Grant Denyer in the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari has blitzed the field after a dramatic Australian GT presented by Pirelli race at Sydney Motorsport Park. Klark Quinn’s McLaren and Nathan Antunes’ Audi rounded out the podium. The story of the race was Hayden Cooper’s impressive drive in the Motorschool Racing Ginetta G50. The david vs goliath performance in the Trophy class car came to a cruel end with mechanical failure on the last lap while in 3rd place outright.
Wet weather greeted the 28 cars that took the start; all except the McLaren of Tony Walls and the Aston Martin of Tim Miles electing to start the race on Pirelli wet weather tyres. Off the line Ryan Millier got jump from pole position in the JAMEC PEM Audi but Nathan Antunes took the initiative and dived down the inside into turn 1, taking the lead in the Skwirk Audi.
Klark Quinn jumped from 6th to 3rd rounding up a number of cars around the outside of the first corner only to loose control exiting turn 3, pirouetting and miraculously catching the car to continue in 9th. The first lap chaos continued with Jack LeBrocq spinning the Camaro on the exit of turn 5 and Morgan Haber running out of road on the exit of the final corner.
Lap 2 and Tony Quinn emulated Klark’s spin on lap one, loosing the Darrell Lea McLaren on the exit of turn 3 and collecting the concrete wall with the rear of the 650s. With the McLaren unable to continue the safety car came out to neutralise the field.
On the re-start the big movers were Brad Shiels in the AMAC Porsche and Barton Mawer in the Trophy class Audi, both cars making their way through the field strongly. Further back Ben Foessel in the Motorschool Ginetta was making moves from the back of the grid, the car finally running properly and seemingly well suited to the challenging wet conditions.
After a handful of green laps the safety car was out again due to another McLaren collecting the wall at turn 3, this time Tony Walls in the Objective 650s. Walls no doubt was regretting his decision to start the race on dry tyres.
At 20 minutes the pit window opened and most crews without pro drivers dived immediately into the pit lane, taking advantage of a ‘free’ pitstop under safety car conditions. However, the Audi of Antunes and the Erebus SLS of Max Twigg and Geoff Emery elected to stay out; gambling on the track drying allowing them to fit dry tyres. When the race reached the 45% mark the crews with pro drivers entered into the pit lane to complete their stops along with Antunes who elected to pit as well.
The trio came very close to loosing a lap as the safety car pulled into the pits and green flag racing resumed. Geoff Emery led the field away in the Erebus AMG SLS with a number of lapped cars between him and second placed Mark Griffith in the Hogs Breath Audi R8.
Behind Haydon Cooper was putting on the drive of the race passing a number of cars. A number of his moves were audacious’ including a move around the outside of Klark Quinn’s balked McLaren at turn 5 and in one go both the Porsche GT3-Rs of Aaron Seton and James Koundouris around the outside of turn 2!
Ahead Denyer closed on Emery in the AMG SLS who with 20 minutes to go pitted, the gamble of waiting for a dry line failing to pay off for the Erebus crew.
Behind the Antunes, Mies and Lester trio moved forward through the field with Mies setting fastest lap of the race but Antues holding a more consistent pace and slowly pulling away from the JAMEC PEM Audi and the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari.
As the race reached its final stages Quinn began to close in on Cooper as they both caught and passed the 2nd placed Audi of Mark Griffith. Cooper ran wide at turn 5 which allowed Quinn through only for the Motorschool driver to hold on; the Ginetta and McLaren running side by side for multiple corners. Cooper’s second place was short lived however, the Ginetta was on the edge and Quinn took the initiative, passing into turn 2 on the next lap.
Antunes and Mies were the big movers in the latter part of the race, slicing through the field to move up to 4th and 5th places respectively. However, on the last lap disaster struck for Cooper; the Ginetta grinding to a stop on the outside of turn 6 only 2km from a maiden Trophy class win and outright podium for he and co-driver Ben Foessel.
Grant Denyer crossed the line taking a dominant win in the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari, followed home by Klark Quinn’s McLaren 15 seconds behind. The Audi’s of Antunes and Mies followed and in 5th place Scott Taylor and Aaron Seton impressed in their Australian GT debut with a solid drive leading home the similar Porsche of James Koundouris after a race long battle.
Mark Griffith held on for his first win in the Trophy class, placing an impressive 7th outright in the Hogsbreath Cafe Audi R8. Behind Greg Taylor brought the Audi he shares with Barton Mawer home 2nd and Voight and Tebb rounded out the podium in their Porsche GT3.
In challenge class Michael O’Donnell’s Porsche was too strong for Tony Alford’s GT-R and Richard Gartner’s Porsche.
The combination of Christopher Mies and Ryan Millier took the round win, an amazing result in their first weekend together in the JAMEC PEM Audi. 2nd was Nathan Antunes, this result elevating him to the championship lead after Tony Quinn’s challenging weekend. 3rd Grant Denyer who impressed even without regular co-driver Tony D’Alberto. Trophy class was won by former GT4 class champion Mark Griffith who closed in on class leaders Taylor and Mawer and Challenge by Michael O’Donnell.
Australian GT will return in 3 weeks for Round 5 at Sandown Raceway in Victoria, September 11-13.