Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge tipped for most competitive year yet
Thursday 2nd March, 2023 - 6:00pm
This year’s Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge is set to be the most competitive season in the series’ history, according to leading team owners Andy McElrea and Mick Ritter.
It is 15 years since the competition began as GT3 Cup Challenge, evolving since then to become not just a home for gentleman drivers, but also a genuine development series for youngsters hoping to make it in big-time GT/sportscar competition.
The most famous graduate is arguably Matt Campbell, who would go on to become a Bathurst 12 Hour outright winner, a Le Mans class winner, and an IMSA class champion with Porsche.
The Queenslander cut his teeth with McElrea Racing, as did another future factory Porsche driver in Jaxon Evans.
McElrea himself sees big things in the class of 2023 in Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge, not just in his own team.
“We’ve got Tom McLennan and Lockie Bloxsom, who are both coming back from their first years last year with us,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“We’ve got pretty high expectations for both of those guys, and we’ve got rookie Caleb Sumich. He’s what we call a go kart kid but he’s done a year in Radicals already, he did an exceptionally good job last year, and he’s showing a huge amount of promise already.
“We’re really happy with the crop of young guys we’ve got because we know there’s going to be a lot of competition this year as well.
“EBM [Earl Bamber Motorsport] have got some little rockstars with Marco Giltrap and Zac Stitchbury, and then Sonic have got three good peddlers with Ronan Murphy, [Harrison] Goodman, and Marcos Flack, and then there’s young Aron Shields who drove with us last year; he was third in the championship and he’s a real talent as well.
“There’s 10 kids, I think, that are capable of winning races, so it’s never been like this in Sprint Challenge.”
Ritter, who owns Sonic Motor Racing Services, described the field as “massively competitive”.
“There are a few guys in there with some experience and there are a few guys who were close to podiums last year that are coming back, and you’re expecting them to set the benchmark,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“But, because of the young guys coming into the series already, I think, no question, it’s the most competitive year of Sprint Challenge by a longshot.”
While McElrea Racing has become something of a production line for talent, it is stability behind the scenes which helps explain the secret to its success.
The squad counts former Dick Johnson Racing man Leigh Geyer, who McElrea declares “one of the smartest blokes in Australian motorsport at any level”, as chief engineer.
He has been with the team for a dozen years, while Warren Luff has been driver coach for more than a decade.
Of his craft, Luff explained, “It’s my job to help them kind of dissect what [drivers] look at with the data with their engineers and then look at it in the real world with the video out of the car.
“I then try and give them ways to help find that missing link between what the data’s showing them and what the video’s showing, and when you’re out on-track, if you’ve got to be braking 15 or 20 metres later, or whatever it might be, to give them some of the things I might look at or what they’ve got to work on to help them ultimately get to where they want to be.”
A 24-car field is set to tackle Round 1 at Phillip Island this weekend, with practice and qualifying on Saturday.
Three races, including the first for the Jim Richards Endurance Trophy, will be held on Sunday.
Entry List – Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge, Round 1
No Car # SPONSOR C/L DRIVER SURNAME STATE
1. 2 McElrea Racing (Pro-Am) Richard Cowen QLD
2. 3 Racing to Beat FA (Pro-Am) Jonathan Gliksten VIC
3. 12 Ares Group (Pro-Am) Matt Slavin VIC
4. 13 The Bend Motorsport Park (Pro-Am) Sam Shahin SA
5. 14 McElrea Rscing (Pro) Caleb Sumich WA
6. 16 TekworkX Motorsport (Pro) Hamish Fitzsimmons QLD
7. 18 Favrte Racing / Pinnacle Road & Race Works (Pro-Am) Travis Knipe VIC
8. 19 Wall Racing (Class B) Brayden Taylor NSW
9. 22 Cirrus Aircraft (Pro-Am) Andrew Goldie WA
10. 23 McElrea Racing (Pro) Lachlan Bloxsom QLD
11. 26 Taplin Group (Pro) Tom Taplin SA
12. 34 Wall Racing / Hillcrest Merimbula (Pro-Am) Caspar Tresidder NSW
13. 64 Team Porsche New Zealand / EBM (Pro) Marco Giltrap NZ
14. 66 Per Equipment Rentals (Pro-Am) Tim Wolfe
15. 72 Team Porsche New Zealand / EBM (Pro) Zac Stitchbury NZ
16. 77 Sonic / Dayle ITM (Pro) Ronan Murphy NZ
17. 78 Sonic Motor Racing / Rosche Paper / Supa Straws (Pro) Marcos Flack QLD
18. 81 McElrea Racing / McLennan Motorsports (Pro) Tom McLennan QLD
19. 84 Bold Living (Pro-Am) Brett Boulton QLD
20. 86 Morriss Racing Service (Class B) Phil Morriss VIC
21. 87 DW Motorsport (Pro-Am) David Greig VIC
22. 88 Sonic Motor Racing / Bob Jane T Marts / True Grid (Pro) Harrison Goodman VIC
23. 91 Autohouse Racing (Class B) Lachlan Harburg QLD
24. 116 TekworkX Motorsport (Pro) Aron Shields QLD
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