THIS TIME LAST YEAR Mat Kingsley was recovering from injuries sustained in a massive V8 Ute crash at the Clipsal 500. One year later the Queensland driver has completed perhaps the most crushing weekend in the history of the Porsche GT3 Cup ...
THIS TIME LAST YEAR Mat Kingsley was recovering from injuries sustained in a massive V8 Ute crash at the Clipsal 500.
One year later the Queensland driver has completed perhaps the most crushing weekend in the history of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series after an emphatic performance at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit at the weekend.
The 'Action Tyres and More' supported 996 GT3 Cup Car driver made the most of average conditions to win both Sunday races held in challenging conditions after earlier finishing second on the road - and first of the championship competitors - in race one.
After a broken driveshaft set him back at the opening round at Bathurst, Kingsley gave a strong 23-car grid a lesson in wet-weather driving on Sunday by winning the 11-lap race by 45-seconds and at one stage leading the longer 24-lap finale' by over a minute.
Only a late-race safety car slowed his charge, though in a two lap dash to the flag he was still able to win by nearly ten seconds.
Kingsley's massive haul has vaulted him from ninth to first in the championship after two rounds.
"What a weekend," Kingsley said. "We came here looking to score some championship points to get things back on track after Bathurst, but to come away from Phillip Island with a round win and the series lead surpasses anything we had hoped for.
"We knew we would have good pace but these results are beyond what we expected.
"We practiced on slicks on the wet track so I knew what the grip levels would be like and that helped me for race two."
Sunday's two races were dramatic and action-packed affairs with some drivers excelling in the challenging conditions.
Kingsley won race two but behind him the fight for minor positions was nothing short of ferocious. Kane Rose rebounded from Clutch dramas in race one to finish second whilst Sven Burchartz lost a potential podium finish with a last-lap spin.
Terry Knight continued his strong run though the field to fourth, whilst Mark Krashos was fifth ahead of Brad Rankin, Jeff Bobik and the star of the race, Dean Koutsoumidis, who charged from 19th to a staggering 8th position.
In race three a drying track left the field struggling again to catch the runaway leader, though part of that was down to them all fighting amongst themselves.
After many competitive battles, Sven Burchartz finished second with Bobik third, Jon Trende an excellent fourth and 997 trophy competitor Shaun Juniper in fifth after passing though pit lane earlier in the race.
The championship now looks very interesting with just four points splitting Kingsley and reigning champion Sven Burchartz after two rounds.
The highly consistent Jeff Bobik sits third with the following four cars - Tony Quinn, Brad Rankin, Paul Bollinowsky and Terry Knight covered by less than 20 points. In the 997-trophy Class Roger Lago leads, though Steve Kepper, Mark Krashos and Ivan Klasan all showed very impressive pace throughout the Phillip Island weekend - even if the luck wasn't forthcoming.
The next round of the 2009 GT3 Cup Challenge will be held at South Australia's Mallala Raceway on June 6-7, the circuit having hosted the inaugural round of the championship in 2008.
With a Queenslander leading a Victorian and then another group of 'Northerners', Mallala looks likely to be a neutral battle ground and a more level playing field for an anticipated near 20-car grid.