For an Italian, racing is at the heart of our DNA, whether it’s on the race track or if you’re Lamont Marcell Jacobs winning the gold for the 100m sprint. The Italian passion in life drives us to being the absolute best we can be. This of course, translates to the automotive world with countless successes on international racing circuits around the world.
Take Mario Andretti for example, the American Italian racer is recognised as one of the most versatile racers of all time, taking the win in anything from the Daytona 500 to a Formula 1 world championship. Another is Daniel Ricciardo, a current Italian Australian Formula 1 McLaren driver that is seen as one of the drivers with the potential to take home the championship one day.
This all creates perfect context for this article as the Pancione name is no different to these guys. From what I was able to decipher in my brief encounter with Christian Pancione, you can clearly see that his true passion for racing has driven him to where he is today, much like the what you see in the most famous and most accomplished drivers I just mentioned. Before we delve further into the promising apex aficionado, let’s wind back and start from the beginning.
My Journey to Meeting Christian Pancione
Life is all about coincidence and luck. I honestly consider myself quite lucky, especially with this blog as many unexpected opportunities like this one have presented themselves in the most unlikely of places. Just a few weeks prior to writing this article, I was having a fairly average day at work and I had a meeting scheduled with one particular colleague that I get along quite well with. After business was discussed, we then began to talk about watches and a few other common interests, till we stumbled upon the topic of cars.
I’m fairly discreet about the blog and keep exciting things like my friend purchasing a Ferrari 599 to myself. But after discovering we’re both car fanatics, we began discussing about all about the Ferrari and the amazing world of exotic cars. To which my colleague, who is also quite subtle, kept the fact that he’s a two-time world karting champion from South Africa a secret. I’m talking about, none other than the driver and now driver trainer/mentor, Caleb Williams.
Long story short, with Caleb’s new found knowledge about the blog, he asked if I’d like to cover something a bit different, being the Porsche GT3 Cup Car hand over day with Christian and the McElrea Racing team. I tried to play it cool, but I probably came across way to excited as Porsche and racing is the whole reason why I love cars in the first place.
So I went behind the scenes of the premier race Porsche Carrera Cup category for the launch of the latest 992 Porsche Carrera Cup car with Christian Pancione and McElrea Racing.
What is the Porsche Carrera Cup Series?
The Carrera Cup is a racing series that attracts some of the most talented drivers in the country and around the world. At the base of it, it’s essentially a one make championship, although this one make series features the race version of what could be one of the most desirable cars in the world, the Porsche 911 GT3.
The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (992) race car comes straight from the factory, race ready with only a few minor adjustments able to be made, making the Carrera Cup a true driver championship, unlike some other forms of motorsport, the best example being Formula 1, as the team budget usually dictates the outcome for the season. With the Carrera Cup, no significant modifications can be made to give a superior advantage over other teams, making this almost a purely driver focused, skill-based motorsport.
The Australian Carrera Cup kicks off at the highest profile Australian racing event of the year, the Melbourne GP as the opening event for the Formula 1. There’s eight rounds that are hosted across the country with the two of the feature races being at the Australian GP and Bathurst 1000. Below is a full race calendar for the 2022 year listing all of the events to be hosted around the country.
The Carrera Cup in the World of Motorsport
In Australia, the Carrera Cup has multiple races that are featured at some of the most spectacular racing events across Australasia. Year on year, the 911 GT3 Cup car is improved by the Porsche factory with a slew of enhancements that only make racing more exciting for both the drivers and fans. In this particular year, improvements have been made such that the 992 GT3 Cup car is actually faster than the Australian V8 Supercars for the first time. With the 911 GT3 Cup presented with two less cylinders than the V8 Supercars, this is quite an impressive feat.
