The Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli got underway this weekend. Here is what happened.
NATHAN Antunes has claimed victory in an action-packed opening race of the 2015 Australian GT Championship Presented by Pirelli on the streets of Adelaide.
The Audi driver was able to make a move on the Porsche of Marcus Marshall with just over one minute remaining in the 30-minute race to move clear and take his first AGT race win.
The victory was also the first for an Audi in the Australian GT Championship since Rod Salmon and Liam Talbot teamed up to win a race at Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand late in 2013.
Today’s opening race of the season was turned on its head by the appearance of the Safety Car on lap four after Erebus Mercedes driver Morgan Haber crashed heavily at the high speed Turn 8.
The resultant yellow flag period compressed the field and consigned pole-man Jono Lester (Ferrari) and second-placed Dean Canto (Aston Martin) to the back of the field given their long scheduled pit stop times due to being ranked as Professional drivers.
That opened the door for the second Erebus Mercedes of Max Twigg to hold the lead after all drivers made their compulsory pit stop under the Safety Car period for Haber’s accident.
Varying pit stop times between different cars and driver classifications meant the order was shaken up by the time all had completed their stops, setting up a wild race to the chequered flag,
Debuting in the 6.2-litre, gull-winged Mercedes, Twigg was unable to hold out the chasing pack with Marcus Marshall taking the Supabarn Supermarkets Porsche to the lead on lap 12.
The Gold Coaster led for a few laps but couldn’t stop Antunes’ Audi from slipping past at Turn 9 with just over one minute remaining. But nevertheless Marshall brought the GT3-R home in a strong second place.
Barton Mawer claimed third overall and won the Trophy Class in the Wall Racing Audi R8 LMS clear of the Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Peter Fitzgerald and Lester, who charged from the rear of the field in the final seven minutes to salvage fifth place.
AUDI pilot Nathan Antunes has claimed his second race win of the day in the Australian GT Championship Presented by Pirelli in Adelaide – but it wasn’t without drama.
The Swirk driver – who started from pole after claiming victory in Race 1 at the beginning of the day – overcame a pit lane penalty and a run down the Turn 4 escape road prior to taking it to claim victory in the 60-minute race that saw him complete 42 laps.
Antunes diced with German Christopher Mies approaching the half-race mark before the duo became involved in a multi-car tangle that eliminated the Ford GT of local Kevin Weeks.
Race Control determined Antunes to have been at fault and he was forced to take a drive through pit lane later in the race, instantly surrendering a large lead.
He re-joined in second place but was able to hunt down the Jamec Pem #75 Audi of Steve McLaughlan in the closing stages with his work made easier when the Victorian spun at Turn 4 and handed over the lead as a result.
The win – his second for the day – is the first time an Audi has taken consecutive race wins in the Australian GT Championship.
Antunes came home 5.76-seconds clear of the McLaren of the father and son Tony and Klark Quinn combination, with Klark at the wheel for the second part of the timed, one-hour race.
The final winning margin actually became 10.76-seconds with the Quinn/Quinn McLaren receiving a five-second penalty added to his race time for kerb hopping.
Race three, was a 30 minute race. Like race one, it was a one driver affair, giving the co-drivers their chance to race.
It was carnage with a heavy crash eliminating Paul Kelly in the #27 Trass Family Porsche, Tony Walls McLaren, Peter Fitzgerald’s Audi, Steven Johnson’s Audi, Michael Hovey’s Ginetta, James Winslow’s Porsche and Simon Ellingham’s Porsche. It was a disaster for McElrea Racing whose three cars were involved in the crash.
Kelly was taken to hospital after the crash for observation.
The ensuring safety car and pit stop cycle saw a very mixed up field. Antunes was down in 16th, Tony Quinn was down in ninth.
Richard Gartner was in the lead with Theo Koundouris in second.
Quinn and Antunes would fight back with Quinn taking the lead on the final lap, with a late breaking move into turn nine. Koundouris would let him through, knowing he would maintain the Trophy Class win.
Antunes would take Greg Taylor on the final lap to grab a podium, Taylor like Koundouris was fighting for Trophy class points and didn’t want to put his result in jeopardy.
Photos, race 1 and 2 by Australian GT PR.
Race 3 by Sam Tickell for DSC.