Almond wins enduro thriller

Photo Credit: Porsche Michelin Sprint

21 March 2021

Michael Almond made it three winners from three races in a thrilling conclusion to the Porsche PAYCE and Michelin Cup at Sandown Raceway, while Harri Jones sealed the Carrera Cup Mobil Pro class by a single point.

Almond’s victory came by less than a car length as he and Jones battled for the race and round honours, the latter claiming the weekend overall thanks to the single bonus point he scored by grabbing pole position on Saturday.

Aaron Love was third: Each driver scored a first, second and third across the three races contested to see them tied on points for the overall round result – the Pole Position result the deciding factor.

“What an awesome weekend,” Jones said.

“The three of us on the podium had equal points for the weekend except I had the bonus point for pole position. Super glad with the weekend: I can’t thank the McElrea team for the weekend, they’ve provided me with an awesome car.”

Stephen Grove swept the weekend to take the Carrera Cup Pro-Am Class, beating home Tim Miles and Marc Cini in the final standings.

“It’s really good – it’s a good hit out, 45 minutes is a long way!” Stephen Grove said.

“The boys were chasing and chasing and they were all over me! It’s good to be back – it really caps a tough year off.”

Ryan Suhle won the Mobil Pro class in the Sprint Challenge competitors, the Porsche Michelin Junior pleased to be back in the car and with his strong weekend.

“It was awesome to get back on the track and race. These events are always run so well so it was great to get one done this year. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and enabled me to get here.”

Andrew Goldie’s Sprint Challenge Pro-Am victory came against the largest class of the entire weekend; winning the round ahead of Matthew Belford and Michael Loccisano.

“I thoroughly enjoyed it – it’s a nice way to end the year, get a race meeting in a very competitive field of cars,” Goldie – who travelled from Western Australia to race this weekend – said.

“It was always a question about ‘how would we fare’ moving up from Class B to a Pro-Am car but this is a nice way to start; a nice confidence boost.”

The 45-minute race was a pulsating, tense affair that saw three different race leaders and tight competition right through to the checkered flag.

Starting from the front row, Love led Jones and Almond on the opening lap – however an off at turn seven on the second lap saw him drop to fifth and saw Jones assume the lead over Almond and Nick McBride.

The Queenslander led the next 17 laps before Almond slipped past to start the second half of the race in front.

Love gradually worked his way back to the front, setting the fastest lap en route to snaring third position on the 26th lap – though the two leaders remained inseparable as they diced for the lead.

The intensity grew as the race charged towards the 45-minute timed conclusion, Jones launching an attack on Almond on the 260km/hr run to turn six – on what would be the penultimate lap of the race. After several wild moments, the Sonic Motor Racing car was able to remain in front as they exited Dandenong Road.

Almond held on to take a narrow race win – to make it three winners from three races – with Jones securing the overall result in second. Love finished third, with Nick McBride and Carrera Cup rookie Jackson Walls completing the top five.

Stephen Grove’s biggest trouble on his path to victory was battling with Sprint Challenge Mobil Pro contenders Christian Pancione and Ryan Suhle, who both battled hard to take their class honours.

Grove won the weekend ahead of Tim Miles and Marc Cini.

Pancione won in Sprint Challenge, though Suhle survived an eventful race to take the weekend overall – leading the class early before an off dropped him back to third in class. A late pass on Courtney Prince to grab second position was enough to secure him the round result ahead of race winner Pancione and the impressive rookie Prince.

Andrew Goldie’s first round aboard Pro-Am Machinery was a success, completing a clean sweep of the weekend to claim the winners trophy; Matthew Belford and Michael Loccisano completing the podium.

The successful Porsche PAYCE and Michelin Cup concluded an abbreviated year for Porsche Motorsport Australia in style, the three races run without Safety Car interruption or delay.