The Porsche 944 Challenge’s inclusion at Shannons Nationals fifth round will mark the category’s grand return to the Nationals when they line up at Winton Motor Raceway next month.
The 944 Challenge made their last Nationals appearance in 2015 when they teamed up with classic Porsche 911s to form a joint category called the IROC Cup.
The move to include an invitational series for a special run on a national level comes off the back of last month’s successful running of the Series X3 Queensland category at Queensland Raceway.
Series president Mark Taubitz was thrilled with the announcement, stating that the inclusion into the Shannons Nationals has built extra interest around the competition.
“All of our competitors are really excited and are looking forward to competing in the Shannons Nationals,” Taubitz said.
“We even have guys who have not competed for a while indicating their interest to return for the event, and are now dusting off their cars off to give it a run.
“There is a lot of interest because it is something a bit different, and it’s obviously another step up in terms of the professionalism and the whole package that’s put on.
“We will also have Chris Lewis Williams who is a category three time champion pulling a car out of the shed to compete for the first time in a while, which is fantastic for the series.”
While there will be no official points up for grabs during the invitational event, a special cup will run in honour of the series’ creation by Dennis O’Keefe 20 years ago.
The Dennis O’Keefe cup will also run different to the 944 Challenge’s usual formation, with Taubitz indicating that a reverse grid will be created in order to mix up the results.
“Just to make it a little bit different, we are doing standard qualifying in race one, then a reverse grid in race two and then a handicap in race three,” Taubitz added.
“This will give everyone on the grid a chance to have a consistent weekend and give the fast guys a run for their money in the cup.
“It was great result last time we did this formation, because the guys who were usually at the back of the pack were right up the front and it ended up going right down to the wire.”
With a solid 20 years allowing budding drivers to come and ply their trade with a competitive and cheap brand, it’s no surprise that the category has acted as a stepping stone for many, including familiar Nationals names such Danny Stutterd (Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge) and Dylan O’Keefe (CAMS Australian GT).
However for Taubitz, while it has created some strong pathways for drivers in the past, performing on the national stage allows the category to continue building for the future.
“Following our 2015 campaign at the Nationals, we had an increase in participation numbers in 2016 and 2017,” Taubitz explained.
“So competing on a national level again this year, we are hoping to have a similar growth in the sport for both the second half of the season as well as the next few years.
“We have big events such as Tailem Bend following the Nationals so hopefully Winton will act as good springboard to get people excited act for these high profile events.
“We are just hoping to put on a good show.”
The Shannons Nationals at Winton Motor Raceway will take place on 1 -2 September with live coverage of Sunday’s sessions available live and free at thenationals.com.au.
An extensive library of races from 2018 is also available on-demand on the TV tab of thenationals.com.au.