Stephen Grove recorded a season-best result of third in Pro-Am for Round 3 of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.
Sunday’s 17-lap race took place in searing heat, with warm conditions across the weekend as the pinnacle of Porsche one-make racing supported the Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix.
Grove got off to a blazing start from 27th outright on the grid, squeezing up the middle of three cars off the line and nosing ahead of most of the Pro-Am runners at the first corner.
The brilliant launch saw Grove initially elevated to 22nd outright at the wheel of the Herberth Motorsport-prepared Team Austria Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
A good exit out of Turn 1 allowed Grove to drag up to the back of Pro-Am leader Roar Lindland on the run up to Turn 3, challenging for the lead in the braking zone and even having a slight look around the outside.
Lindland quickly built a gap out front, while Grove held onto second position in class, improving on his lap time with every tour.
Just before the halfway mark in the race Grove was overtaken in a fierce battle with fellow Pro-Am competitor Philipp Sager, moving back to third in class.
Shortly after, he was also passed by a pro- and a rookie-class competitor, seeing him slide to 25th position outright.
Grove remained there until the end of the race; the Melburnian taking the chequered flag third in Pro-Am, his best finish of the season, which was indeed good enough for 25th outright.
Speaking after the race, the three-time Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Pro-Am series winner believed they had made a step forward this weekend.
With Round 3 in Austria complete, Grove has climbed to third in the Pro-Am standings on 42 points.
Round 4 of the 2019 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup takes place at Silverstone Circuit in the United Kingdom from July 12-14.
STEPHEN GROVE QUOTEBOARD:
“I got an awesome start, it was a great start and I jumped a couple of positions; got past some of the Pro-Am drivers and a few other pros, so it was an exceptional start. The thing with that is the couple of pros I passed - when they get up to speed - they eventually come through. I knew I was racing Philipp [Sager] for class positions and I gapped him pretty well on the first half of the first lap, but I knew I needed to push because he would be strong. When the pros came through down the inside it just slows you up, so he gained on me and passed me into Turn 3 at the end of the long straight. I had a good switch-back on him but a pro car came past and blocked me, so Philipp pulled away a bit. Overall, I’m happy with the race. It was very, very hot though!
“You need to drive differently on these European circuits, so I’ve been trying to adapt to the style. The Red Bull Ring is very fast, you’ve got to use a lot of kerbs, an enormous amount of kerb, most corners you’re almost onto the grass. There’s also the long straights, a lot of slipstreaming, and a lot of passing opportunities. I think I'm now starting to adapt to the European tracks which are fast, flowing and have lots of kerbs. It sets us up pretty well for Silverstone.
“What I’ve found is I’m moving a lot closer to Philipp Sager as we progress and I’m confident we’ll be able to mix it with him as we did in this race and hopefully get the better of him in one of the upcoming rounds. The key to finishing ahead of Lindland is getting ahead of him on the first lap. And to do that, you’ve got to qualify well, get him off the start and be ahead of him and then after that, you’ve got to use all of the racing skills you can muster to hold onto the position. We’ll keep working hard at it, but I’m confident that I think a second-place is around the corner and a race win is achievable by the end of the season.”