AS a racing exchange, as a wheel to wheel battle, it lasted no more than twenty-five seconds – but the opening two corners of the combined Porsche Carrera Cup Australia / Asia race for pro drivers last weekend perfectly summed up all the best bits of why we go car racing.
On drivers’ left was Matt Campbell, the current Porsche Carrera Cup Australia championship leader and a 21-year-old progeny widely tipped to achieve Great Things in the very near future.
On the right was Maxime Jousse, the reigning Carrera Cup France champion, the current leader of the Asian series and at 25 a young driver starting to reach the maturity of what will surely be a strong GT racing career.
Campbell, of course, had local knowledge and had earlier recorded his fifth and sixth wins at Sydney Motorsport Park: a record for any driver in the history of Carrera Cup Oz at the Eastern Creek venue. He had scored pole by nearly half a second in qualifying and never seriously looked challenged en route to building a healthy championship lead thanks to two confident victories.
Jousse, meanwhile, had never lapped the tricky, undulating track prior to Friday but had impressed with his speed in adapting to a circuit widely different to the smooth, open and rather more forgiving Grand Prix circuits the Asian championship habituates with regularity.
And to be honest, few in the venue expected Jousse – or any of the Asian championship pro drivers, for that matter – to seriously challenge the Aussie’s in this one off match race. The local guns are just too experienced and their teams too switched on to the often fickle, changing nature of the track’s 3.9 kilometers.
So it wasn’t a black mark against the Carrera Cup Asia drivers – far from it. It was just another case of the realities of motor racing: far more often than not, it’s experience that is key.
Still.. the tantalising prospect of two of the best one-make Porsche racers in the world at the moment going head to head was still worthy of some anticipation.
And for twenty-five valuable, brilliant, intense seconds did they ever deliver.
On the outside of the track, Jousse’s initial launch was superb: the gripped-up racing line offering slightly better traction than the dirtier side of the track where Campbell sat. As Porsche 0-100s go, it had to be up there with the best seen all weekend.
Campbell’s initial jump wasn’t perhaps quite so sharp, but his second phase was good and as the pair accelerated through third gear and into fourth, they were absolutely line ball.. Campbell’s shorter run to the apex of turn one perhaps having him a bonnet-length in front, if that.
Jousse, then, found himself on the outside of one of Australia’s quickest corners and heading due West into the setting Sydney sun – windscreens all pitted from a tough weekend of racing and with the entrails of bugs and other assorted debris.
So naturally, he trusted Campbell would give him room and committed to the outside.
The pair fired through one side-by-side and though Campbell held the inside line, Jousse was Mighty – written with a capital ‘M’ for emphasis – through the mid-corner: hands busy on the wheel with typical European verve as he tried to discover the available grip level through tired front Michelin’s. As they exited the corner, they remained side by side.
The braking phase before turn two was similarly equal. Campbell committed deep but with enough in reserve to know that he could make the apex of the tricky, 180-degree hairpin without smacking the side of the Frenchman’s good looking yellow, white and red 991 GT3.
It was here that Maxime probably realised that his only real shot to grab the lead was to commit to the outside of two, hang on for dear life on the dirty side of the road and thus position himself for the inside run through the deceptive right hander at turn three.
So he went deep in the outside and for a moment it looked like it would work – he maintained position alongside Campbell’s car through the first part of the corner. But, mid turn, he had the briefest snap of oversteer as his car ever so slightly overstepped the grip level. The brief pause on the throttle and the grab of opposite lock as the car slid was enough for Campbell to grab enough of an advantage to know he was clear before turning into three.
And that, all-too briefly, was the race. Campbell would disappear up the road and despite caught and harassed by Nick McBride in the closing stages would record his third win of the weekend.
Jousse ran third for much of the race before the warring Alex Davison and Ash Walsh caught him and, in a rather wild exchange that saw them nearly three wide down the straight three laps from home, relegated the French driver to fifth place where he would finish.
Maxime had told reporters earlier in the weekend that he would need ‘200 laps of testing and a lot more tyres’ to get to the same level as the top Aussie drivers last weekend – Aussie drivers who, remember, include Bathurst champions and ex-works drivers.
The fact that he had about 30 laps of practice yet still had the capability to race a young Aussie at his formidable best, speaks volumes for his ability.
But best of all was the wonderful display of raw, hard, pure motor racing. Great drivers in great cars who had never raced each other but had the nerve, the talent and the mutual respect to put on such a show.
The Asian championship runners impressed with their adaptability to a circuit they’d never seen. And our Aussie boys showed again why Carrera Cup Australia is respected around the world. They are very, very good.
The Carrera Cup Australia / Asia joint venture had the potential to fail but thanks to the talents of the teams and drivers involved – and the organisational efforts behind the scenes – it was a triumph of motor sport doing what it often does best:
It brought people from diverse backgrounds together and put on a display of sporting prowess that only it can provide.
I can’t wait until we take them on somewhere up there for more of the same..