The 2018 Porsche Wilson Security Carrera Cup was one of the most captivating seasons for the one-make Porsche category in some years. The addition of a couple of drivers with full-time Supercars experience was combined with the rise to prominence of some exciting young talents, along with a deep array of well-credentialed contestants in the Pro-Am Class. And of course, there was a brand new car on the scene, which saw lap records tumbling at most tracks.
The result – an amazing seven different outright winners from the eight rounds.
In our season review, we analyse the top 10 drivers in the outright points, and summarise the Pro-Am contest.
1174 points, 6 wins, 16 podiums, 1 pole position, 7 fastest laps
Coming into the 2018 season, many tipped Jaxon Evans as the title favourite off the back of his strong 2017 form, where he was a race and round winner in his rookie season.
After the first two rounds, Evans looked the goods, soaking up pressure from some of the other contenders as he emerged victorious at the Adelaide 500 and Australian Grand Prix by finishing the first seven races of the season inside the top two.
In the middle stages of the season, Evans’ title bid seemed somewhat less straightforward. While he accumulated useful points with a pair of top-four finishes at Phillip Island, a spin in the final race at Darwin was followed by seventh place in Race 2 at Sydney Motorsport Park, leaving him just 13 points clear of Dylan O’Keeffe with three rounds remaining.
But in those final three events, the Kiwi asserted his authority, finishing ahead his primary rivals when it mattered most.
Evans’ consistency was metronomic, and his damage limitation in races where he wasn’t the fastest was exemplary. He strung together 11 consecutive top-four finishes at the start of the season, and nine at the end of the season.
In contrast to several others in the field, he was capable of recovering from lowly starting positions with superb race-craft and clean, incisive overtaking manoeuvres. Those performances mark him as a worthy series champion, and his next career move will be fascinating.
992 points, 2 wins, 10 podiums, 3 pole positions, 3 fastest laps
From the outset, it looked like the reigning Carrera Cup Champion would have to work hard to try and make it back-to-back titles, but David Wall was among the front-runners in the first two rounds, generally hovering among the top four.
By the mid-way point of the season, it was clear the Wall Racing squad had unlocked some serious one-lap pace; in fact, Wall and team-mate James Moffat were undefeated for poles in the final five rounds.
Unfortunately, the Darwin round was also the one that ultimately ruined Wall’s title defence; after a lights-to-flag victory in Race 1, he stalled on the grid in Race 2, was collected from behind by Dale Wood and chalked up a DNF.
While the consequences weren’t as disastrous as they were in Darwin, tardy starts also cost Wall dearly at a couple of other events. With the cars so evenly-matched and the talent pool so deep, positions lost at the start were always going to be tricky to recover – Sydney Motorsport Park was a prime example, as was Race 3 at Bathurst where Wall lost some spots on the line, made contact while trying to pass Glen Wood, and was consequently penalised.
Start-line issues notwithstanding, the combination of Wall and his Porsche were every bit as strong in race trim as in qualifying, especially in the longer-distance races (as reflected by Wall’s collection of the Endurance Cup).
A polished performer in and out of the car, there’s no reason to expect Wall won’t once again be a title contender if, as expected, he returns in 2019.
Ashley Seward Motorsport
947 points, 1 win, 11 podiums, 1 fastest lap
So meteoric has Dylan O’Keeffe’s rise to prominence been over the last few seasons, it’s easy to forget he’s still only 20 years old.
The Ashley Seward Motorsport driver started the season solidly with a podium finish at Adelaide, and kept his cool despite an incident at the Grand Prix to finish fourth overall. Another overall podium followed at Phillip Island.
O’Keeffe’s purple patch came in the middle of the year. He broke through for his first round win in Darwin with a trio of top-three finishes, and a fully-committed, around-the-outside move on Jaxon Evans at Turn 1 showed he wasn’t afraid of getting his elbows out.
The SMP round was also a highlight, O’Keeffe winning his first championship race and also emerging victorious in the Australia v Asia battle.
With three rounds to go, O’Keeffe was just 13 points off the lead and the title looked like a real possibility. But he didn’t quite have the pace at Tailem Bend, and his chances at Bathurst and the Gold Coast were scuppered by incidents in the first races at both venues.
O’Keeffe’s gritty drives in Races 2 and 3 at the Mountain demonstrated his determination to fight all the way to the end. A nightmare weekend on the Gold Coast may have cost him the runner-up spot in the standings, but in no way takes the shine off his most impressive season yet, and a season where his reputation skyrocketed.
Sonic Motor Racing Services
833 points, 2 wins, 6 podiums, 1 fastest lap
Last year’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Champion contested the final three rounds of the 2017 Carrera Cup as a springboard into this season, and Jordan Love immediately looked comfortable, racing inside the top six from the start of the year.
As the season went on, Love’s race pace became more and more competitive. His maiden race win came in the second race at Sydney Motorsport Park when a blinder start launched him into the lead from fourth on the grid, and from there he resisted attacks from James Moffat all the way to the chequered flag.
