Outright, Challenge battles the focus at Bathurst

Porsche Carrera Cup Australia is immersed in one of its most anticipated title battles to date, which is set to intensify this weekend as the one-make championship travels to Mount Panorama, Bathurst, for the 11th time.

Among this weekend’s 21-car field, Carrera Cup welcomes the return of TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge competitor Tony Walls, who contested 15 Carrera Cup rounds across the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Brenton Griguol will also line up at Bathurst for his Carrera Cup debut, boosting the Challenge class to 10 drivers for the regional New South Wales round.

The championship will also feature one of its strongest weekend’s on television since its 2003 inception. Carrera Cup will have all three races broadcast live across the Bathurst weekend on both Fox Sports 5 and Channel 10. Both practice sessions and qualifying will also be broadcast live on Fox Sports 5.

The championship fight, in both the outright and TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge classifications, is just as impressive.

In the outright results, Nick Foster has emerged an unlikely championship leader. Failing to score points in the opening four races of 2015, the 23-year-old has turned a 298 point deficit into an 18.5 point lead entering the penultimate Bathurst round.

“I didn’t except this recent run of results, especially after the start of the year,” said Foster, who has won eight of the last 10 races of the season. “I don’t really think about my recent results; I just take it race by race and I’ll take the same mentality into Bathurst and the Gold Coast.”

While Foster leads the standings, he has two experienced Bathurst veterans, Steven Richards and Craig Baird, who currently sit second and third in the standings, eager to reduce their points deficit.

Foster isn’t the only form young gun in the series; Matt Campbell has been the only other drivers over the past 10 races to claim victory and is looking forward to take on his more experienced rivals across ‘The Mountain’.

“I’ve really started to come on strong towards the end of the season, which is great, but Bathurst is one of those tracks that the more experienced drivers, like Craig Baird and Steven Richards, will come on strong. I love the track and can’t wait to get there,” said Campbell.

Shane Smollen is seeking his maiden class title in the TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge. The Sydneysider has been creeping towards the top spot over the past seasons; placing third in 2013 and finished runner-up to Stephen Grove last season.

Smollen has finished on the round podium over the past five rounds, three of which he won. Second placed Grove, who boasts the same number of class podiums this season, remains the only likely contender for the 2015 Challenge title, but admits he needs to push for strong results this weekend.

“There are two big rounds ahead. Everyone is there and if you’re off one-tenth, it’s ‘goodnight Charlie’!” said Grove.

“I’ve got to win, it’s pretty simple. All year you try to be conservative and build the points but that goes out the window now. You’ve got to go all out and win and if you want to win the championship you’ve got to win races.”

Meanwhile, Tony Bates sits third in the standings, with the 2015 Challenge title all but out of his reach. Therefore, Bates is hunting race and round wins to finish the season on a high.

“We start the year well; we won at the Clipsal 500 and had a really good end to last year at the Gold Coast, so the plan is: good Bathurst, good Gold Coast and finish with a bag full of points and see where it takes us,” said Bates.

Two Carrera Cup drivers will also race in V8 Supercars’ Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. Triple Bathurst 1000 winner Richards will join five-time winner Craig Lowndes while David Russell will partner dual Bathurst champion Rick Kelly.

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