The question posed at the start of the 2017 Porsche Mobil1 Supercup season was a simple one. How long until the fresh intake of rookies, including Australian and British champions, usurped the old guard of experienced Supercup hands?
Three races. That is simplifying the whole conundrum some, but after both the events at the Circuit de Catalunya and in Monte Carlo were dominated by the experience of Michael Ammermüller and Lechner Racing, it did appear that the Supercup narrative of 2017 was going to be a simple one.
However, the aforementioned Rookie intake were showing formidable pace, and in the Styrian Alps last weekend at the Red Bull Ring one of those rookies made the miniscule leap in pace required to overthrow Ammermüller.
That rookie was reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Australia champion Matt Campbell (FACH AUTO TECH), who claimed pole-position by a solid margin of two tenths from fellow rookie and Carrera Cup Italia vice-champion Mattia Drudi (Dinamic Motorsport).
With Ammermüller in third position it was clear that Spielberg presented the best opportunity yet for a new Supercup winner to etch their name into the history books. From the first rank of the grid, Campbell duly did so.
After an engaging first three races, the story of the battle in Austria is somewhat less thrilling if no less noteworthy. Campbell was untouchable from the second the lights flickered out to the second the chequered flag fluttered on an overcast Sunday morning.
Even a brief safety car to recover Mark Radcliffe’s stricken IDL Racing operated Type 991 GT3 Cup did nothing to halt the Australian’s charge. What the brief intervention of the safety car did do was derail Drudi’s podium effort.
Trailed race long by championship leader Ammermüller and the German’s team-mate Dylan Pereira, Drudi drove calmly to maintain his second position. However, post safety car the Italian lost some pace (potentially as a result of losing tyre temperature driving at a slower speed behind the safety car) and was usurped by both Ammermüller and an opportunistic Pereira.
Denis Olsen would climb to fifth in his Lechner car, having started from seventh on the grid. British contender Josh Webster regressed the same number of places Olsen progressed for FACH but still achieved sixth position as the top British contender.
Current Carrera Cup GB championship leader Dan Cammish wasn’t quite able to replicate his superb Monaco rostrum result and indeed Carrera Cup Le Mans form but was forced to settle with minimising his losses with a respectable eight positon. Lukas Motorsport’s Robert Lukas was the filling in the Brit sandwich.
Ryan Cullen dispelled the myth that one cannot overtake in Supercup by charging from nineteenth to twelfth, but even his impressive race craft for Lechner was outshone by Tom Sharp (IDL Racing). Sharp finished thirteenth, having climbed ten positions across the sixteen laps of competition. Arguably Sharp’s most impressive Supercup performance, it very much added to the increasing evidence that the tight-knit and relatively small IDL Racing squad can compete at the heart of the international Supercup competition. Paul Rees (MOMO Megatron Team Partrax) was fifteenth.
So to Silverstone, and three races in fascinating plot lines emerge from every angle. Ammermüller is still in charge, however, Campbell now appears to have found a way of converting devastating one lap potential into race long consistency that will thrust him into the heart of the 2017 title fight. With Webster, Cammish et al all demonstrating how fast they have got to grips with the jump between national Carrera Cup success and the intensity of the Supercup, the list of potential winners at the home of British motor sport is extensive. One thing is for sure, and that is that the support race on the morning of the British Grand Prix is going to be one of the hardest fought in Porsche Mobil1 Supercup history.