RYAN SIMPSON picked up where he left off in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Pirelli – sweeping to a commanding race victory and a new lap record in the opening race of the 2016 season today at Sandown.
Starting from second on the grid, Simpson made the perfect start and was never headed on his way to a comfortable victory over his teammate Hamish Hardeman and polesitter Jaxon Evans.
Tim Miles won the Elite class after erstwhile class leader David Ryan crashed at turn seven with two laps remaining in the race, while Daniel Stutterd stormed to the Class B victory ahead of Michael Tsigeridis.
Once in the lead Simpson broke Jon McCorkindale’s one year old lap record five times to leave the new benchmark standing at 1m11.3691s.
“It was the best start I have ever made. Last year I wasn’t getting the best starts so I spoke with the guys and we came up with the best formula and it worked,” Simpson said.
“We started the weekend really searching for setup and grip in the track but in the race it was really good. Once you started to get some grip into the tyres the pace came – it’s good to get some lap records!”
Jaxon Evans had earlier scored his first Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge pole position in qualifying, however a slow start saw him only fourth at the end of the first racing lap – behind Simpson, Hardeman and Ryan.
Ryan held off the advances of the young charger for three laps however Evans finally slipped past at turn nine on the lap four – pulling away in pursuit of the leaders.
Ryan then fell into the clutches of Miles, the pair running in close company until the penultimate lap, when Ryan locked a brake at turn six – running off the road at high speed.
The Sydney driver emerged unscathed from the accident, while Miles inherited fourth place and the class race victory ahead of John Goodacre and Sam Shahin.
Ryan said the damage was mainly cosmetic and expects to make the start of race two tomorrow, while Miles was pleased with his race performance.
“It was a good race and I really enjoyed it, though I didn’t enjoy watching Dave crash,” Tim Miles said.
“I was keeping the pressure on him and doing as much as I could and it was really enjoyable. We’ve had good pace all weekend so I’m very, very happy.”
In his 98th race, John Goodacre finished fifth and Sam Shahin sixth having started eighth.
Brian Finn, series rookie Jake Klarich, Anthony Gilbertson and Michael Vati completed the top-10.
Class B winner Stutterd had qualified second in class but stormed to the class win in style today, finishing 12thoutright in his earlier generation Porsche 997 GT3 Cup Car.
Earlier in qualifying, Jaxon Evans timed his run to perfection to score his maiden Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Pirelli pole position.
Evans banked his time early in the 20-minute session while his Sonic Motor Racing rivals waited until the second half of the session before attempting to bank a time – only to be hindered by a red flag cutting down their opportunity to use the new Pirelli rubber to their advantage.
Ryan Simpson ultimately fell 0.02s short of grabbing pole, with Hardeman 0.6s behind.
David Ryan qualified fourth and fastest of the Elite class runners – and less than one-second from pole – while Tim Miles, John Goodacre, Jake Klarich, Sam Shahin, Anthony Gilbertson and Brian Finn completed the top-10.
Two further races will complete the opening round of the 2016 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Australia season tomorrow, both to be streamed live via www.thenationals.com.au