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Nov 2, 2015

TOP 10 DRIVERS - No. 6 MATT KINGSLEY

CELEBRATING it's 10th season, the Shannons Nationals has set out to rank the top ten drivers to have raced regularly at our rounds since 2006.

Selected by a panel of industry experts and assisted by more than 2500 votes from an online fan poll, our top-10 really is a who's who of Australia's racing elite from the last decade. We will be rolling out the full list in the next two weeks, with the Number One driver to be announced on the Friday morning of the 2015 Shannons Nationals finale' at Sydney Motorsport Park this November 13.

At number 6 it's the fastest of the fast from the Porsche Pack: Matt Kingsley.

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THE MATT KINGSLEY story alternates rapidly between a series of enormous crashes, many of which were pure bad luck, to searing speed and dominant form that made him uncatchable in a Porsche 996 GT3 Cup Car.

But there’s no doubt of his absolutely worthy inclusion in our top ten list because on his day he’s probably the fastest driver one-make Porsche racing in Australia has seen across the last decade.

The Gold Coasters’ name fell firmly in the spotlight following an enormous crash at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide in 2008 while racing in the V8 Ute Series.

Then 23, Kinglsey, Craig Dontas and Colin Corkery collided at turn three on the daunting Adelaide street circuit and were all three taken to Hospital. Of them, Kingsley was the most seriously injured and would spend seven weeks in the Royal Adelaide, and then Gold Coast hospitals before being released.

His racing recuperation came via a switch to the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge in 2009 and it was there he showed his remarkable speed and race craft.

He won nine races in a row in his debut Porsche season and cruised to the championship in what was the series’ strongest year to that point.

However it was his wet weather ability that was perhaps the most stunning aspect of his season. At Phillip Island, in conditions that ranged from sopping to torrential, there’s very few descriptive words to emphasise just how comprehensively he smoked the field in the big wet.

In an 11-lap sprint he won by nearly 50 seconds, pulling away from the field at more than five seconds per lap before buttoning off in the final 4.46 kilometres on the run to the flag.

In the 24-lap feature he’d led by more than a minute before a Safety Car was called leaving a two lap dash to the flag at the end. He still won by more than ten seconds.

It wouldn’t be the last time that the GT3 Cup Challenge field would see the rear end of a blue, black and Orange Porsche disappearing into the spray in the wet, either.

Despite still using his old 996 up against the later-spec and supposedly faster 997 Cup Cars, he dominated the 2010 season and looked a cert for a second crown, before crashing heavily at Dandenong road in qualifying for the final round at Sandown. The written-off car ensured he was forced out of the round.

However, Matt’s laconic nature and appeal amongst his rivals was such that every driver in the field – including closest title rival Roger Lago - signed a document supporting a move to teammate Terry Knight’s car for Saturday’s first race. As it often does, however, Officialdom prevented the move and denied a remarkable story. Lago won the first of his two GT3CC titles as a result.

His GT3 Cup Career would end with just the one title, though his pace deserved more. In 2011 he was an innocent victim again in another Adelaide-based crash, when an out of control car speared across the northern hairpin and into his path during a Saturday evening race. Kingsley again went to hospital but escaped with a limp and some crutches.

Brief forays into Carrera Cup again showed his speed however it was perhaps a remarkable Bathurst 12 Hour campaign in 2013 that again proved how underrated the tyre dealer from Southport really was and still is.

When car owner Tony Quinn was beaten up in an early-race crash in his Aston Martin, Kinglsey was subbed in to co-drive the VIP Petfoods Porsche GT3 R alongside Klark Quinn and Shave van Gisbergen after the first hour of the race.

The car led at times and ran second in the final hour before dropping to third in the final hour, however Kingsley didn’t put a foot wrong the entire day – despite never having driven the car.

Few have been better behind the wheel of a Porsche and few have bounced back so many times from what others might consider career-ending moments.

With his big grin, sunglasses on and a practical joke at hand, Matt Kinglsey’s position inside the top 10 greatest to see a Shannons Nationals round in the last ten years is well assured.

TOP 10 DRIVERS OF THE SHANNONS NATIONALS DECADE:

10th - Bruce Heinrich
9th - Des Wall
8th - Jake Camilleri
7th - James Winslow
6th - Matt Kingsley