This was the first time the Porsche Carrera Cup had visited the Northern Territory since 2007. The massive distance makes it a big (financial) commitment from all of the teams and we need to plan well ahead to make sure everything arrives on time.
We came into the round with Matt leading the 'Pro' Championship and Shane 4th in the 'Tag Heuer Challenge' Championship. The goal for Duvashen and James was to continue their development into race winning drivers by the end of the season while we were planning for Matt to increase his Championship lead with Shane hunting down his rival and 'Tag Heuer Challenge' Championship leader Tony Bates.
Shane's car decided it didn't want to fire up for qualifying. So after an outstanding effort from Timmy and the rest of the team to change two critical engine sensors he headed out to qualify with only half the session remaining. To finish on pole was great effort under the circumstances!
In race 1 Shane finished 2nd in his class after a conservative drive but was promoted to first after Tony Bates was penalized for a driving infringement with another competitor.
In race 2 Luffy was very busy on Shane's radio with guidance and encouragement which yielded a far better performance to beat Bates by over three seconds for his second win of the weekend.
In race 3, after a 5 second jump start penalty was applied to Bates, Shane he took his third Challenge class win for the weekend.
Despite the weekend looking very bleak when the gearshift compressor failed just prior to qualifying (in addition to the engine sensor!) with no spare available it was fantastic to come away from Darwin with another clean sweep.
Matt was able to claim his third pole of the season. He lead the first lap in the opening race until Steve Richards squeezed by. The following lap Matt pulled off a great pass going side-by-side with Richo for 3 corners taking the lead back. A spin at turn five dropped him down to 3rd and although he caught-up and was able to pressure Wall he couldn't find a way past.
Race 2 was a complete disaster with a puncture on the opening lap forcing a pit stop and a quiet drive to 16th.
In race 3 Matt produced a crushing drive from grid 16 to 6th outright. Although he got bent steering after contact with a back marker early in the race, he pressed on to pass ten cars and keep his championship lead intact as well as bagging fastest lap of the race.
James qualified 13th in Pro class only 1.1 seconds off pole. In race 1 he got a good start and settled into a nice rhythm taking a couple of places until being turned around into turn five after a hit from behind. He recovered well, and passed two more cars to finish a very solid 10th with a best lap only 6/tenths off the new lap record.
Race 2 was James' best drive since joining the Carrera Cup Championship. He started 9th and drove a well measured and fast race to finish in 6th place. This was his first experience racing in the very tough and uncompromising 'lead pack' and he acquitted himself very well.
Race 3 was another break-through race for James and he learned plenty about racing in the lead pack and maximising restarts. He was also able to head-off his fellow rookie O'Keeffe in the most impressive Carrera Cup weekend of his young career.
Duvashen had a very tough start to his Darwin weekend with gearbox compressor issues hampering both practice sessions with only a handful of laps before qualifying. He did a great job to qualify 12th less than a second off pole.
In race 1 he was caught up in a three-into-two incident on the opening lap requiring a pit-stop to replace the left rear tyre and to adjust the panel work away from the wheel.
In race two he was hampered by his low grid position and made a small mistake locking the rear tyres into turn 1 taking a quick spin. Despite being as quick as many of the front runners the gap to the lead group was too big and he had to settle for a frustrating 12th.
Duvashen had a quiet third race despite his pace being far better than his results showed. In hindsight, he was playing catch up from losing track time in Fridays practice sessions. Despite his disadvantage, he was still able to post the same lap time as third placed Steve Richards. He is improving each weekend and we are looking forward to a change in his luck soon.
After a crazy weekend in the 'top end' Matt has managed to maintain his championship lead, if only by a few points from our good mate and former MR driver Alex Davison. Shane has jumped from 4th to 2nd in the 'Tag Heuer Challenge' Championship and closed the gap to the lead. James had an outstanding weekend and is running well inside the top 10 making a nice change from a tough round 3 at Rennsport. Although the results don't show it, Duvashen is fast enough and also ready to run consistently inside the top 10 so we are looking forward to letting him loose at his home track 'Sydney Motorsport Park' in ten weeks.
Many thanks to Luffy for his continued great work with the MR drivers and to the AMRC (Awesome MR Crew) who certainly sweated and drank more water in Darwin than they did at Winton the weekend before!
Thanks for following our adventures, and see you at Sydney Motorsport Park for GT3 Cup Challenge in two weeks.