Here’s a look back at last weekend’s Australian GT Championship action from Sydney Motorsport Park, where McElrea Racing’s Fraser Ross took the title lead after three races, with two podium finishes.
Friday Race 1
On the first day of racing on Friday at Sydney Motorsport Liam Talbot won a thriller.
Talbot withstood enormous pressure following his pit stop, the Hot Wheels Car Care Products Porsche driver holding his nerve to win from Peter Hackett (Eggleston Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3).
The Walkinshaw GT3 driver was delighted with the result for what was a brand-new chassis heading into the weekend.
“Stoked to get the victory, Walkinshaw have done a great job to turn the car around, it had massive damage at Phillip Island, new chassis flown out from Germany, so stoked to debut the new chassis with a race win,” Talbot enthused.
“Any one of us could have had the spin, the track conditions were pretty wild with the wind.
“We just played to our strengths, you don’t want to overstep the mark too, but really happy with the result.”
A late spin from Hackett saw the Mercedes driver drop off the back of Talbot, but still recorded valuable points with an important second place.
Hackett dominated qualifying, converting pole into the race lead at the start as he resisted early pressure from BMW Team SRM ace Steven Richards.
The intensity of the lead battle was matched by that for third between Fraser Ross (Total/Opticoat McLaren 650S GT3), Cameron McConville (Wall Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3), and Talbot.
The order was shuffled when Hackett and Talbot pitted on the same lap, reversing their positions as they dropped a lap to McConville, who handed the car to Adrian Deitz with a late stop.
The strategy call saw Deitz emerge third, with Talbot in the lead from a charging Hackett, who launched a vigorous attacked, passing the race leader at Turn 2 only to run wide and allow Talbot back.
Third went to Ross ahead of Geoff Emery (Valvoline Audi R8 LMS GT3), with a strong performance from Yasser Shahin netting The Bend Motorsport Park Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver fifth.
A sensational drive from debutante Ryan How saw the teenager claim Trophy Series honours in his national competition debut.
How and the charging Ricky Capo found themselves locked in a thrilling battle in the closing laps, the BMW driver taking sixth after a stunning drive through the field after taking the car over from Richards.
Despite losing the position, How was still the leading Trophy Class contender across the line, giving him the class victory.
David Crampton and Trent Harrison (Vantage Freight KTM X-Bow GT4) enjoyed a strong race to take out the GT4 win, heading Jeremy Gray (Bilstien/JMG Aston Martin Vantage GT3) to close the gap in the championship hunt.
Sunday Races 2 & 3
Saturday saw a pair of races, in which Peter Hackett and Liam Talbot shared the spoils.
Talbot continued his winning ways from Friday, piloting the Hot Wheels Car Care Products Porsche to victory in the day’s opening race, before Hackett converted his incredible qualifying pace into a race win in the final encounter of the weekend.
It left the pair equal on 205 points for the weekend, with Hackett awarded the round courtesy of victory in Race 3.
“We did the best we could in Race 1 and Race 2, and then Race 3 we had a set of green tyres left over, a full set,” Hackett explained.
“Liam made a small mistake in Turn 4 and I saw a window into Turn 5 that I threw the nose into and got alongside him.
“There was a small touch into Turn 6, which I didn’t think much about, and then the guys got on the radio and said get your head down.
“We did what we needed to, we pitted at the first opportunity which brought us out half a second ahead, and then it was about controlling the race from there.”
It saw Hackett take his first race win of 2018, with Talbot following him home in second to complete a near-perfect weekend for the Walkinshaw GT3 squad.
Fraser Ross rounded out the podium in Race 3, having slipped behind Geoff Emery (Valvoline Audi R8 LMS GT3) in Race 2, the McLaren driver finishing third for the round in the Total/Opticoat entry.
Race 2 proved a thrilling affair with a four-way battle between Talbot, Hackett, Ross, and Emery.
The leading quartet circulated with little between them, Hackett making a stunning move on Ross soon after the pit stops as the McLaren driver shaped up to pass Emery.
Talbot won the race, which ended under Safety Car following a crash for Nick Kelly (Industrie Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3) and David Crampton (Vantage Freight KTM X-Bow GT4).
The pair touched at the exit of Turn 3 before finding the wall on the outside of the corner.
Both drivers were able to climb free from their cars, before being cleared of injury by circuit medical staff.
It left Jeremy Gray (JMG/Bilstein Aston Martin Vantage GT4) to claim a class victory in both of Saturday’s races to extend his GT4 championship advantage to 299 points.
After suffering electrical problems on Friday, the Miedecke Motorsport/Magswitch Aston Martin Vantage GT3 stormed through the field in the hands of both George and Andrew Miedecke.
The pair’s efforts were rewarded with seventh in the weekend’s final race, one spot back from the impressive Brett Hobson.
Making his Australian GT Championship debut, Hobson enjoyed a stunning final race in the Hobson Motorsport / Hi-Tech Oils Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.
The team quietly tuned the car across the weekend before Hobson delivered a flawless performance in the finale.
After the three races, Ross now holds a 16-point lead, thanks to his consistency.
“It was a great result in terms of the Championship! Coming away with a podium result was fantastic, but it was made all the more satisfying with us now leading the Australian GT Championship,” he said. “We will ensure we continue the momentum heading into the final round of the AGT at Hampton Downs to ensure we clinch the title. Very proud of the McElrea Racing crew, our efforts are paying off, but we must finish off the job! Looking forward to the fight in NZ!”
The Australian GT Championship now heads to New Zealand for its final race of the year, which will also act as the CAMS Australian Endurance Championship final on October 13-14.