MEDIA RELEASE/Porsche Motorsport Australia – Images: supplied
From the very first lap of practice on the Grand Prix Circuit at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya on Monday evening, Porsche factory driver, Matt Campbell made his intentions clear to the rest of the Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup and Michelin Sprint Challenge drivers in the virtual field.
The Bathurst 12-Hour winner was clearly not here to play, he was here to win, topping the timesheets ahead of Michelin Junior, Cooper Murray, and Porsche Junior driver, Jaxon Evans.
The prospect of seeing Porsche’s international superstars go head-to-head with the best young drivers from Australia’s premier one-make championships was mouth-watering for all and the ensuing races didn’t disappoint.
As the drivers lined up for Race 1 of the Virtual Cup, Campbell started on pole with young New Zealand karting ace, Matthew Payne in second followed by Murray, Evans, and reigning Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge Champion, Harri Jones.
In the Pro-Am class, it was Wall Racing’s Tim McReynolds who narrowly edged out Dean Cook for 13th position on the start grid – six places ahead of nearest rival Brett Boulton.
Payne made a good start off the line and marginally headed Campbell and the charging Mobil Pro field into Turn 1. Three-wide, with Payne and Murray on his inside, Campbell was squeezed onto the dirty line, resulting in him spinning the rear of the 911 GT3 Cup Car to the outside of the corner.
As the dust settled, it was Payne leading Murray, Jones, Christian Pancione, and Evans, with Campbell rejoining way down the field in twelfth. By Lap 5, Payne and Murray had pulled a slight gap on the rest of the field, while Campbell had already recovered to eighth.
McReynolds and Cook were never headed in the Pro-Am class and would go onto claim the top two class positions from John Goodacre and Rob Woods – the latter pairing split in the overall timesheets by none other than Bathurst winner Jono Webb, such was the quality of the field.
Murray would eventually overtake Payne for the Mobil Pro race lead into turn 1 on Lap 8 and hold that advantage to the line. Evans, Jones, Pancione would round out the top five with Campbell recovering to sixth by the time the flag fell.
Race 2 would mark the first night race of the Porsche PAYCE and MICHELIN Virtual Cup Championship and take place on the Daytona International Speedway. Murray, Payne, and Evans would again set the early pace with Campbell moving up to fifth.
Daytona’s long banked oval saw the front drivers slipstreaming one another lap-after-lap before jostling for position into the first turn. With Payne and Evans in close attendance, Murray managed to defend his lead for six successive laps by holding the inside line and forcing the following pair to try to overtake around the outside.
Payne eventually made the move stick on lap 8, but unluckily got caught up behind a backmarker two laps later, handing the lead back to Murray and Evans. Despite the 2018 Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup Champion taking the lead from Murray in the final stages, Murray timed his final move to perfection, coming out of Evans slipstream to cross the line just 0.024secs ahead of the highly-rated Kiwi. Jones would take the final podium spot followed by Payne, with Will Bamber and Cameron Hill filling the top six.
Tim McReynolds would again impress with a convincing Pro-Am win for the Wall Racing Team entry, followed by Graham Williams, Matthew Belford, and Dean Cook.
The third and final race of the night again proved to be a titanic race-long battle between Murray, Campbell and Payne. The race lead would change more than seven times and climax on the last straight with the trio crossing the line three abreast in a photo finish. The timesheets showed Murray first, a mere 0.034secs ahead of Campbell and 0.06secs ahead of Payne, with Evans edging out Supercup counterpart Joey Mawson for fourth overall.
After a brilliant debut, Tim McReynold’s luck would run out retiring on Lap 5 of the last race. That left Rob Woods to take the Pro-Am Race 3 win from Sergio Pires and David Ryan. Woods is now only five points behind Cook in the Pro-Am championship, while Murray’s hard- fought victories see him as the new leader in the Mobil Pro class ahead of Evans and Jones.
All three races will be shown on both the @PorscheMotorsportAU Youtube channel and Facebook page at 20:00 (Melbourne time) on Friday evening.
The third round of the Porsche PAYCE and Virtual Cup will take place on the 1st June at the Grand Prix Circuit of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, in Italy.
Race 1 – Barcelona
1. Cooper Murray
2. Matthew Payne
3. Jaxon Evans
4. Harri Jones
5. Christian Pancione
Race 2 – Daytona
2. Jaxon Evans
3. Harri Jones
4. Matthew Payne
5. Will Bamber
Race 3 – Daytona
1. Cooper Murray
2. Matt Campbell
3. Matthew Payne
4. Jaxon Evans
5. Joey Mawson
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