There seemed to be some poetic justice to be starting the exciting new era of Carrera Cup with the amazing new 992 Cup Cars at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix. After all, it was Friday 13th March 2020, when the surreal reality of being sent home from an F1 event before the weekend had properly gotten underway. So to come back to Albert Park to get the 2022 championship underway was something we had been looking forward to for quite some time.
Tim Miles is back for his 9th year with MR and is highly motivated to take the Pro-Am title for the first time, while Christian Pancione and Jackson Walls will enjoy full Carrera Cup championship campaigns after partial Carrera Cup seasons in 2021. Harri Jones is already a Carrera Cup race winner and has his eyes firmly on the championship while teenager Bayley Hall is making the leap up to Carrera Cup after only two rounds of Michelin Sprint Challenge in 2020.
We had completed a detailed testing program prior to the season starting so were comfortable that we were in for a great start to the season.
Harri qualified out of position and was stuck in heavy traffic for most of the race. In race 2 he made good progress until the last lap when he made a couple of daring moves to take 4 positions to finish an impressive 4th. In race 3 Harri got a terrific start and jumped from grid 4 to 2nd by turn 1, before succumbing to Vidau later in the race. In race 4 he got another blinder of a start to take the lead into turn 1 and dominate the race.
Christian was our top MR qualifier and started race 1 from P5. After losing a place at the start he stayed focused and retook P5 on the last lap. In race 2, he was having a great race running in the top 5 until he was pushed off the road by a competitor who received a post-race penalty for the move. In race 3 he put on a great display of assertive driving to take advantage of the action ahead and made up three places to finish 6th. Race 4 was a painful affair as he struggled with a creative setup, eventually taking 11th.
Jackson qualified in a very solid 7th position then in race 1, was in the fight until coming off second best after a big lunge from another young pro. In race 2 he delivered a great drive, cleanly lunging Suhle on the penultimate lap to take 5th. In race 3 he god a sluggish start which led to two other cars squeezing him into turn 1 breaking a radiator, causing a DNF. In race 4 he was involved with some unnecessarily forceful driving ending up in the fence at turn 2.
Bayley did a cracking job to qualify 14th ahead of 4 far more experienced Pro drivers. In race 1, he dropped to 20th on lap 1 then worked his way back up to 16th but was disappointed with the result. He spent most of race 2 in the middle of the huge battle pack and made a decisive pass on O’Keeffe toward the end of the race to take 14th in Pro class. In race 3 he did a great job navigating the carnage on lap 1 to move forward. He had to retire from race 4 with bent steering.
Tim qualified 6th in Pro-Am which was below his expectations, but he took care of that inconvenience in race 1 to finish 4th. In race 2 he dropped a spot to Shahin, but proved his real pace by taking fastest Pro-Am lap. In race 3 Tim got away well but got blocked at turn 3 on lap 1 allowing Cook to sneak by, but had another spirited dice at the front end of the Pro-Am category. Contact in race 4 ended his race early.
It is fair to say, we took longer than we wanted to tune our cars to the Albert Park GP circuit. However, the AMRC (awesome MR crew) and drivers never gave up and worked together to improve our pace as the weekend went on, as evidenced by Harri’s storming win in race 4.
It has to be noted that the AMRC again proved why they are the best in the business after a huge Thursday night of repairs and only a couple of hours of sleep, before returning on Friday morning ready to fight on. The reason was big structural repairs were required on Pancho’s car after clipping a barrier in qualifying and ripping the left front wheel out of the car doing significant other damage as it departed.
Many thanks to the awesome MR crew, Lethal Leigh, Hayden, Will and Luffy the supercoach, our drivers, their families and sponsors. See you at Winton for round 2, next month!