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Mar 13, 2014 - 07:03 AM
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Big Season Ahead For Australian GT
Posted by: newsla on Mar 13, 2014 - 07:02 AM
Sports Cars
Big Season Ahead For Australian GT


The Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli enters its tenth season in 2014 and already the entry numbers are reaching record levels thanks to the new initiatives adopted by the categories administration for the new season.

 

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Six rounds will again form the annual calendar, but it is the style and quality of events that has attracted the most interest. Three of the six rounds will be a part of the V8 Supercar championship season, whilst New Zealand will again close out the year after a successful debut at Highlands Park in 2013. Twilight races and two 101-lap (three plus hour) endurance events will also form part of the program, with the season kicking off at Melbourne’s Sandown Park at the end of March as part of the 75th round of the successful Shannons Nationals series.

“The Australian GT field this year is the strongest it has ever been and each of our four divisions will make for some memorable races,” Ken Collier, Australian GT category manager said.

“The GT3 Championship division has at least eight race teams registered for the series, with cars from all of the major GT3 marques; AMG SLS, Aston Martin, Audi, Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Porsche.

“It doesn’t end there either, with other marques included in the GT3 Trophy, GT3 Challenge and GT4 Sports classes including Ascari, Ginetta, Mosler, Nissan and Viper entries who join the other Audis, Lamborghinis and Porsches. All up we already have 21 registered series entrants, with more teams coming in as the season progresses.

“We have taken Australian GT back to three of the V8 rounds this year due to the new V8 management team being very flexible in their association with the support categories. This was not always the case in the past as we could only offer limited track time with the potential of having AGT races shortened or even cancelled to facilitate the V8 TV arrangements.

“The AGT competitors spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and many days out of their businesses to compete and present their vehicles to the spectators. Having a V8 management team who understand that support categories are not bottom feeders but rather an asset to their events is frankly exciting for the whole AGT family.

“Another facet of our 2014 championship series is the inclusion of the two 101-lap events. The first will be in May at Phillip Island and the second will be our final round in New Zealand. These 101 races are two-driver events and most teams will have one seeded ‘Professional’ or ‘Master’ driver alongside an unseeded ‘Gold’ driver.

“The 101 events will also feature a modified 1960’s Le Mans style start that has the non-starting driver participate in the start of the race. It was debuted as a unique feature of the inaugural 101 at Highlands last year and we will retain it for all 101 events this year.”

After the success of the mighty McLaren MP4-12C at the recent Bathurst 12-Hour, reigning two-time champion Klark Quinn may well start the new season as favourite, although this year he and 2013 runner-up Tony Quinn will have some serious competition.

One of the fastest cars at Mount Panorama was the Justin McMillan Interlloy Lamborghini driven by reigning Bathurst 1000 champion Steven Richards. The duo will line up again for the bulk of the season and will be a big outright threat. So too Richard Muscat, the reigning Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champion who has taken the reigns of the Erebus Motorsport Mercedes that took victory in three of the six AGT rounds last year.

Add in the reigning champion’s 2012-2013 Porsche GT3-R complete with new owner (and a second GT3-R later in the season), a new Audi R8, a much revised Corvette Z06.R and at least one Ferrari 458 Italia - of reigning Bathurst 12-Hour champions Maranello Motorsport - and you have a very strong outright Championship class field.

If you think that’s where it ends, you’d be wrong. Three Audi’s [with cameos from a fourth and maybe a fifth] will compete against at least one Lamborghini, possibly two Moslers, an Ascari and potentially an Aston Martin for Trophy Class honours. Audi stalwarts Rod Salmon and Dean Koutsoumidis will do battle with reigning Trophy Class champion Steve McLaughlan who has traded in his ageing Dodge Viper to be part of the Audi brigade and all three are threatening to arrive with Professional co-drivers…

Whilst Audi will be keen to claim Trophy Class honours, keep an eye on German rivals Porsche. Michael Hovey has taken delivery of the Craig Baird Carrera Cup car that won the kiwi a fifth Australian championship last year, whilst the Koundouris brothers and Andrew MacPherson are entering their Cup S Porsches.

Throw former Challenge class champion Jan Jinadasa into the mix, and the recently acquired Ascari KZ1 of Muscle Car Masters regular Keith Kassulke and you have all the ingredients for an epic championship battle.

In Challenge Class, 2013 champion Ben Foessel will return with his father George alongside, but he will have his hands full in defending his title against 2013 title rivals Brendan Cook and team-mate Matt Kingsley, and new GT graduate Indiran Padaychee. A list of other Porsche competitors have also shown interest in the 2014 series, with additional numbers expected at Townsville, Sydney and Sandown.

Mark Griffith claimed the GT4 Sports victory in 2013 and he is back to defend his title in 2014, although this year without regular co-driver Jack Perkins who has graduated to the V8 Supercar ‘main game’. Griffith was looking good for a class victory at the recent Bathurst 12-Hour, but an errant rock forced him into retirement, although he had at that stage taken the time to make a judgment on his two co-drivers; Daniel Gaunt and Karl Reindler, so don’t be surprised if one V8 Supercar part-timer makes way for another this season.

Whilst Michael Hovey has progressed to the Challenge class, Tony Martin will also return - like Griffith - in his Ginetta G50 GT4, the duo are expected to battle for the title with cameo appearances expected from Darrel Dixon and Darren Berry throughout the year.

The opening round of the championship is now just three weeks away, with Sandown’s season opener featuring the ‘traditional’ two one-hour races, and with rumours of up to 25 competitors, it’s going to be one very interesting season opener..!

2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Rnd#1 - March 28-30, Sandown, Victoria (Nationals) - 2x 60-minute
Rnd#2 - May 23-25, Phillip Island, Victoria (Nationals) - 101-laps
Rnd#3 - 4-6 July, Townsville, Queensland (V8 Supercars) - 3x 40-minute
Rnd#4 - August 22-24, Sydney Motorsport Park (V8 Supercars) - 2x 30-min, 1x 60-min
Rnd#5 - September 12-14, Sandown 500, Victoria (V8 Supercars) - 3x 40-minute
Rnd#6 - November 7-9, Highlands Motorsport Park (NZ) - 101-laps

Keep track of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli via the AGT website - www.australiangt.com.au and via Facebook; AustralianGT #AusGT

The Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli is proudly supported by Pirelli (Trofeo Motorsport), Darrell Lea and Z Motorsport Memorabilia.

Trofeo Motorsport [Pirelli]
Trofeo Motorsport are proud to represent Pirelli in Australia as the National Distributor for their comprehensive Motorsport tyre range which includes circuit racing slick and wet weather tyres, the road legal Trofeo range suited to Club events and tarmac rallies, and the gravel Rally tyre range.

Aside from sales and delivery, Trofeo Motorsport also provide on-site trackside support at a range of events across the country, and can be contracted to support your racing program to ensure you achieve the maximum performance from your Pirelli tyres.


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