Seven rounds down, one to go: Porsche Carrera Cup Australia enters its Gold Coast season finale this weekend with one of its closest points battles to date – in both the outright standings and TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge.
In the championship’s 90th round and 11th visit to the Surfers Paradise Street Circuit, just 84 points separate the top four drivers with three races (and a potential 180 points) remaining for the season. In 2013, the closest previous four-way battle saw 93.5 points separate the top quartet.
Nick Foster takes an 18.5 point lead into the Gold Coast round. Therefore, if his closest rival and reigning champion Steven Richards clean swept the beachside round, second place in each race would secure Foster the title; his first in the one-make championship.
David Russell and Craig Baird also remain in the title hunt – 82 and 84 points from the title lead, respectively – while both aim to secure their place in the top three at season’s end.
Foster has been the form driver in the latter half of the 2015 season and the 23-year-old Gold Coast local hopes to continue this pace on the streets of his home town.
“Gold Coast is an exciting track for me and it’s also my home event, but Richards, Baird and even Matt Campbell will want to get more wins on the board. These drivers have all been strong at the back half of the year. It’s not going to be easy, but I have current form and runs on the board so hopefully I can be at the front by the end of the season,” said Foster.
With no championship to fight for, young form racer Campbell sits fifth in the standings and will look to take his second straight round win following his maiden Carrera Cup round victory at Mount Panorama.
“I’ll definitely be pushing at the Gold Coast. I’m not fighting for a championship so I have nothing to lose. It’s quite a hairy track and I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” said Campbell.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge could also crown a first-time champion this weekend. Shane Smollen currently leads the class standings by 47 points from reigning class titleholder, Stephen Grove.
Smollen has been the driver to beat in the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge this season, taking six class race wins and 14 top three results in the class en route to a potential maiden class title.
Smollen hopes for a consistent weekend so that, by the end of race three, his 100th in Carrera Cup Australia, he will take home the class championship in his fifth attempt.
“The Gold Coast circuit is unforgiving but I’ve enjoyed racing there in the past. I’ve had my share of unfortunate moments but I’ve also been reasonably quick there. It’s just about keeping it on the track and maintaining this lead. I have a handy lead, but it’s certainly not an unassailable lead so it’s going to make for a very interesting event,” said Smollen.
Grove will unlikely be challenged for second place, with Tony Bates an almost unassailable, but mathematically possible, 178.5 points adrift of the reigning TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge champion in third.
Two of the championship’s most experienced campaigners, Ash Samadi and Marc Cini, hold fourth and fifth place in TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge, respectively, from Adrian Mastronardo and James Bergmuller in sixth and seventh place in class.
Porsche Carrera Cup Australia will hold its two practice sessions and qualifying on Friday, its opening race on Saturday and the two final races of the season on Sunday.
All sessions of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia finale will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 5, while race one and race three will be televised free-to-air on Channel 10.