The high point of Love’s season came at Bathurst – one of the rounds he contested in the category last year – where he finished all three races inside the top three and won the final to secure his maiden round victory.
Where Love gave away a lot of points to his rivals was in the Endurance Cup races. A tyre issue forced him into retirement in the second of the Phillip Island races, he recorded another DNF in Darwin, he spun on the last lap of the Tailem Bend enduro and he made an unforced error to crash out at the Gold Coast.
While 2018 was undoubtedly a strong rookie season for Love, the long-distance races are an area for him to target for improvement heading into 2019.
Sonic Motor Racing Services
800 points, 7 wins, 8 podiums, 1 pole position, 2 fastest laps
Stepping back from full-time Supercars competition at the start of the season, Dale Wood’s results in his first two rounds of Porsche competition were generally positive. He won his very first race in the category at Adelaide, and scored three more wins at the Grand Prix.
Phillip Island was even better, Wood resisting sustained pressure from Dylan O’Keeffe and Alex Davison to take two race victories and confirm his championship credentials by closing to within 17 points of Evans.
The downward spiral started at Hidden Valley; after finishing fifth in Race 1, Wood collected the stalled car of David Wall on the start-line, sustaining significant damage. More bad luck followed at Sydney Motorsport Park, when he was bundled out of the opening race on the last lap – the points weighting made it a costly race not to finish.
At Tailem Bend, Wood got his campaign back on the rails with a race win and third for the round.
But there was more misfortune in store at Bathurst; he retired from the first race due to contact with James Moffat, and was caught in a contretemps between Roger Lago and Indiran Padayachee in Race 2. In Race 3, Wood hit the wall while avoiding a spinning Josh Hunt on the last lap to round out a miserable weekend that ended his top-three championship hopes.
Wood’s speed throughout the season was apparent – he won more races than anyone else. But some of his results seemed to provide solid evidence for the correlation between green race cars and unlucky on-track occurrences.
792 points, 1 win, 4 podiums, 2 pole positions
Throughout his career, James Moffat has earned a reputation for a tenacious, take-no-prisoners approach to racing, and it was something he maintained during his return to Carrera Cup after a seven-year stint in full-time Supercars competition.
Moffat usually had the speed to be among the front-runners, and was one of the drivers responsible for Wall Racing’s perfect score of pole positions from Hidden Valley to the Gold Coast.
There were some standout on-track performances as well; in the final race at Darwin, he stalked Dylan O’Keeffe in the early stages, and beautifully managed his tyres so that he was in the prime position to pounce when a Safety Car created a late-race opportunity. A pair of second places at Sydney Motorsport Park were also enough for him to score the overall round victory.
However, Moffat also had more than his share of dramas throughout the year, many of them self-inflicted. A spin at Phillip Island and a stall on the grid at Tailem Bend were two such examples, and then there was the controversial incident with Dale Wood at Bathurst which saw him penalised.
Another incident with Glen Wood at the Gold Coast was followed by a physical altercation in the paddock; Moffat was fined and banned from the final race of the season for his troubles.
Moffat contributed to some of the most memorable moments of the season, but his indiscretions cost him a top-three position in the points. If he can minimise the mistakes, the speed is certainly there to win more races and challenge for a championship.
Sonic Motor Racing Services
661 points, 2 wins, 5 podiums, 2 fastest laps
2018 marked Michael Almond’s fifth Carrera Cup season, making him one of the more experienced drivers in the Pro Class. He also switched teams, joining the vastly experienced Sonic Motor Racing Services outfit.
Compared to previous seasons, Almond was consistently a lot closer to the outright front-running pace, and generally he was stronger in the races than he was in qualifying.
The highlight of the South Australian’s season was his win on home turf at Tailem Bend, set up by a fine display of tyre conservation in the long-distance first race.
Almond should have been in the winner’s circle again at Bathurst, but he crashed out of the opening race while leading, his car sustaining enough damage to end his weekend altogether. Mechanical problems also caused him to retire from Race 1 on the Gold Coast, but on a circuit where overtaking is difficult, he still fought back into the top 10 by Race 3.
The overall standard of competition in Carrera Cup lifted a notch in 2018, so seventh in the points for Almond (equalling his 2014 and ’16 championship results) doesn’t reflect this being his most competitive season in the category to date.
Porsche Centre Melbourne
586 points, 2 wins, 3 podiums, 1 pole position, 2 fastest laps
Another driver to switch teams at the beginning of the season, Melbourne lawyer Nick McBride hoped the change of scenery would give him the chance to challenge for the championship.
However, he was taken out on the very first lap of the first race of the season in Adelaide, setting the tone for more misfortune that lay ahead.
Any advantage McBride gained by qualifying on pole at the Grand Prix was lost when he spun out of the lead after an early Safety Car.
McBride was solid, if unspectacular at Phillip Island, but at Hidden Valley, he was a victim of the Safety Car restart pileup in Race 2 – the resulting damage ended his weekend. He strung together a couple of top-seven finishes at Sydney Motorsport Park, but Tailem Bend was a disaster; he was taken out of the first race by an out-of-control Adrian Flack, and eliminated from proceedings.
