We are almost halfway through 2018 and it has certainly been a busy first few months for Grove Racing. So, we caught up with Stephen and Brenton Grove to talk about the past, present and future.
Stephen’s year started off well at the 24 Hours of Dubai in January with a podium in class aboard an MRS GT-Racing run Porsche 911-II GT3 Cup. Things got a little sweeter for the Melbourne-based driver when he took out the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in class alongside son, Brenton as well as Porsche ace Ben Barker and Daniel Gaunt.
After that, Stephen embarked on his seventh season of Porsche Wilson Security Carrera Cup Australia and with three rounds down, Adelaide, Australian Grand Prix and Phillip Island, the two-time class champion currently sits second in the Pro-Am standings.
More recently, Stephen headed over to Europe to take part in the Monaco Grand Prix Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup round where he finished 22nd outright following a thrilling race on Sunday of the event around the perilous streets.
For Brenton, the Bathurst 12 Hour class win alongside his dad has highlighted his 2018 season. The 21-year old progressed from Porsche racing last year into the Dunlop Super2 Series, the development category for Supercars.
It’s been a tough transition into Super2, however, as the young gun has tried to adapt to the car and learn the new style of racing. At the previous round in Perth, Brenton acquired the mentoring of Bathurst legend Steven Richards who worked with him closely across the weekend.
Brenton will share the Grove Hire, Dynamic Steel Frame and Metroll backed Holden VF Commodore at the Bathurst endurance round with two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Earl Bamber in October.
Here’s what they had to say:
Q. First of all, Stephen, how has your year been so far?
S.G. “The year so far, started good obviously. To win the Bathurst 12 Hour, especially with Brenton at the start of the year was fantastic. The Carrera Cup Australia season has also been good, slow start to the season, Adelaide probably wasn’t great - the DNF at the Grand Prix was something that was unfortunate. Then to come back with a couple of wins and I’ve been pretty strong since then so that’s been good. To go over and do Monaco was an incredible experience, so that’s been quite good. Also, we had the 24H Dubai in January which was also a good way to start the season.”
Q. The Bathurst 12 Hour earlier this year was obviously a very special moment to win the race in class alongside your son, Brenton. How have you reflected on that experience?
S.G. “Listen, that’s something pretty special - to win at Bathurst in any category in anytime is pretty hard to do, but to go there with Brenton and win was something that meant a lot to me. Hopefully we can race again and win some more together. He’s sort of in a different direction now and his schedule is a lot different to mine with me spending so much time overseas racing. We’ll just have to try and find that opportunity.”
Q. We’re three rounds into the season and you are currently sitting second in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Pro-Am standings. Do you feel that’s a solid position?
S.G. “Obviously, the standings are quite important, but I don’t even look at them to be honest. I just try and do things round by round, sometimes you start thinking about a championship and then you become too conservative or you make mistakes and you put too much pressure on yourself. For me now, I just want to try and keep wining; coming off a round win at Phillip Island was great, so I just want to keep winning and if you keep winning I think the championship will sort itself out. There’s five or six guys in the Pro-Am field that from the start of the season, in my view, could win the championship - no question, they all have the ability. They’ve all been racing a long time. It’s a tough category, but it’s a category that I really enjoy and I’ve been lucky enough to win two class championships, so we’ll just see what happens. I’m not putting much pressure on myself this year, there’s a lot of other things in motorsport I want to achieve this year so we’ll see how we go.”
Q. Monaco a couple of weeks ago was also pretty special for you. Did that weekend change anything for you in terms of your driving or how you approach the race weekend?
S.G. “The only thing that’s changed is really braking, I mean it was pretty difficult because you’ve got to go over there, get on it straightaway in practice and then you’ve only got qualifying before the race. So, I had to try and adapt from a car that now has ABS to a car that doesn’t ABS on a very, very technical track. To lock a tyre there, obviously it takes away your steering and that would be devastating there on a circuit like that. For me that was the hardest part, to adapt to the brakes, but the good thing was it didn’t really have an impact. What I do with ABS now is something I really need to think about, so there’s a high probability I won’t run ABS for the rest of the [Carrera Cup Australia] season.”
