A dream first win for Andrew MacPherson and Brad Sheils was taken away after the checkered flag had fallen in the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli. It was left to the Maranello Motorsport duo of Grant Denyer and Tony D’Alberto to celebrate their first win.
It was a race where the pitstops would have a huge impact on the end results. Qualifying was taken out by the Trass Family Motorsport duo of Jono Lester and Greame Smyth, with Lester taking his third pole in a row, equalling the record of Greg Crick and the late Allan Simonsen. This would give them the longest pitstop, with the times being decided on driver ranking and grid position.
On a one hour race on a street track like Townsville, this was always going to be a massive disadvantage.
And so it proved. The Ferrari led from the getaway and pulled out a slight lead. There was action throughout the field as the drivers jockeyed for position, all without contact.
The unfortunate Ben Foessel was the first retirement as his Ginetta G50Z was eliminated on lap six after the alternator cooling hose fell off, cooking the alternator. Foessel and codriver Hayden Cooper will be out for race two but their run of bad luck continued.
A lap later Matt Kingsley would retire in his Porsche and crucially Justin McMillen’s Camaro would suffer a failure in the front right suspension and was stranded out on track. It would call a safety car, crucially during the safety car, the pit window would open.
MacPherson would take advantage of an early pitstop, a pitstop that was 14 seconds longer than the Denyer/D’Alberto. Sheils would come out, down the pack but would work his way up. He did what MacPherson needed and as MacPherson described him as a “hidden talent”, proved the point to end up in the lead after the pitstop window.
They took the flag with an 11 second margin but there would be a postscript, one that MacPherson would describe as an “amazing screw up by our team” on Facebook. The team released the car too early, and despite being amongst the first cars to pit, the Australian GT Championship didn’t notice the infraction or decided to levy a penalty after the race. A whopping 192 second penalty, or twice their nominated pitstop time, was applied dropping them to 16th.
Despite this, it was a break out performance for the team. As MacPherson said prior to learning of his penalty. “We are against some serious players, so this is a great result.”
“The [Porsche GT3] R is a great car. We have had a lot of help from the KA Motorsport team in America and we have been learning the car a lot more. Marius Avemarg and Louis Kapitsas our team manger and technical data support, have both been instrumental in making in finding the pace in the car. I have been more relaxed in the car and I am driving a lot better, it is a great car to drive, nervous but it is certainly a proper GT3 car.”
The bad news for them was good news for Maranello, whose good fortune entered their second race in a row. Last time out they inherited a podium, this time, a win. But that is not the full story as Denyer had to make his way up from the tail end of the top 10 after his pitstop and he did so on track with a number of stunning passes. None was more stunning than his pass on Tony Quinn for the win (or second on track at the time.) With just under two laps left, Denyer’s Ferrari came from a long way back, testing the limits of the brakes and Quinn’s trust to take the position from the McLaren, and the win.
Quinn ran a solid race to finish second with Max Twigg and Geoff Emery’s Erebus Mercedes in third. The early leaders and Championship pace setters, the Trass Family Ferrari had their race ruined by the safety car and after their pitstop, they were well down the field. Like rivals, Nathan Antunes’ Audi and the Audi of Chris Mies/Greg Crick, the pitstop time hurt, ended their chances for a podium. Antunes faired the best to come home fourth, Lester/Smyth was seventh and Mies/Crick were eighth.
“We cleared out another huge lead only for the safety car to relinquish it yet again! Oh well, we did the best possible job in the circumstances and banked points for 8th. The TFM Ferrari was a rocket all race and we have another roll of the dice tomorrow,” Lester said on Facebook after the race, going some way to prove the impact that the pitstops had on the race.
Kevin Weeks and Steve Owen finally ended the perfect run by Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer in the Audi to take the Trophy Class win. Weeks and Owen in the Ford GT finished 14th. The car had pace all weekend, after taking second in first qualifying. Michael O’Donnell would take the Challenge Class win from Richard Gartner, both in Porsche Cup Cars.
The second race one hour race will take place on Sunday from 12:10pm with the drivers that finished the first race starting the second.
1 T.D’Alberto/G.Denyer Ferrari 458 GT3 2014 46
2 Anthony Quinn (Qld) McLaren 650S GT3 46
3 M.Twigg/G.Emery Mercedes Benz AMG SL 46
4 Nathan Antunes (NSW) Audi R8 Ultra 46
5 James Koundouris (ACT) Porsche 997 GT3-R 46
6 John Magro (Qld) Lamborghini Gallardo 46
7 J.Lester/G.Smyth Ferrari 458 GT3 46
8 C.Mies/G.Crick Audi R8 Ultra 46
9 Steven McLaughlan (Vic) Audi R8 Ultra 46
10 Klark Quinn (Qld) McLaren 650S GT3 46
11 Tony Walls (Qld) McLaren 650S GT3 46
12 Peter Fitzgerald (Vic) Audi R8 Ultra 46
13 Morgan Haber (Qld) Mercedes Benz AMG SL 46
14 K.Weeks/S.Owen Ford GT 2011 GT3 46
15 Jan Jinadasa (Vic) Lamborghini LP560-4 46
16 A.Macpherson/B.Shiels Porsche 997 GT3-R 46
17 Theo Koundouris (ACT) Porsche 996 GT3-S 45
18 Mark Griffith (Qld) Audi R8 LMS 45
19 Adrian Deitz (NSW) Ferrari 458 GT3 45
20 G.Taylor/B.Mawer Audi R8 LMS 45
21 Dale Paterson (Vic) Reiter Camaro GT3 44
22 Matthew Turnbull (Vic) Lamborghini LP-560 G 44
23 Michael O’Donnell (SA) Porsche GT3 Cup Car 43
24 Richard Gartner (NSW) Porsche GT3 Cup Car 43
25 S.Voight/S.Taylor Porsche 997 GT3 Cup 43
26 P.Edwards/J.Bowe Bentley Continental 43
27 S.Ellinghham/M.Campbell Porsche GT3 Cup Car 43
28 Tony Alford (Qld) Lotus Exige Cup R 42
29 Wayne Udy (Qld) Porsche GT3 Cup Car 40
DNF Justin McMillan (Vic) Reiter Camaro GT3 7
DNF Matt Kingsley (Qld) Porsche GT3 Cup Car 7
DNF Ben Foessel (Qld) Ginetta G50Z 6