Michael Patrizi has secured his first win of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia season in an eventful opening race at Winton Motor Raceway, while stand-out performers Richard Muscat and Elite Class winner Adam Gowans rounded out the top three.
After taking the TAG Heuer Pole Position Award earlier in the day, Nick Percat started from the front position on the grid from Steven Richards, Craig Baird and Shae Davies.
The running order at the front dramatically changed at Turn 1 when the front four Porsche came into contact. Baird managed to take the lead, though was later penalised for his part in the incident, while Percat, Richards and Davies all dropped down the order.
The field was soon drawn together when the safety car was called onto the circuit while Martin Wagg’s race car was recovered from the muddy Winton in-field.
On the restart Baird was called into pit lane to serve his Lap 1 penalty, handing the lead to Patrizi, trailed by Warren Luff, Muscat and Gowans.
Luff looked set to finish second until he spun in the closing laps. Then, while attempting into re-enter the race, Luff became bogged and dropped down the order.
Patrizi’s strong and consistent performance saw him take the race win; his third Carrera Cup win in total and his first Porsche victory since the final race of the 2011 season at Sydney Olympic Park.
“It has taken a little longer to get my first win of the season; I had hoped that it would have come at Sydney Motorsport Park,” said Patrizi.
“I was lucky with what happened at Turn 1. From there I managed the race as I knew Baird would get a drive-through penalty.
“This win gives me a bit of confidence for tomorrow. I’ll just take it race by race and see what happens for the round.”
Young gun Muscat, who made his Carrera Cup debut at the co-driver Rennsport round, finished 1.3 seconds behind Patrizi in second in his maiden single-driver Carrera Cup start.
“I came into this weekend with an open mind but definitely didn’t expect that results in today’s race. I was really happy with my race pace compared to the front-running guys - Patrizi and Luff,” said Muscat.
“Racing with those guys was great to learn more about the car. These Porsches are very similar to those I race in GT3 Cup Challenge, but they require a different style of driving and I’m able to pick up some tips while following these experienced drivers.”
Third-placed racer was Gowans who, like Muscat, made his debut in the two-driver Rennsport event in May. With other front-runners coming into strife, Gowans’ consistent performance saw him take third position for the race; astonishingly his lowest Carrera Cup result after three races following his two second placings at Rennsport.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to come here and win the Elite Class and get third outright. Obviously a little bit of luck went my way, but it’s a great way to start the weekend,” said Gowans.
“I was aiming for a comfortable top 10 results. I certainly didn’t think I could manage a top five result as there are some great drivers at the front.
“Tomorrow will definitely be an exciting day, seeing all the quick guys come through the field after they had a tough race today.”
Duvashen Padayachee finished fourth from Davies in fifth, who faired the best of the four drivers involved in the opening corner incident.
Elite Class duo Damien Flack and Tony Bates scored strong top-10 results in sixth and seventh, while Percat and Richards were able to recover eighth and ninth position, respectively.
Victorian Elite Class racers Stephen Grove and Marc Cini finished 10th and 11th ahead of Paul Kelly, Tony Walls and Michael Loccisano.
After serving a drive-through penalty, Baird managed to climb back to only 15th by the chequered flag, left to rue an uncharacteristic mistake.
“I had a really good start and was able to get alongside Percat. Once I was there I didn’t see Richards, but by then it was too late. I apologised to both guys; now I’ll concentrate on getting some strong results tomorrow.”
James Bergmuller finished 16th from Renee Gracie, Rusty French, Wagg and Luff, while Max Twigg and Shane Smollen failed to finish.