Wall/Smollen crowned Pro-Am champions at Phillip Island
David Wall and Shane Smollen have prevailed through a pair of dramatic races to win the annual Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Pro-Am event at Phillip Island.
Dean Grant and Lee Holdsworth combined to win an unpredictable race two held across wet and dry conditions on Sunday, the 300th Porsche Carrera Cup Australia race delivering the first win for both drivers in the championship.
Wall and Smollen won the Professional Class for round three of the championship, ahead of Andre Heimgartner/Aaron Ireland and Jaxon Evans/Tim Miles.
Grant and Holdsworth won the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge class, a three-way tie with Stephen Grove/Tim Slade (2nd) and Sam Shahin/Dan Gaunt (3rd) ending in a countback in favour of the race two winners.
It was Grant’s first outright victory in 37 Carrera Cup round starts, dating back to the inaugural season in 2003.
After finishing second overall in five previous Carrera Cup rounds, Wall was justifiably proud to have broken through for his first overall victory.
“I’m getting more and more grey hairs so to finally take a trophy home with the number one on it is a nice change,” Wall said.
“With all the hours you put in behind the scenes away from the race track it’s amazing how good a little trophy with a number one on it can make you feel.
“We dragged Shane out of semi-retirement and from the first laps at the official test and into this week he did a mega job, everything we could have asked.
“We got as many points as we could this weekend and it’s great for the championship.”
Wall and Smollen’s round win came without winning a race – just the sixth time in championship history that has been the case.
“It’s been such a great experience with a new team. I’m delighted to be part of David’s win,” Shane Smollen said.
“I felt sorry for Adam Gowans behind me putting on slicks on the dummy grid. We had to drive to the maximum grip that we had and for the first few laps it was basically nothing and we just had to keep it on the track.
“It’s never been one of those races where it’s not been close at the finish!”
Wall now trails Andre Heimgartner by just 10 points in the Carrera Cup championship ahead of the next round in Darwin.
Holdsworth and Grant prevailed through a dramatic one-hour race that saw rain just before the start, causing chaos as teams switched between the wet and dry Michelin tyres.
The #8 Porsche team switched on the formation lap, in what turned out to be an inspired decision that saw them running third and just one of three cars one lap ahead of the field by the time the pit stop window opened.
Holdsworth emerged from the pits in the race lead and then set about conserving his margin while nursing wet tyres on a drying circuit.
A majority of the field switched to slicks at the compulsory stop, with several of the Carrera Cup stars setting about storming through the pack after a mid-race Safety Car.
Alex Davison and Geoff Emery rebounded from their race one pit stop penalty with an inspired drive, Davison taking his #888 Porsche from eighth place when he stopped to second by the flag.
The winning margin of only six seconds would have seen Davison challenge for the lead had the race run one lap longer.
Andre Heimgartner and Aaron Ireland came from even further behind to finish third, Ireland running 12th before the pit stops.
Heimgartner then set about an inspired charge through the field and scythed his way through the field, grabbing the final spot in the top three on the last lap.
David Wall and Shane Smollen finished fourth and did enough to secure the round overall – backing up their strong second-place effort in race one.
Rob Woods and Duvashen Padayachee finished fifth in a solid return to the championship for the GWR duo.
The race had a dramatic start when two of the leading contenders from race one were removed from the equation when the lights went green.
Polesitter Dylan Thomas stalled and was clipped by Adam Gowans, damaging both cars and forcing the latter out of the race. Thomas and co-driver Nick McBride returned to the circuit however ultimately failed to complete enough laps to be classified.
Unlucky were early leaders Dan Gaunt and Sam Shahin, who were one of a few drivers to gamble on starting on wet weather tyres.
Gaunt stormed to the lead on the second lap and built a nearly one-minute lead before a Safety Car (called for a stranded James Abela/Anthony Gilbertson Porsche) erased the margin.
Shahin resumed on wet tyres and despite a drying track scored a solid ninth at the finish.
The next round of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia championship will see the championship return to the Northern Territory on June 16-18.