After a strong start at Phillip Island, the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge will return to the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships at the end of the month for its second round.
There will be plenty of drivers eager to impress at Sydney Motorsport Park, none more so than current Morris Finance Pro-Am leader, Matthew Belford.
Having first made his debut in the series just two years ago, contesting five of 2019’s six rounds and finishing the class in seventh place outright, the Victorian claimed his first series victory at Phillip Island last month.
And Belford’s maiden round victory was a testament to the possible journey of an individual via Porsche Motorsport Pyramid.
Getting his first experience in a Porsche through the Porsche Track Experience in 2018, Belford then purchased a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car and took part in multiple track days, including the Porsche Pole Position experience, before returning to the Porsche Track Experience to complete more levels at the start of 2019.
Eventually, Belford joined up with Porsche Centre Melbourne Motorsport for the 2019 season, working closely alongside Team Manager and Race Engineer, Karl Batson.
As every round went on, the rookie kept improving, impressing Batson right from the get-go, something he has continued to do this year.
“Matt was a quick learner from the start and takes instruction well,” Batson said.
“He never gets flustered or emotional at the track, he just comes in from every session, sees where he needs to improve and goes out and does it.“
“Every test and race session we’ve had with him, he’s bettered his personal best and lap times. Overall he’s down-to-earth and a great guy to have in the team, we all get on very well.”
Another fan of the 43-year-old’s work is his Porsche Centre Melbourne teammate and driver coach, Nick McBride, who helped him during the dramatic opening round of the season in Phillip Island.
“When Matt joined the team, he had next to no racing experience, which was an advantage in a way as he was almost a clean canvas to work with,” McBride, a successful driver himself, McBride said.
“He’s very driven and has a natural ability and picked up pace fairly easily. His first year he showed massive glimpses of speed but lacked the experience to give him the consistency and extract the best from the car in qualifying.
“He has a really good attitude and knows what success looks like on and off the track. You can see it in how he prepares and does his homework before test days, he’s very analytical, spending a lot of time reviewing data to know what the limit is and what’s achievable.
“The biggest difference I’ve seen in him this year over 2019, was that he is not making the same mistakes. He’s an intelligent driver and for example knew to drive within himself in the wet at Phillip Island and that ultimately won him the round.
“He’s on a very steep trajectory of improvement and I feel he will be very quick in a year or so, with every race he gets under his belt.”
Ahead of next week’s visit to Sydney, Belford currently leads the Pro-Am standings by five points over reigning champion Sam Shahin, while sitting in seventh place outright.
Fans unable to attend the round will still be able to watch a large portion of the action with Saturday and Sunday to be broadcast live and free on 7plus and 7mate, while New Zealand viewers can tune into the round via Sky New Zealand and overseas fans can watch via Motorsport.tv.
The Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge and Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships take place at Sydney Motorsport Park on 30 April to 2 May.