Jono Lester and Greame Smyth have taken pole position in the for round 2 of Australian GT Championship Presented by Pirelli at Phillip Island.
Lester led the first 15 minute qualifying session, pushing the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 to a 1:28.383 ahead of Christopher Mies. The JAMEC PEM Audi pilot was just 0.15sec slower.
Qualifying for pole wasn’t that simple though with the two 15 minute sessions being averaged. This meant that the co-drivers would also have to perform.
And Smyth performed admirably. He was able to lap in a 1:28.435 – which was more than a second faster than Greg Crick – Mies’ teammate.
There was short period of angst though as one of the cars went out on track without valve caps on the tyres, a potential issue that could lead to punctures and penalties. However, it came to naught and the times remained.
Third on the grid was the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari of Tony D’Alberto and Grant Denyer.
There were qualifying issues for both the Vicious Rumour Racing Ferrari of Andrea Montermini and Tony DeFelice. DeFelice brought out a red flag in the first session and wasn’t able to post a time. Montermini did get out in the second session but was 11 seconds off the pace.
The Motorschool Ginetta of Ben Foessel was also slow in the first session and the car didn’t appear in the second session.
Neither car took the start. A disappointing end to both but the Ferrari was down to an unknown problem that made the car extremely difficult to drive on turn in, particularly in the fast corners.
The race got underway in cool but conditions. The start was relatively clean except for a minor spin for #68 Porsche. The Ginetta of Matt Campbell/Michael Hovey that had surprised many with its pace on Saturday were forced to start from pit lane after a fluid leak was discovered shortly before the race.
For the leaders, the opening hour of the race saw a thrilling battle between the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari and the Taplin Real Estate Aston Martin. With Lester and Canto behind the wheel the pair were rarely more than a second apart.
“The first stint was really satisfying We had good pace and you know you can race with Canto – we had a really good battle!” Lester said.
The fight was briefly interrupted by an early incident eliminated the #2 Audi of Peter Fitzgerald/Dean Koutsoumidis, the JJA Consulting Lamborghini of Jan Jinadasa/Josh Hunt and the Ford GT of Kevin Weeks/James Moffatt.
The crash brought out a yellow flag while the cars were retrieved.
It was unlucky for the Ford GT as the car didn’t sustain significant damage but the impact damaged a wheel. When the car came to the pits, the team were able to loosen the wheel nut but they could not fully remove it and their day was done.
After a few laps of yellow, the green flag fell with Lester and Canto gapping the field and resuming their battle. It would last until just before the first round of pitstops.
It was then that the Aston Martin went into the pits and was pushed into the garage. An alternator failure put paid to their challenge. While they were able to get back out, the had lost a lot of time and were out of the reckoning.
The Trass Family Ferrari continued to lead with challenges coming from the Christopher Mies/Greg Crick Audi R8 and the McLaren of Tony Quinn and Garth Tander.
As the race went on, many dropped out or lost time with spins, technical difficulties or tyre issues.
The #37 McLaren of Klark Quinn and Jonothan Webb had lost their traction control and while they were able to continue running, their times were slower than the sister car.
Another to run into grief was the SAFE-T-STOP Porsche which spun into retirement and brought out a safety car.
The #63 Lamborghini, however would have the biggest of misses – losing the car at the top of Lukey Heights, spinning down to MG. This is normally a big crash but the car was able to continue, only hitting an advertising board.
As the race entered into its final phase, it became a timed event.
Still it was Greame Smyth in the Trass Family Ferrari was leading the race with Greg Emery’s Erebus Mercedes and Mies’ Audi over a minute behind.
They seemed to have a confortable gap with the following cars having to make some seven seconds a lap to challenge – though only if it were to stay green.
And it did not.
John Bowe spinning the Bentley into the gravel trap at the Hay Shed. This would bring out the yellow flag and the gap at the front was gone.
As the green flag fell, there were five cars on the lead lap. Master seeded drivers Smyth and Emery led the race with professional – and the very rapid drivers of Mies, Tander and Tony D’Alberto (Maranello Ferrari). It would be a fight for the win.
The restart brought black flags for overlapping before the line for cars #12 Porsche and #71 Camaro.
The focus was at the front, however. Smyth was able to extend a short lead after the restart, with clear air and a couple of back markers, the Ferrari driver was able to create a buffer.
There was a change though for the podium positions with Tander using his experience to grab third from the Erebus Mercedes.
Suddenly, though there was a monumental change though with just 20 minutes to go with Smyth running wide and dropping out of the lead.
Not only would he lose the lead to Mies, he would drop to fourth and would have to battle his way back up. He would make it back to the podium, passing the Erebus Mercedes with just 13 minutes left.
It would also release the two professional drivers to fight for the win.
There would be angst with the backmarkers with Mies stuck behind the Warren Luff McLaren for more than a lap. He would be getting frustrated, the lights flashing, knowing that Tander was not far behind.
“It seems that some people don’t know what a race licence is! I don’t know how some people can get a race licence like this,” said a frustrated Mies after the race.
He would continue to close. With 10 minutes left the gap was around five seconds. Coming onto the final lap, the gap was just over a second.
The fight was on. But Mies is a wiley and experienced character and would be able to fend off Tander and win by just one second.
“We started P2 and Greg did a fantastic job. Our pitstop penalty was longer than the others so we had to fight our way through the field – so it wasn’t easy,” Mies said.