The appealing thing for drivers is that no matter where they go in the world, the Carrera Cup is featured throughout many different regions with the main focus being on the European circuit. The same formula is applied in every region with a consistent focus. As a driver, you’ll be able to jump out of a GT3 Cup Car in Australia and directly into an identical car in Europe. This opens up a world of opportunity for drivers being able to develop and showcase their skills no matter where they go, in a familiar chassis.
With Porsche being world renowned as an integral part of global motorsports it’s great to see them continually providing the Carrera Cup with iterations of the GT3 Cup car every year and supporting the series to keep it alive. It’s a true testament to their German engineering prowess and ability to stand behind a product that with a few bells and whistles is essentially a road car as well.
Porsche Carrera Cup Racing Teams
Going behind the scenes, with what was essentially private all-access to Christian’s garage and the McElrea Racing team, I got a new appreciation for the role that teams play in this racing series and after a few hours I understood why Christian Pancione has chosen McElrea Racing to support his championship campaign in the Carrera Cup.
A brief run down on McElrea Racing, founded in 2009 by Andy McElrea, he has managed to expand McElrea Racing into the best racing service provider in Australasia. They specialise in all aspects of racing from preparation, engineering and driver coaching. They’ve developed a strong reputation through the Australian Carrera Cup, GT3 Cup Challenge and Australian GT series.
Andy and his team have managed to support and thrust some of the biggest stars to ever come out of the championships just mentioned. With names like Jaxon Evans who won the Carrera Cup championship in 2019 and then went on to win the envy of all drivers, the worldwide Porsche Junior Scholarship in the same year. This ended up being Jaxon’s pathway to the European Porsche championships, eventually competing in the Dempsey-Proton racing team behind the wheel of a 911 RSR. A car and team that has also been raced by another McElrea Racing superstar, Matt Campbell.
McElrea Racing is no stranger to success, with countless names achieving big things throughout the years. They’re the team to come to when you take motorsport seriously. They’ve created the perfect harmony between the driver and technical side that helps the drivers prosper.
I was taken back by the professionalism and wealth of knowledge the McElrea boys had. More on that later and how it creates the perfect atmosphere for drivers like Christian Pancione.
Racing in a Porsche GT3 Cup Car
I stood near the edge of the pit garage and wondered where all the parts required to run these cars come from and how Porsche is able to support 15 drivers/cars, to which I discovered the Porsche support truck. Amazingly, I was told the truck carried enough of all the key components needed to keep these cars racing each time they’re on track. This then brought me to something we all want to know.
So, how much does it cost to go racing? We know racing isn’t cheap and there’s a definitely a pay to play element. To give some insight into what it takes to go racing for a season, you first have to buy the 992 911 GT3 Cup Car which is close to the price of the road going variant of the GT3 at a price of $400,000 AUD.
Once you’ve got the car there’s various other fees, but the main costs being the races which are around $25,000 AUD if all goes well and there’s no significant parts that need replacing and the all-important testing days which cost around $10,000 AUD. On-top of this there have been some extra costs incurred such as bumpers and so forth, but more significantly there may be sizeable replacements such as a transmission, which could set you back around $30,000 AUD, or even the entire engine for $40,000 AUD a pop.
That should give a sense of the commitment these drivers and families have given, and a bit of an understanding of the stakes at play.
Money aside, I wanted to know more about what it really means to race a 992 GT3 Cup Car, so I got into a few deep discussions with Timmy the race mechanic. What I was able to take away was that there is a limit to what you can actually change and customise in this one make series. All you can really adjust is the rake of the car, the suspension setup and camber. Other than that, everything else is set in stone. Although, not discounting the significance of a good suspension setup as this varies from driver to driver and is not a case of one size fits all.
Even if to the untrained eye the Porsche GT3 Cup Car looks inherently poised as Christian maneuverers through the complexities of the track, the settings are unique to each driver and track to achieve the perfect equilibrium. This makes one appreciate the complex nature of getting the setup right and the insight provided by the chief engineer Leigh Geyer and his team of race mechanics.
