The Australian GT series shines in Townsville

2015 Australian GT Championship | Townsville

Article and Images by Rhys Vandersyde

Australian GT  | Weekend Wrap Up

A capacity grid of GT3 specification cars lined up on the streets of Townsville for the third round of the Australian GT Championship for 2015. The weekend would feature two hour long mini endurance races on the Townsville street circuit.

Each race would feature timed pit stops with the time of the stops determined by the grade of the driver. In an effort to even up the field, the grading system was recently updated at the last round at Phillip Island.

Qualifying 1

With a number of teams electing to have two drivers this weekend, qualifying was split into two 20 minute sessions with the times for the two sessions being combined to determine the race grid.

In the first qualifying session Maranello Motorsport took out bragging rights with Tony D’Alberto setting the fastest time in the No. 88 Ferrari 458 GT3. Steve Owen was the next fastest in the No. 5 Supaloc Racing Ford GT.

Nathan Antunes will be doing all the driving this weekend and was third fastest in the No. 6 Skwirk/Beechwood Homes Audi R8 LMS.

Qualifying 2

The second qualifying session had the Ferrari again at the top of the time sheets although it was the 458 GT3 of Trass Family Motorsport driven by Jono Lester. Second fastest to cross the line was Christopher Mies in the JAMEC PEM Racing Audi R8 with Nathan Antunes again third fastest in the Audi R8.

With the time of both sessions combined, the No. 27 Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 started on pole with the No. 74 JAMEC PEM Racing Audi R8 LMS completing the front row.

Race 1

The start lights went out during the hottest part of the day creating a real challenge for the Australian GT competitors.

Lester launched the No. 27 Ferrari 458 into the lead with Nathan Antunes close behind in the No. 6 Audi R8. Greg Crick in the No. 74 Audi LMS R8 struggled to match the pace of the pro-rated drivers around him tumbling down the order in the opening laps.

With the safety car called out to recover the stricken No. 48 Camaro of Justin McMillan, it effectively bunching up the field and effectively destroyed Lester’s early lead. With the safety car still circulating, teams took advantage of the open pit window to complete their compulsory pit stops.

John Bowe’s perfect start in the No. 80 Bentley Continental GT3 came to an abrupt holt after crashing into the tyre wall at Turn 11. Bowe limped the damaged Continental GT3 back to the pits before handing the controls over to team mate Peter Edwards to complete the race.

Making the most of the timed stops was Brad Sheils who kept the AMAC No. 51 Porsche 997 GT3-R in the lead with Tony Quinn’s No. 7 McLaren 650S close behind.

With a substantial lead, Sheils wouldn’t be challenge with the Porsche crossing the finish line in first place with Grant Denyer putting together a flying finish in the Maranello Ferrari 458 to pass Quinn and take second place. Quinn held off a late charge from Geoff Emery in the No. 36 Mercedes Benz AMG SLS to finish third.

A post-race penalty for leaving the pits too early during their compulsory pit stop saw the Porsche 997 GT3-R of Andrew Macpherson and Brad Shiels topple from first to sixteenth place which handed the race win to Tony D’Alberto and Grant Denyer.

Race 2

Making the most of his pole position Denyer put the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 into an early lead with Quinn close behind. Antunes in the Audi R8 LMS was looking to make up for his misfortunes in the first race pushing his way past Quinn and into second place before the end of the first lap.

Lester also charged through the field in his Ferrari 458 GT3 until an unscheduled stop to fix a tyre failure cost the team a podium finish.

With all pit stops now complete, Antunes emerged in the lead although the field would once again be bunched up when the safety car was called to retrieve the No. 5 Supaloc Ford GT of Kevin Weeks who was stranded on one of the high kerbs of the Reid Park street circuit.

As the laps counted down, Antunes would hang on for the win, over D’Alberto and Denyer to finish in second place with Klark and Quinn in the No. 37 Darrell Lea McLaren 650S GT3 crossing the line in third.

The fantastic sight and sounds of the 2015 Australian GT Championship continues, with Round 4 of the Championship at Sydney Motorsport Park in August.

Next Round

The next round of the Australian GT Championship continues at Sydney Motorsport Park with the V8 Supercars Championship round in 21st – 23rd August, 2015.

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