from Ashley Seward Motorsport (ASM) to set the pace in qualifying on Saturday morning.
After a strong performance behind the McElrea pairing the previous day, Pancione set the early pace in Saturday’s qualifying and gradually got quicker through the morning session. After the trio of leading Michelin Juniors all pitted for fresh tyres with 5 minutes remaining, Pancione would emerge to post the fastest time of the weekend, narrowly edging out Ryan Suhle for pole position by a mere 0.040secs. Harri Jones and Max Vidau meanwhile would qualify in third and fourth respectively.
After the session, Pancione credited the pole position to the work of his ASM team, “Overnight the team and I went through the data and we saw where I could improve. The team did an amazing job with the car and I can’t thank the ASM guys enough.”
After a disappointing Phillip Island Round, Pancione also underwent development work with Paul Morris at his Norwell Motorplex in Queensland and together with the ASM team, looks to have found some good form at the mid-point of the 2019 season.
Brett Boulton would continue to set the pace in TAG Heuer Pro-Am class, as he had done all weekend, taking pole position ahead of Sam Shahin and Michael Hovey. Andrew Goldie would continue his season-long tussle with David Greig in Class B, out-qualifying the Victorian by just under 0.4secs.
The West Australian also credited the ASM team to his improved performance this season, “The biggest difference from last year, is that this year we are running with Ash Seward Motorsport. As privateers, we didn’t have access to data previously, but the coaching and assistance I’ve received from Ash this year, has really made all the difference with me going faster.”
But as the red lights went out for the start of Race 1, so too did the hopes of the ASM teammates. Both Pancione and Suhle got jumped off the line by the Bob Jane T-Marts entry of Max Vidau. The Sonic Racing driver drove from fourth to first around the outside of Turn 1, with Harri Jones slotting into second and Pancione into third.
Under braking for Turn 3 Ryan Suhle was squeezed to the outside and made contact back of Pancione. The incident bent the young Queenslander’s steering rack and forced him into early retirement, unravelling all the hard work he had put in the previous day.
At the front of the field, Vidau was making the best job of leading pack on his Michelin tyres, and the leading trio soon pulled a 4.5sec gap on Cameron Crick in P4.
Tony Martin would then spin under breaking into the final corner. The resultant safety car would see Vidau, Jones and Pancione lose the advantage they had built up to the chasing field.
After the restart, the leading trio again looked to escape the pack, but on this occasion, Crick kept pace holding onto a strong fourth. Brett Boulton meanwhile, led the TAG Heuer Pro-Am battle in fifth. He was chased by Sam Shahin for most of the race, until contact with Tom Taplin with 6 laps remaining, saw Shahin retire with a puncture.
The last three laps were a masterclass performance by the leading Pro trio demonstrating hard, but fair racing. Vidau defended his lead from Jones who in turn came under intense pressure from Pancione. After some doorhandle-to-doorhandle passes and tit-for-tat exchanges, it was Jones that would cross the line second behind Vidau.
After the race, an ecstatic Vidau remarked, “Our cold tyre pace was great in the beginning, but that unfortunately hindered us at the end of the race as I killed the rear tyres. That meant I had to block very aggressively at the end, but I was happy to hold on for the race win.”
The final session of the day marked not only the 33 lap Jim Richards Endurance Trophy race for the 4th round but also the 200th race milestone in Porsche Michelin GT# Cup Challenge history.
Vidau started in the same fashion that he finished the first, narrowly edging out Harri Jones for the lead into turn 1, but Jones undercut the Sonic driver to take inside line onto the back straight and head the field on the opening lap.
After his dramas in the Race 1, Ryan Suhle would start from the back of the 19-car grid, but soon pass six cars on the opening lap on his way through the field. By lap 10, a slight gap had emerged between the leading trio of Jones, Vidau and Pancione to the chasing pack. But a lapse in concentration exiting the ‘paperclips’ left-hand turn 3, would see Jones run wide and offer Vidau the opportunity to take the lead.
Further back in the Class B battle, Andrew Goldie would overtake David Greig for the lead and proceed to extend his advantage to the line. Brett Boulton would continue to dominate the TAG Heuer Pro-Am class pulling out a 6 sec advantage over Sam Shahin.
At the sharp end of the field, Vidau had controlled the pace for two-thirds of the race, until suddenly starting to slow on lap 21. Vidau’s mechanical issues caused Jones to take evasive action and hand the lead to Pancione. Vidau’s retirement dealt a devastating blow to the young South Australian and his Bob Jane T-Marts team.
Jones would then retake the lead from Pancione with a gutsy move around the outside of Turn 1, while teammate Ryan Suhle had made his way through the field to fifth. After a safety car in the dying laps bunched the field once more, it was all to play for with 5 laps remaining.
The restart would allow Suhle the opportunity to get passed Crick for fourth and pass Aaron Love around the outside turn 3 for third, mark an amazing recovery drive from the back of the field.
Jones would hold off Pancione in the last laps to take the historic 200th Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge race win and further extend his lead in the Championship. The battle resumes on Sunday morning for the final race of the weekend.
For more race information throughout the weekend, follow the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge social pages: Instagram – @CupChallengeAus / Twitter – @CupChallengeAus / Facebook.com/CupChallengeAus
Full Results: https://www.porschesprintchallenge.com.au/results/
Schedule – Round 4, Queensland Raceway
Sunday, 4 August
09:40-10:00am: Race 3
TV Broadcast details
Qualifying and all three races will be streamed live via www.thenationals.com.au website