The new 992 itself is its own unique beast, with an intoxicating exhaust note coming from its raspy 6-cylinder Porsche race engine. The 992 GT3 Cup car has been improved immensely once again over its predecessor the 991.2 Cup Car. Christian mentioned the overall feel is improved and speed he can maintain throughout the corners is significantly higher.
As for technical specs the basics of the new 992 GT3 Cup car include a power output of 375kw (510PS) at 8,400rpm coupled with 470NM of torque. There’s a whole host of carbon fibre elements to ensure the weight of the car is kept down. Porsche themselves provide a fairly comprehensive technical brief on all the specs in their 992 911 GT3 Cup brochure.
Christian’s Past, Present and Future
In the Pancione family, cars and racing are deeply rooted within their lives. Mario Pancione, Christian’s dad, talked about how the family is passionate about racing and how supportive they are of Christian and his aspirations in motorsport.
Mario himself is heavily involved in the automotive industry as the co-founder of VCM Performance and HP Tuners. Developing some of the highest quality performance parts and tuning solutions for a variety of cars. Interestingly, Mario’s business partner and long-time friend, Chris Piastri, is also the father of Formula One Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri.
Christian now works in the family business to keep personally learning and growing away from the race track. Christian reflected on his younger years growing up with Oscar at the kart track, moving through the ranks in the karting world and eventually evolving to where they are today whilst still remaining best mates.
Through and through, Christian’s family, best friend and environment from a young age are all an intrinsic part in the development of what eventually led to Christian racing karts from 2012 to 2017 and taking home a number of regional and state championships as well as Australian championship rounds.
In 2018 Christian stepped up from karts and debuted in his first car race, straight into the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge (Class B). An impressive first season saw Christian win the Class B championship. Into 2019 Christian was making moves in the main game and raced in the GT3 Cup Challenge Pro class in which he produced some impressive results against the tougher pro class competition.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the 2020 season was a bit lacklustre but in 2021 Christian joined the McElrea Racing team and had a fantastic season finishing 2nd overall in the drivers’ championship standings.
What Christians Future Holds
The name Christian Pancione is no doubt becoming a very familiar name in the motorsport world. As a drivers skill advances through the various stages of their career and races are won, their story continues to evolve.
From quickly rising through the ranks in the Porsche Cup races from 2018 to finishing 2nd in the 2021 pro class championship, the 2022 Porsche Carrera Cup season will definitely be an exciting one that will produce some impressive results for Christian.
As for the future, I asked Christian where he’d like to see himself in the coming years. And staying true to Porsche, he wants to see himself in the European championship and going up against the competition overseas, with the ultimate goal of getting a Porsche factory drive to be behind the wheel of some of the more extreme Porsche race cars such as the 911 GT3 R or the ultimate 911 RSR.
These sound like some pretty lofty goals, although he’s set himself in the right direction as the likes of Jaxon Evans and Matt Campbell both started out in the Australian GT3 Cup Cars as well, before they had the opportunity to drive in Porsche Factory Teams to pilot the 911 RSR. Coincidentally, as previously mentioned, Jaxon and Matt were both racing under the McElrea Racing banner throughout their Australian Carrera Cup journeys.
Success Breeds Success
Life is hard, no matter what form of greatness you’re aiming to achieve. There’s always going to be a certain point where a plateau is reached and progress seems to never come. All of the greats have mentors and people they rely on for that extra push and piece of advice that helps them along their journey. Take Chris Bumstead for example, winning Mr Olympia three times. He attributes most of his success to the people around him that help push him through all the struggles he faced being at the absolute pinnacle of the body building sport.
Moving back into the motorsport world, take the recent example of George Russell moving to the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team and how Lewis Hamilton is excited to mentor George. Think of the endless amount of guidance and lessons that will be learnt through the experience of the 7-time Formula 1 world champ. This can almost be considered an unfair advantage.
