The final round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli was going to be a fiecly fought battle, head to head for Championship throughout the classes – most notably with Australia’s Nathan Antunes looking to pull off a miracle to overcome one of the world’s leading GT drivers in Christopher Mies.
Both drivers would be in Audis but Antunes would be driving along while Mies would be sharing the duties with Ryan Miller for the two, 60 minute races at New Zealand’s Highlands Park circuit.
Mies held a 65 point lead over Antunes heading into the final weekend with 569 points, Antunes on 504 and Grant Denyer with the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari was an outside chance on 467 points.
Mies racing for the JAMEC Pem outfit would have a new teammate with another German ace – Christopher Hasse joining Steven Mclaughlin.
Hasse was immediately on the pace, taking pole position with a time of 1:32.709. Antunes lined up third behind Klark Quinn and Shane van Gisbergen’s McLaren. Mies was fourth, with a 1:33.042, less than 0.1 from Antunes.
The times were faster than last year with an array of new cars. With the Championship on the line, the drivers were pushing and this was evident by a few of them getting air over the cross over bridge.
Come time for race once, the wind had picked up, dirtying the racing line and adding another challenge for the drivers.
From the start, Klark Quinn secured the lead leaving Hasse/McLaughlan in second, Antunes in third. Miller in for Mies was in fifth.
The first half of the race was going smoothly for the field – that is up until Antunes tried to make a move on Hasse, the two collided, sending Antunes out of the race and out of the weekend.
And out of the Championship hunt.
That left Mies to take the Title, the first international driver to do so since Allan Simonsen in 2007.
“I can’t believe I won the Australian GT Championship! I’m so happy for the entire team, but I want to dedicate this championship to all in France [referring to the mass shooting in Paris],” Mies said after the race of his Championship victory.
The race continued though and with the outright title fight over, Mies and Miller settled for fourth.
It would be Klark Quinn and Shane van Gisbergen to take the win. van Gisbergen, a V8 Supercar regular would enjoy the victory on home soil.
“The car was fantastic and Klark did really well to bring it home for us to take the round win.”
It would be New Zealand one-two with the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari finally getting a bit of luck, taking second with Jono Lester and Greame Smyth. Lester has the record for pole positions but bad luck has always stood in the way.
Max Twigg and Shae Davies would take third for the Erebus Mercedes team.
Race two would take place later the same day with the grid being taken from the results of race one.
After his earlier crash, Antunes would not make the start.
V8 Supercar regular Garth Tander, racing with Tony Quinn in the second of the Darrell Lea supported McLarens started fifth and made good ground in the opening laps of the second race.
He had handed the car over to Tony Quinn and was he was fighting for a podium position with Ryan Miller. The action got a little too heated when the Audi and McLaren got together. The resulting collision sent the McLaren out of the race and Miller through the pits with a penalty.
This left Morgan Haber with a surprising lead in his Erebus Mercedes. The Erebus car had a mechanical issue in race one, ensuring a DNF and a quick turnaround for race two. He battled through the field and he used his shorter pitstop time and tactics to shoot up through the field.
He would not want to let the opportunity escape though and battled hard with Craig Baird in a Porsche.
Haber would hold on though from Baird/Scott Taylor in a thrilling battle.
Lester and Smyth would take third in a car that was down on power through the race.
The battles for the Trophy and Challenge Class Championships were still on the line.
Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer would take the Trophy Class in their Audi but not before a massive rebuild of the car overnight after an accident. The team would recover and take the title.
In the Challenge Class, Richard Gartner would claim the title in his Porsche after a solid weekend. What was incredible about this result was that Wall Racing would claim both the Trophy and Challenge Class Championships.
This means that David Wall, currently a V8 Supercar driver has won as both a team owner and driver, having taken the crown in 2009 and 2010 in a Porsche GT3 Cup S.
The 2016 Australian GT Championship will get underway at the Adelaide Street Circuit on March 3-6. The Sprint Series will be joined by a four round endurance Championship that will commence at Phillip Island in May.
Race 1, Round 6, Australian GT Championship (60 minutes)
Position, Driver(s), Car, Best lap time
1, Klark Quinn/Shane Van Gisbergen, McLaren, 1:32.849
2, Jono Lester/Graeme Smyth, Ferrari, 1:34.016
3, Max Twigg/Shae Davies, Mercedes-Benz, 1:34.303
4, Christopher Mies/Ryan Millier, Audi, 1:33.860
5, Tony Quinn/Garth Tander, McLaren, 1:33.737
6, Tony D’Alberto/Grant Denyer, Ferrari, 1.35.939
7, Tony Walls/Warren Luff, McLaren, 1:37.597
8, Roger Lago, Lamborghini, 1:36.270
9, Mark Griffith, Audi, 1:38.050
10, Greg Taylor/Barton Mawer, Audi, 1:36.968
Race 2, round 6, Australian GT Championship (60 minutes)
Position, Driver(s), Car, Best lap time
1, Morgan Haber, Mercedes-Benz, 1:34.927
2, Scott Taylor/Craig Baird, Porsche, 1:34.427
3, Jono Lester/Graeme Smyth, Ferrari, 1:33.784
4, Klark Quinn/Shane Van Gisbergen, McLaren, 1:33.026
5, Tony D’Alberto/Grant Denyer, Ferrari, 1.34.945
6, Roger Lago, Lamborghini, 1:36.975
7, Jan Jinadasa/Steve Owen, Lamborghini, 1:35.730
8, Tony Walls/Warren Luff, McLaren, 1:37.440
9, Andrew MacPherson/Bradley Shiels, Porsche, 1:36.051
10, Mark Griffith, Audi, 1:39.546