Cooper Murray’s international journey began in style over the weekend as the Victorian secured a podium finish during his maiden round in the Porsche Carrera Cup France.
Taking part in the category as part of his preparation for the prestigious Porsche Junior Shootout next month, Murray was entered in the final round of the series and racing for Pierre Martinet by Alméras – the same team former Porsche Carrera Cup Australia winner Jaxon Evans raced for earlier this year.
Arriving in Portugal earlier this month, the 24-year-old showed no signs of jet lag as he produced top five times in all three of the category’s practice sessions – despite having never raced at the circuit.
With the series holding two races for the final outing of the year, Murray continued his good form in both qualifying sessions and although he dropped down the pecking order a little in the first session, qualifying in P7, he posted the fifth fastest time in session two - ending both session within a second of the polesitter.
Once again, Murray didn’t let his inexperience behind the wheel of the new 992 GT3 cup car or at the Algarve International Circuit get in the way as he finished race one in fourth place – the three drivers directly ahead of him all dropping back down the field.
It was a similar story in the second race as three of the drivers ahead of Murray had issues and dropped down the field, handing the consistent Australian a chance to secure an outright podium.
Although he lost a place and finished third, it was still a highly successful debut round on international soil for Murray, who will now spend the next few days testing the 992 car.
The weekend will also have served as a confidence booster for Murray who is looking to follow in the footsteps of Matt Campbell and Evans as he battles against some of the best young Porsche drivers around the world in the Porsche Junior Shootout next month.
Murray wasn’t the only Aussie racing at the famous Portuguese circuit with James Allen also in action over the weekend.
It was a busy couple of days for the experienced Sportscar driver as the West Australian raced in both the European Le Mans Series and Le Mans Cup.
In the first of his double duties, Allen was racing alongside American John Falb for Muehlner Motorsport in the Michelin Le Mans Cup.
Falb had the responsibility of qualifying and did a solid job, guiding the car to a third row start. Sadly, the race didn’t pan out so well for the duo as they limped home in P25 and five laps off the winners.
Allen then linked up with his regular Panis Racing teammates, Julien Canal and Will Stevens, for Sunday’s 4 Hours of Portimao, where the trio were gunning for second on the outright European Le Mans standings.
Their task of securing the spot was made harder after qualifying when they ended up in seventh place, three spots down from their championship rivals - Jonathan Aberdein, Tom Gamble and Philip Hanson in the United Autosports Oreca 07.
Unfortunately the race didn’t get much better as the United Autosports trio ended up winning the race outright, while Allen and the French outfit were 13 seconds off a podium finish in fourth.
Heading into the round with a three-point advantage, the result saw Panis Racing settle for third, 11.5 points behind the second placed United Autosports.