Andy McElrea’s team has been a long-time top performer in Porsche competition for many years in Australia, but now McElrea Racing can count itself as a race winner in the Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America.
McElrea’s Tom Sargent broke through for his first win at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca during the incredible Rennsport Reunion 7 Porsche celebration.
Sargent had scored a run of second-place finishes in the opening five races of the season but now has climbed the top step of the podium for the first time in round 13.
Since its inception in 2009, McElrea’s team has scored 14 major championship wins “down under,” including three wins in the Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia.
The New Zealand-born McElrea operates his organization from his Queensland base – the team running five entries in Carrera Cup and five in the Australian Porsche Sprint Challenge Championship.
A former championship-winning driver in Formula Ford and Trans-Am competition in New Zealand, McElrea not only runs his highly successful race team, but his other involvement played a role in setting up his new-for-2023 American division – Andy McElrea is also a racing dad.
Andy’s son Hunter recently completed his second season with Andretti Autosport in Indy NXT – the renamed Indy Lights championship. Hunter was rookie of the year in the series last year and finished second in the points this year..
“We’d had great success in Australia, and Hunter started on the Road to Indy over here in 2019. I have been spending a lot of time over here as he has climbed the ladder. That – combined with the fact that the Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America and the Australian series run the same 992 Porsche – it made sense to set up over here and see how competitive we might be,” McElrea said.
The Australian arm of McElrea Racing has been a prominent breeding ground for future Porsche stars. Matt Campbell won the Australian Carrera Cup championship in 2016 for McElrea – the first step on his climb to becoming a Porsche factory driver who now competes for Porsche Penske Motorsport in the GTP class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Jaxson Evans won the Australia championship with McElrea in 2018 and has gone on to be another prominent Porsche star – winning the French Carrera Cup championship in 2020, finishing third in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2021, and finishing second in Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup the same year.
McElrea’s latest Australian championship-winning ace, Harri Jones, has now graduated to Supercup in 2023 – racing with BWT Lechner Racing.
Setting up in Mooresville, North Carolina, this year, McElrea Racing made its debut in the Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America championship at the annual pre-season test in Sebring in March.
The “new kids on the block” were immediately on the pace – Sargent topping the times on both days despite neither he nor the team having even seen the historic Florida airfield circuit previously.
“We were confident we’re going to be competitive, but you never really know until you hit the track for the first time,” McElrea said.
“The fact that all Carrera Cup championships across the globe are using the same car is a huge help – we obviously know the car intimately; it is just the tracks that are completely new to us.
“For Tom to go on and score five runner-up finishes in the first six races is very rewarding. Those results certainly raised our expectations but that first win took a little while – I suppose good things come to those who wait.”
The strong success in the USA has not impacted the performance of McElrea’s Australian operation. Lead driver Jackson Walls is in second place in the points going into this weekend’s round at Bathurst this weekend..
“Even though our two workshops are more than 9,000 miles apart, our guys work very closely and are in constant communication. Data and ideas go back and forth constantly. For the moment – the majority of the info is heading from Australia over here, but that’s because we are running a lot more cars and have a lot more data,” McElrea said.
“The real secret of our success comes down to our people. When you are running so many cars, the whole organization can’t rely on just me – I have to have the right people in place.
“That was the biggest challenge in getting established over here, but we’ve been very fortunate to have put together a great group of people and my crew chief David Gahagan has done a terrific job putting an awesome crew together for our US program..”
McElrea Racing’s 2023 form has certainly sparked interest in a potential expansion for the team in 2024.
“We are used to running a lot of cars in Australia and would eventually like to mirror that model over here,” McElrea said.
“Bayley Hall from our Australian team is doing the last two weekends over here, but we’re fielding interest from a lot of people.
“But we’re not going to jump from two cars to match the ten we run in Australia immediately. Porsche Sprint Challenge is certainly a championship we’re keeping an eye on for the future – that would be a good next step for us.”