Australian GT: Lago takes 1st win of 2016 but can’t take round win



Race 1

Roger Lago has claimed victory in the opening race of the 2016 CAMS Australian GT Championship.

Starting sixth, the JBS Australia Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX moved into the lead shortly after mid-distance, taking advantage of a shorter stationary time to seize control of the race.

“The car was really fast,” Lago enthused. “I don’t think we’ll be able to stay there in the next race but it’s good to get the win.”

A mid-race safety car shook up the field when Hayden Cooper ran off the circuit in his M Motorsport entry, slashing the advantage race leader Craig Baird had opened.

Baird moved into the lead on the opening lap, passing the pole-sitting JAMEC PEM Audi of Geoff Emery into turn nine.

The Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 then opened a commanding lead before the safety car was deployed for Cooper’s car on lap seven.

Racing resumed just prior to the pit window opening, handing an advantage to Lago and Mark Griffith, who enjoyed shorted stationary times and gained strong track position as a result.

Griffith, whose Hog’s Breath Café/Griffith Corporation car was repaired overnight following a qualifying mistake, ended the race fourth having run as high as second in the closing stages.

The Mercedes-AMG GT3 racer found himself battling with a chasing pack of McLarens as Nathan Morcom, Elliot Barber, Tony Walls and Klark Quinn.

Like Lago, Greg Taylor benefited from a shorter pit stop time before a mistake saw his Adina Apartment Hotels entry spin across the circuit in front of Morcom and Barber who did well to avoid the Audi.

Morcom went on to climb to second place at the finish with the father-son McLaren pairing of Klark and Tony Quinn in third place.

Elliot Barber was fifth behind Griffith, the Beechwood TEKNO Autosport McLaren 650S GT3 car setting a new lap record with Nathan Antunes behind the wheel.

Antunes lowered the benchmark to a 1:20.4130, beating the previous mark by four tenths of a second.

Pole sitter Mies climbed back to 11th at the finish after scything his way through the field in the closing stages while the Baird/Scott Taylor pairing finished 17th.

Lago’s win marked the first for a Lamborghini victory in the Australian GT Championship since John Bowe took the honours at Phillip Island in 2008.


Race 2

James Koundouris and Marcus Marshall have combined to win race two of the CAMS Australian GT Championship around the streets of Adelaide.

The Supabarn Supermarkets entry emerged from the compulsory pit stops with a commanding lead, Koundouris holding on to claim his second Australian GT race win despite a late safety car period.

Marshall remained in contact with the race leaders in the opening stages before handing the car to Koundouris mid-way through the 40-minute event.

The safety car was called for Mark Griffith, who suffered a broken water pump which pitched him around heading into Victoria Park Racecourse.

It bunched the field with only time for a two-lap dash to the flag.

Koundouris and his Melbourne Performance Racing team-mate Geoff Emery leapt away from the pack at the restart, holding on to hand Audi a 1-2 finish.

The Emery car had led the race during the middle part of the race as Christopher Mies took the JAMEC PEM car from tenth to first in eleven laps.

There was contact between Mies and Nathan Morcom at turn nine as the pair battled for the lead, leaving the McLaren 650S GT3 facing the wrong direction, dropping it to the rear of the field before ending the 21-lap encounter in 15th place.

There was drama too for Elliot Barbour in the sister TEKNO Autosports McLaren as a touch with Griffith saw the Beechwood Homes car up the escape road on Wakefield Road.

The incident cost Barbour and co-driver Nathan Antunes – who won the round in Adelaide last year – a lap in the final reckoning.

It was also the incident which eventually triggered the second safety car as the contact damaged Griffith’s car, with the water pump finally crying enough some nine laps later.

Keith Wong had drawn the drawn the first safety car after he lost his Porsche under braking at turn nine, colliding with Rod Salmon and Aaron Tebb to eliminate the trio on the spot.

Race 1 winner Roger Lago claimed third place, racing his way forward in the final laps to underscore his stellar performance in the season opener.

The result also keeps Lago and his JBS Australia Lamborghini R-EX in the lead of the CAMS Australian GT Championship with 123 points, 24 points clear of the second placed duo of Koundouris and Marshall.


Race 3

Tony Walls has taken a break-through victory in a dramatic CAMS Australian GT Championship race in Adelaide.

Fast and consistent across the weekend, Walls’ Objective Racing McLaren 650S GT3 took the lead with less than a lap to run, holding off the hard-charging Justin McMillan to take his first win in the category.

“I didn’t know I’d won,” Walls laughed after the race. “When I passed [Scott] Taylor with five laps to go or so the guys told me I was in P2, and I told them to stop talking to me!

“It was only after I crossed the line that I found out I’d won.”

Race 1 winner Roger Lago had taken control of the race following the compulsory pit stop window, reeling in the Scott Taylor Motorsport car to move into the lead after 15 laps.

Taylor stepped into the car following a blistering opening stint from co-driver Craig Baird, who’d raced away at more than a second a lap to hold a seven second lead by the time he handed the car over to Taylor.

However a mistake by Taylor at the Senna Chicane saw the Mercedes-AMG GT3 scrape the barrier, and give Lago all the incentive he needed while Taylor ended the 24-lap race in sixth place.

Winner of Race 2, James Koundouris, was an early casualty after being involved in a collision with Peter Hackett on the opening lap.

As the pack jostled for position Hackett looked to put a move on Tony Quinn in the Darrell Lea McLaren 650S GT3 but was unable to pull up his car up in time for turn nine hairpin.

Hackett made contact with the Superbarn Supermarkets Audi, which drew the safety car until racing resumed on lap five.

The delay left Baird and Lago in strong positions, with Baird seizing the race lead from the JBS Australia Lamborghini as he began stretching his legs at the front of the pack.

However the complexion of the race changed on the final lap when the race leader skated up the escape road.

Approaching lapped traffic at turn four, Lago found his way blocked and opted to head for the escape road.

With the chasing pack closing in, Lago then struck the wall with the right rear wheel as he attempted to re-join the circuit, damaging the car and ending his race.

It promoted Walls into the lead, who had remained calm under pressure as Glen Wood harried the back of his McLaren.

Walls however wouldn’t be rattled and drove an error free final lap to claim his first victory in the CAMS Australian GT Championship.

Matt Solomon put in a fine performance to race from 21st to third at the flag in a quiet but consistent performance in his first weekend in the category.

There was a silver lining for Lago as his performances in the opening two races of the weekend proved enough to maintain the lead of the Gold Driver Cup, and see him second in the CAMS Australian GT Championship points standings.

The CAMS Australian GT Championship table is currently headed by the Interlloy M Motorsport Lamborghini R-EX of Glen Wood/Justin McMillan by 4 points with Tony Walls in third place, 22 points further back.

Round 2 of the CAMS Australian GT Championship will be held as part of the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, with four races across the weekend.