Enter Caleb Williams, an effective way to sum up Caleb and his achievements would be that he has years of racing under his belt. Winning a multitude of races in various championships and eventually bringing home the Rotax world championship twice! Caleb’s focus and dedication to the sport has seen him through the toughest of situations, one of the most memorable being in La Conca at the 2010 world finals, where he started in 32nd (2nd last) on the grid and through a display of his talent, negotiated his way through the field and ended up winning the race.
Subsequently, years later this winning mindset and set of finely tuned skills was the perfect fit for Christian Pancione where Caleb’s experience has proved to be invaluable which has enabled the duo to share the success of climbing the ladder together.
Since the results were clear from Caleb’s mentorship and the fantastic relationship that was formed, it was a no brainer to continue utilising Caleb’s support as Christian progressed in his career, ensuring that Caleb is there providing the advice and guidance needed to tackle any situation.
The common theme through the day for a winning mindset was to create a relaxed and constructive environment for Christian. The theme repeated itself and like any great team I’ve been in throughout my career, I’ve never felt any pressure from anyone to do anything other than put in my best effort.
Obviously, the underlying expectation in a motorsport environment is to actually win races and subsequently take home the championship, but there was a sense of family here. There was a lot of banter and good vibes but when Christian came back in after a hot lap, it was all business.
Immediately, everything switched into a constructive mode where there was feedback between Christian and the team to get a proper feel of the car and how the setup needs to be adjusted to see how it performs according to Christians driving style. It’s obvious that the calibre of driver and team is unparalleled and you can tell racing runs through everyone’s veins within the team.
Not only does this supportive and relaxed attitude apply to the drivers and those involved in making everything happen, the environment was created in such a way that they had no problem extending their knowledge and expertise to me to get me up to speed with everything I wanted to know. This was very humbling to think that at this level of motorsport they were happy to take the time to invite me into their world for the day.
Everything was absolutely on point, any question I had was answered in detail then elaborated on even more, it made me feel if the team and Christian are able to articulate themselves to someone as removed from the technical side of motorsport as I am, that they’ve cracked the special formula to translate driver input, feeling and technical expertise to success on the track. Even when I was listening into a few conversations, no detail was missed and there were clear lines of communication all the way from the head of the team, to the mechanics and driver.
Creating a winning mindset and environment is no easy task, from the perfect environment and no communication barriers for any parties involved there’s no question as to why Christian is able to perform so well. Through my own analysis of everything, the glue to ensuring Christian is able to utilise everything to his advantage would be the mindset and advice that is passed on through Caleb, as mentioned above. Mario made sure I was aware that there are fantastic times where everything is running smoothly like what I witnessed on the testing day and there are also days that test the mental fortitude of Christian and the team.
In a stark contrast to this, discussing an example of what doesn’t work for Christian to be at his optimal performance would be his old racing team. The environment was quite toxic, to the point when Christian would make a mistake and rather than receiving constructive feedback from the team principal he would get scolded and yelled at, leaving Christian feeling down and unmotivated. This made an impact on Christian as it essentially took the fun out of something he loved doing and to not have fun racing in one of the most desirable race cars in the world must mean the old team created a fairly awful environment.
The Chequered Flag
Christian Pancione, although quite early in his career, has sent ripples through the motorsport world. I hope this article highlights that in the high stakes world of motorsport, especially in a one make series, it takes a lot more than luck or money to achieve anything. Christian has clearly found his rhythm and pathway that he is destined to go down.
The harmony that he has created between himself, the car, the race track and McElrea Racing team will pay dividends in the years to come. There’s no doubt the Carrera Cup is a gigantic stepping stone for him and there’s going to be so many more exciting things to cover over the years as he develops as a driver and begins to fulfil other aspirations he’s looking to achieve.
I was personally blown away by everything I learnt in my short encounter and look forward to seeing where Christian’s determination and focus take him in the future. Till next time!