Q. Talk us through how has your year been to date?
B.G. “The year has been good, Super2 is a lot different to Porsche in terms of the competition, it is so much more competitive - so, any mistake you make is a lot more magnified. There’s a lot more pressure to get everything right which is hard when you’re also trying to learn a car, learn the series and learn the tracks. Every track I’ve been to so far this year I haven’t been to before. It will be interesting to see when we get to Sandown if things are a bit easier because I’m not having to learn the track as well. I’m starting to feel like I’m a bit more familiar with the car. I mean, for me, the first three rounds were not as good as I’d liked in terms of the results, but I think the learning progression has been a lot harder than what it seems. Hopefully now we can put those lessons into practice and really push forward.”
Q. What was the experience like for you at the Bathurst 12 Hour in February – your first one as a driver it must be said as well?
B.G. “To be honest, it all went quite quickly; the weekend is a bit of a blur. I didn’t get a massive amount of practice before because it’s three drivers and we had to share a car so for me, everything was new, the track was new. The team environment and the way it worked with three drivers was very different, so for me it was really special to win and it’s something I probably didn’t realise how big it was until afterwards. I think next year, if we go back in whatever car and whatever class, I think it will set in exactly how big of an achievement it was because we’ll have to start all over again, back to scratch, do all the hard work and preparation again. It will really show how well we did this year.”
Q. Winning with your dad, that must be something that you’ll never forget?
B.G. “It’s cool, it’s really cool to do it with him and to share and talk about it. Everything off the track we can definitely relate to each other. It sounds silly but once you’re in the car and doing the race you don’t think it’s your dad anymore, he’s just another team mate you want to support and try get the most out of, then also use them to help you get better. It’s a collaborative thing; we’re the same off the track even if we weren’t driving together, so there’s nothing really new, we just get to drive the same car on the same weekend. Driving with him is such a cool experience and to say I won at Bathurst with my dad on our first attempt together is incredible.”
Q. Looking ahead now a few months forward to the Bathurst Super2 race in October, how are you feeling about that, because you will have two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Earl Bamber joining you in the car for the weekend alongside his duties in the main game with Shane van Gisbergen?
B.G. “I’m really looking forward to Bathurst, I’ve obviously never been there before in the Super2 car so it’s going to be a whole new experience and kind of unknown. I’ve also never been there before where I can take as much risk as I want, I’ve always had to worry about other drivers that I’m sharing the car with and play the team game. So, this time it will be cool to really hang it all on the line, take as much risk as I’m prepared to take and see what I can do. I think I’ve got a good understanding of the track and what I need to do, but it will be good to have the car mostly to myself when we race there later in the year. Obviously, I’ve got Earl with me but it’s still really my weekend and I’m not ruining his championship if something goes wrong, I’m ruining my own. I’m excited for it, no doubt.”
Q. Have you thought about the Bathurst 12 Hour next year or anything like that?
B.G. “We’ve definitely had some discussions but we haven’t made any decisions really. I’d be surprised if we don’t do it and obviously the plan is for dad and myself to do it again - what car we do it in, what class we do it in, who drives for us is all up for discussion. We’re talking about it, but it’s still a little bit of a way off. It will be coming clear in the next month or so.”
Q. Is GT3 completely off the cards?
B.G. “No, no, we’ve definitely had some discussions with some teams and manufacturers about loaning a GT3 car, but I don’t think the car we want to run will be eligible for the race. It needs to have run the previous year, so I don’t think the car we want to run will be run this year in another series around the world - so that means it won’t be eligible to run the 12 Hour, so that means if we were to do it in a GT3 car, it would probably be 2020. The car for next year, the new GT3-R Porsche, that will be allowed to run in 2020.”