That meant a brand-new car for the next round at Bathurst, where he adopted an understandably cautious approach. McBride finally came up with the sorts of results to match his ability at the Gold Coast, where he scored a pair of race victories to become the seventh different round winner of the year.
While McBride was desperately unlucky to sustain so much damage over the course of the season, his mid-pack qualifying performances left him in the danger zone at several rounds. He and the Porsche Centre Melbourne outfit will be hoping their victorious season-ending form is a sign of better days ahead for 2019.
He came into the category with impressive credentials, but the transition into Carrera Cup proved the biggest challenge yet for Cameron Hill and his small, Canberra-based family team.
A learning weekend at the Adelaide 500 was followed by the team’s worst nightmare at the Grand Prix; Hill stalled on the grid, was shunted from behind and his car was extensively damaged.
With both time and finances stretched to their limits, Hill and his family worked tirelessly to make it back on track for Phillip Island.
The hard work paid off – by Hidden Valley, Hill’s lap times showed he was much closer to the pace of the front-runners than at previous rounds. Next time out at Sydney Motorsport Park, a track where he had tested prior to the event, Hill qualified and raced in the top five.
Tailem Bend was also an impressive effort – Hill finished seventh for the round, despite not having tested at the venue, and with the extra pressure of his team juggling their national Formula Ford commitments. A certain media manager described it afterwards as an “absolutely stonking” performance.
Hill’s finest hour came at Bathurst, where he showed glimpses of the raw talent that saw him dominate races in the Australian Formula Ford Championship and Toyota 86 Series. In his first drive at the Mountain in a Porsche, he was one of just four drivers in the field to achieve a lap-time in the 2:06 bracket, and he finished third for the weekend.
In the end, Hill finished ninth in the standings – a fine recovery when he was outside the top-20 at the season half-way point. With the tough learning year out of the way, Hill and his team will be in a much better position to challenge for regular podiums and wins in 2019.
Sonic Motor Racing Services
Lining up for a full-season in Carrera Cup after previous campaigns in Formula Ford and Australian GT racing, West Australian driver Pete Major had a tough battle on his hands competing in the Pro Class against such an illustrious driver roster.
However, he certainly did not disgrace himself, regularly finishing inside the top 10 and chalking up a couple of seventh-place finishes.
Major’s best drive was at the Grand Prix; starting at the back of the field after a DNF in Race 2, he fought through the field to finish ninth in Race 3 and seventh in Race 4. Phillip Island was also a strong weekend, with a couple of ninth-place finishes in the two long-distance races. In the end, Major earned a spot inside the top 10 at season’s end – a commendable achievement considering the calibre of competition.
Glen Wood drove for Ashley Seward Motorsport from the Darwin round onwards, and did an impressive job of adapting to the Carrera Cup car. He finished one of the races inside the top five in his debut race meeting, and was generally a consistent fixture inside the top six or seven. Ultimately, he finished 11th in the points despite missing three rounds.
Adam Garwood stepped into Carrera Cup from Touring Car Masters and took time to come to grips with the car, eventually joining forces with the McElrea Racing outfit. His best weekend was at Bathurst where he finished sixth in Race 3.
Josh Hunt was the regular driver for Chris Papadopoulos’s Volante Rosso team; he often struggled in qualifying but generally worked his way forward in the races. He sat out the Tailem Bend round in favour of Ben Stack.
Alex Davison competed in the Grand Prix and Phillip Island rounds for ASM before committing to overseas opportunities, and Leanne Tander drove for the team in Adelaide.
The other Pro to make an appearance was Earl Bamber, who finished on the podium at the Gold Coast round in a one-off drive.
TAG Heuer Pro-Am
Consistency was the biggest factor in Stephen Grove wrapping up his third Pro-Am title, but he won quite a few races as well, with victories at the Grand Prix, Phillip Island, Darwin, SMP and Bathurst.
Adrian Flack often had the pace to challenge Grove – he recorded nine fastest laps in total – but a couple of DNFs proved costly, especially at Tailem Bend.
Tim Miles ended up third in the standings with numerous top-three finishes and a couple of race wins at the Grand Prix and Bathurst.
He showed scorching pace at various stages of the year, but Anthony Gilbertson was also involved in quite a few incidents, especially at the Adelaide and Grand Prix rounds. But he settled down and become much less damage-prone in the second half of the season, and became a regular fixture on the Pro-Am podium.
Roger Lago was also in contention for much of the year but suffered a horrendous weekend at Bathurst and missed the Gold Coast round altogether, while Dean Cook was one of the big improvers in his first full season for more than a decade – he was among the fastest by the end of the season.
Other Pro-Am drivers to compete included Graham Williams, Indiran Padayachee, Sam Shahin and Max Twigg, who was a regular podium contender until missing the second half of the year due to other commitments.
*Chequered Flag Media provides PR, communications and social media services for Dylan O’Keeffe, Cameron Hill and Ashley Seward Motorsport.