Greg Crick was elated with the win. Crick a former Champion of the GTs had a massive health battle after the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour and took his first win in the Series since 2012.
“It was great – the car was fantastic. I was a little slow in the first part of my stint as we were running to a strategy but I got the hurry up and I did some great times towards the end of my stint,” Crick said.
“I’ve learnt a lot today – I’ve not done a lot of miles in the Audi but I am getting a feel for the car now and I am confident for the rest of the season.”
The battle for third would also go down to the wire. D’Alberto had managed to get past the Erebus Mercedes and closed in on the Trass Family car.
The gap would be just 0.2 second between the Ferraris. It was all for nothing though as the Trass Family Ferrari – after losing an almost certain win, incurred a further 35 second post race penalty for passing under the yellows, dropping the car to fifth, and allowing the Maranello Ferrari of Tony D’Alberto and Grant Denyer the final podium spot.
Lester, though was happy with his pace and was confident for the rest of the season.
“From a purely personal perspective this weekend, I went out to be the quickest guy – the more I can do that, the more I can put my case forward [for more races]. I love this environment, I love this car [the Ferrari 458 GT3]. It is fairly clear that it suits my style,” Lester said after the race.
I’m happy but we need two more steps on the podium.”
Barton Mawer and Greg Taylor would take out the Trophy Class win with the Adina Audi. The car ran without a fault until with just three laps remaining Mawer got a right rear puncture after running over debris. Fortunately the car had a large enough lead to hang on for the win.
“It went to plan for us. Greg Taylor started in the car and set a great pace. When I got in the car was strong and I had really good speed and passed a lot of Championship cars. We were able to get a good gap on the field and this really set up our race,” Mawer said.
“I had to come into the pits at the end to replace the right rear and we just had enough time. It wasn’t easy and it proves that it is never over until the fat lady sings!”
The Challenge Class would go to Tony Alford and Mark O’Conner’s Lotus. The car would start last but was able to keep clean throughout the race to take the class win.
The 101 lap race would be flagged after 88 laps due to time constraints. Oddly, however the race finished at 5:15pm local time – some 15 minutes after the final possible finish time. The decision to run until 5:15pm was made after many had completed their final pitstops, putting many in fuel issues. Despite this, all the cars were able to make it on the two compulsory pitstops – save for any other unforeseen issues.
1 74 C.Mies/G.Crick JAMEC PEM Racing Audi R8 Ultra 88
2 7 A.Quinn/G.Tander Darrell Lea McLaren 650S GT3 88
3 88 T.D’Alberto/G.Denyer Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 88
4 36 M.Twigg/G.Emery Erebus Motorsport Mercedes Benz AMG SL 88
5 27 J.Lester/G.Smyth Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 88
6 47 J.Koundouris/M.Marshall Supabarn Supermarkets Porsche 997 GT3-R 88
7 75 S.McLaughlan/S.Johnson JAMEC PEM Racing Audi R8 Ultra 87
8 11 T.Walls/W.Luff Objective Racing McLaren 650S GT3 87
9 73 M.Hovey/M.Campbell HHH Racing/Triffid/ESP Ginetta G55 GT3 87
10 37 K.Quinn/J.Webb Darrell Lea McLaren MP412-C 87
11 6 N.Antunes/R.Salmon Skwirk/Beechwood Homes Audi R8 Ultra 86
12 38 G.Taylor/B.Mawer Adina Apartment Hotels Audi R8 LMS 86
13 51 Andrew Macpherson AMAC Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3-R 86
14 69 T.Koundouris/S.Owen Supabarn Supermarkets Porsche 996 GT3-S 86
15 19 M.Griffith/D.Gaunt Hogs Breath Café Audi R8 LMS 85
16 33 S.Ellinghham/A.Heimgartner Fastway Couriers 911 GT3 Cup Porsche 85
17 54 T.Alford/M.O’Connor Donut King Lotus Exige Cup R 84
18 63 D.Stutterd/M.Niall Team FreeM Lamborghini Gallardo 83
19 55 X.West/A.Jones Malibu Boats Porsche GT3 Cup 83
20 80 Peter Edwards/John Bowe Flying B Racing Bentley Continental 82
21 68 M.O’Donnell/J.McCorkindale Thomson Geer Lawyers 911 GT3 Cup Porsche 36
22 12 B.Cook/T.Knight Walz Group Porsche GT3 Cup 82
23 93 P.Morris/B.Lynton MARC Cars Australia MARC Ford Focus 76
DNF 48 J.McMillan/J.LeBrocq Interlloy M Motorsport Reiter Camaro GT3 77
DNF 8 A.Deitz/C.McConville Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 67
DNF14 A.Taplin/D.Canto Taplin Real Estate Aston Martin Vantage 62
DNF 71 D.Patterson/S.Richards DPM Motorsport Reiter Camaro GT3 61
DNF 46 J.Magro/N.Morcom johnmagro.com Lamborghini Gallardo 59
DNF 4 P.Conroy/S.Varney GT3 Cup Car MY11 49
DNF 53 R.Gartner/M.Hector SAFE-T-STOP Porsche GT3 Cup 48
DNF 5 Kevin Weeks/James Moffat Supaloc Racing Ford GT 2011 GT3 9
DNF 77 Jan Jinadasa JJA Consulting Group Lamborghini LP560-4 2
DNF 2 Dean Koutsoumidis EVA Racing/Evolve Technik Audi R8 Ultra 2
Round three of the Australian GT Championship takes place in Townsville on July 10-12.