Podium for Lester/Smyth at Sydney in Australian GT Series

Ryan Millier withstood huge pressure on his maiden Australian GT presented by Pirelli event with the JAMEC PEM Audi team to lead the Skwirk Audi of Nathan Antunes across the line with Graeme Smyth bringing the TFM Ferrari he shares with Jono Lester home in 3rd; their first Australian GT podium.

As 31 cars took the race start Steve Owen in the Supaloc Ford GT retained the lead followed by the Audi’s of Christopher Mies and Antunes. Morgan Haber in the Erebus SLS got the jump on Jono Lester’s Ferrari, but by lap 3 Lester was through and in pursuit of Antunes.

Owen and Mies pulled a gap on the rest of the field; the Audi looming large in Owen’s mirrors under brakes and through the corners; but the Ford pulling away along the straights. Behind Lester chased Antunes but couldn’t find a way though, the Trass Family Ferrari struggling with understeer this weekend. Behind in 5th Haber pulled a small gap on Aaron Seton in the Scott Taylor Motorsport Porsche and Grant Denyer’s Ferrari.

Further back Matt Campbell was making his way through the field after his qualifying penalty but made contact into turn 1 with Justin McMillan’s Lamborghini. The incident at the fastest part of the track sent McMillan into a frightening spin and retirement. Campbell continued only to retire 10 laps later with mechanic issues crippling the Ginetta after a strong drive through the field.

At the half way point the race changed dramatically with two big incidents. Sam Filmore lost the rear end of the repaired FreeM Lamborghini braking into turn 9 making heavy contact with the wall and Andrew Jones in the #8 Ferrari dramatically crashed at turn 1. The Ferrari touched the grass on the entry to the corner, lost control and made contact with the tyres at high speed. Thankfully both drivers walked away unharmed.

The safety car was immediately dispatched creating a frenzy of pitlane activity as competitors completed their compulsory pit stops and driver changes. The order of the front 4 remained unchanged once the field re-formed behind the safety car with Kevin Weeks now in the Ford GT leading Ryan Millier’s Audi, Nathan Antunes (the only leading contender without a co-driver) and Graeme Smyth in the Ferrari 4th.

After a prolonged safety car period to repair the damaged barriers the race resumed with less than 9 minutes remaining. Immediately the two Audis were on the attack, both Millier and Antunes driving down the inside of Weeks under braking into turn 2.

Behind drivers frantically pushed to try and gain positions, Weeks loosing out to Smyth and Haber’s SLS. Millier resisted sustained attacks from Antunes; the Squirk Audi loomed large in his mirrors but Millier remained unfazed and in his first race for the JAMPEC PEM team managed to bring the Audi home in 1st with Antunes only 0.3 seconds behind. Smyth brought the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari home for their first podium of the season and Morgan Haber came in 4th; a much needed result for the Erebus driver. Driving solo this weekend Grant Denyer came home 5th keeping his championship hopes alive and Klark Quinn fought back from a poor qualifying session to bring the Darrell Lea McLaren home 6th. Kevin Weeks fought valiantly in the Supaloc Ford GT but on the last lap was involved in an incident with 7th placed Max Twigg in the other Erebus SLS. The Ford sustained significant damage and Kevin has been taken to hospital for precautionary checks.

In 8th were Jack LeBrock and N.Morcom’s Camaro, a solid result for the M-Motorsport team, 9th James Koundouris’ Porsche GT3-R and 10th Tony Wall in the Objective Racing McLaren 650S. leading home championship leader Tony Quinn who drove a solid race to come home 11th in his McLaren after qualifying 24th.

The Trophy class field were one short before the race started with Ben Foessel and Hayden Cooper’s Ginetta not making the start line after a part shipped down from Queensland overnight failed to arrive in time. With the retirement of the Supaloc Ford GT, Theo Koundouris crossed the line to take class honours in the Supabarn Porsche with Simon Ellinghham and Warren Luff 2nd, the best result for the Fastway Porsche crew to date. Rounding out the top three were championship leaders Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer in the Adina Audi R8.

Challenge class pole sitter Richard Gartner was forced into retirement with mechanical issues leaving Michael O’Donnell to take the class win from Tony Alford.

Australian GT will return to the circuit for Race 2 tomorrow morning at 9:20am for another one-hour race.

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