In Form: Jim Richards -- Has started 2006 off in style with victories at the Porsche Mt Buller Sprint in January and the Rally of Tasmania last month, both with Barry Oliver as navigator in their Porsche 911 GT2. Craig Baird -- Currently leads...
Jim Richards -- Has started 2006 off in style with victories at the Porsche Mt Buller Sprint in January and the Rally of Tasmania last month, both with Barry Oliver as navigator in their Porsche 911 GT2.
Craig Baird -- Currently leads the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge in New Zealand against illustrious rivals such as reigning Carrera Cup Australia champion Fabian Coulthard and fellow hot shot Matt Halliday after six of eight rounds. Baird has already wrapped up the Trans Tasman GT3 Cup title showcasing his impressive Porsche form in 2006.
Bryce Washington -- Finished third in the opening round of the Australian GT Championship at Wakefield Park two weeks ago but was the leading Porsche in the field.
Tony Quinn -- Achieved two podium finishes behind the Jim Richards / Barry Oliver team at the Porsche Mt Buller Sprint (2nd) and Rally of Tasmania (3rd).
The Title Chase:
Leading into Round 1 of the championship next weekend, drivers and teams are vying for the prestigious Overall Championship in 2006 as well as a host of other awards. Here is a list of the leading contenders:
Overall Championship: In the absence of title holder Fabian Coulthard this year who moves into V8 Supercars, runner-up Jim Richards is the highest placed finisher in this year's championship. Richards won the title in 2003 and has finished second for the past two seasons. The dominant 2004 champion Alex Davison makes a return to the all-Porsche series, and will be a team mate of another contender Jonathon Webb who placed third overall last year. Ex-V8 Supercar driver Craig Baird has been registering wins over the likes of Coulthard and Matt Halliday in New Zealand's GT3 Cup Challenge recently, and knows how to win in the Australian series -- Baird won at the Lexmark Indy 300 in 2004. A smokey for top honours could be former Formula Ford national champion David Reynolds who impressed everyone with a couple of race wins in the category last year. He is young and on the rise but maybe hampered early in the season after recovering from shoulder surgery. An experienced performer never to be discounted is Peter Fitzgerald.
TAG Heuer Carrera Challenge: For the leading privateer driver 30 years of age or older, the contenders are two-time winner Dean Grant, experienced Porsche drivers Tony Quinn and Rodney Jane, as well as Paul Freestone, Ash Samadi and Marc Cini.
Wright Patton Shakespeare Michelin Driver to Europe: For the leading driver under 30 years of age who has not previously driven in a Porsche Michelin Supercup or International Carrera Cup round, the eligible drivers are Aaron Caratti, Bryce Washington, Daniel Pappas, David Reynolds, David Russell, David Wall, Dean Fiore, Ian Dyk and Klark Quinn.
Michelin Rookie of the Year: For the leading driver who has not competed in more than six rounds of a Porsche racing series prior to 2006, eligible drivers include Dean Fiore, David Wall, David Russell, Daniel Pappas and Aaron Caratti.
Mobil 1 Hard Charger: For the driver who makes up the most number of grid positions in points-scoring races over the eight rounds, all drivers are in contention. Ash Samadi is the reigning champion.
What to look out for:
A field of 22 brand new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Type 997) cars will race for the first time in Australia at the Clipsal 500 next week. This new model has enhanced aerodynamics - a new front section and a larger rear wing produces 40 percent more downforce than the previous 996 model. The six-speed sequential gearbox makes gear shifting faster and more failsafe, while the ABS brakes are replaced by tandem racing master cylinders and an in-car brake bias adjustment control.
Alex Davison, Craig Baird and Anthony Tratt have jumped out of their V8 Supercar seats from last year to get into the left-hand drive seats of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars in the Wright Patton Shakespeare Carrera Cup.
Ten of the Porsche drivers at the Clipsal 500 are under 30 years of age -- Jonathon Webb, Aaron Caratti, Bryce Washington, Daniel Pappas, David Reynolds, David Russell, David Wall, Dean Fiore, Ian Dyk and Klark Quinn.
There are seven newcomers to the category in 2006 - David Russell, Dean Fiore, Daniel Pappas, Aaron Caratti, David Wall, Anthony Tratt and John Kaias.
Tony Quinn and Dean Grant are the only two drivers in the field to have started all 78 races in the Wright Patton Shakespeare Carrera Cup over its first three seasons.
Ian Dyk is the most recent driver to be confirmed for the 2006 championship. The 20-year-old has attracted funding from Juniper Development Group and will have his car prepared by Sherrin Motorsport this year, after an impressive eighth placed finish in his debut season last year.
Bryce Washington is the only local Porsche driver at the Clipsal 500. The 22-year-old from Adelaide is sponsored by South Australian-based ADRAD Radiators with his Porsche serviced by another local company in Buik Motor Works.
Eight drivers have contested each season of Carrera Cup in Australia since its introduction in 2003 - Jim Richards, Klark Quinn, Peter Fitzgerald, Rodney Jane, Dean Grant, Marc Cini, Jonathon Webb and Tony Quinn.
Alex Davison completed a clean sweep of the Clipsal 500 in 2004, claiming pole position before going on to win all three races for the overall round victory.
Two new teams will campaign cars in 2006 -- Caratti Motorsport for Aaron Caratti and ROOCK Racing for Ash Samadi.