Cameron Hill has claimed his sixth-straight Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia Mobil Pro race win in a dramatic opening sprint on the streets of Townsville.
The championship leader crossed the line trailing Cooper Murray in Saturday’s 17-lap affair, the seventh race of the 2021 season, but was handed the win when Murray was penalised for contact earlier in the race.
Meanwhile, Stephen Grove celebrated his return to the championship with a stunning Morris Finance Pro-Am class race victory after a race-long fight with Sam Shahin and Geoff Emery.
A dramatic early few laps saw Murray and Aaron Love make contact at turn two with Murray subsequently penalised five seconds for his role in the incident – dropping him behind Hill, David Wall and David Russell in the final results.
As such, Hill claimed his sixth-straight race win this season and his seventh from the last eight races. It also ensured the runaway series leader was able to further extend his already substantial championship lead heading towards tomorrow’s two races.
The Canberran becomes just the sixth driver in Porsche Carrera Cup Australia history to win six or more races consecutively, joining an elite group that includes Alex Davison, Craig Baird, Jordan Love and – on two occasions – Jim Richards.
“It was a pretty mental first race for the weekend, we started third which is pretty god seeing that we lacked a bit of pace yesterday in practice, but we tuned the car up for the race,” Hill said.
“Matt stalled in front of me and I only just missed him. From there was obviously a bit more action of front and we found ourselves in the lead briefly, before Cooper got back passed me.
“I then settled into a rhythm and maintained my gap to him. I just focussed on putting myself in good positions that weren’t too high risk and it all fell our way, which is good.”
Grove’s pathway to Morris Finance Pro-Am victory was slightly more straightforward than Murray’s, the three-time class champion pleased with his day’s work.
“I got such a good start and got passed three or four Pro’s but I knew they were going to come through, which made it hard to manage the lead,” Grove said.
“But it was terrific race, it was hot out there, very slippery – I’m just really happy to get the result”
The race was dramatic from the outset as polesitter Matthew Payne stalled at the line, his Team Porsche NZ car stranded as the field took evasive action to evade the young Kiwi.
Payne dropped to last while the remainder of the grid was able to avoid any major contact.
That left Aaron Love, who started second, in the lead with Cooper Murray and Cameron Hill in close company behind.
That status quo would only remain until the fifth lap when Murray dived to the inside at turn two, the McElrea car making contact with the Sonic entry – the impact turning the latter around.
While Love briefly resumed in sixth position, it was short lived with the damage sustained to severe and ultimately forcing the young Michelin Junior to the pit lane and out of the race.
After a brief challenge from Cameron Hill, Murray settled into a steady lead while David Wall and David Russell gained spots to run third and fourth, respectively – only to be promoted one spot each at the end of the race.
Behind them was a heady battle for a spot in the top five, as Michelin Junior Christian Pancione spent much of the race fending off Bathurst legend Craig Lowndes, Michael Almond – celebrating his 150th race – and a recovering Harri Jones.
Jones had started last after his McElrea Porsche broke a driveshaft in qualifying, but made quick work through the field as he looked to salvage points for his title campaign.
Pancione was able to fend off the Wall Racing car until lap 15 when Lowndes finally worked his way past en route to fifth position.
Pancione finished sixth – equalling his best Carrera Cup race result for the third time – while Jones grabbed seventh at the line.
A late move saw Simon Fallon pass Michael Almond for eighth and ninth on the road while Matthew Payne’s remarkable recovery from his start line stall saw him charge to 10th.
The battle for the win in Morris Finance Pro-Am was just as competitive as the outright fight as three cars spent much of the race scrapping for the class lead.
Stephen Grove led the duration but was forced to spend much of the last half of the race fending off class leader Sam Shahin and The Bend round winner Geoff Emery in a three-car fight.
They finished in that order, with Dean Cook not far behind in fourth and Marc Cini fifth.
Adrian Flack had run second in the Pro-Am class early in the race, however dropped down the order on lap five to ultimately finish sixth.
Earlier in qualifying, Team Porsche NZ driver Matthew Payne recorded his second-straight Tag Heuer Pole Award following an impressive lap late in the 25-minute qualifying session.
Stephen Grove scored the Tag Heuer Pole Award in the Morris Finance Pro-Am battle, edging out Adrian Flack by 0.1 seconds.
Two races complete third round of this year’s Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia on Sunday at the Townsville street circuit.
The action starts early with the 28-lap Enduro Cup race at 8:40am local time, followed by the third and final race at 12:45pm.