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Mar 28, 2014 - 05:18 PM
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Successful Opening Day At Sandown Sees Locals On Top
Posted by: newsla on Mar 28, 2014 - 05:13 PM
Sports Cars
Successful Opening Day At Sandown Sees Locals On Top


New Erebus Motorsport recruit Richard Muscat settled into his new ride in fine form at Sandown today during opening practice for round one of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli, the reigning Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champion topping the timesheets in the SLS AMG GT3 that Craig Baird and Jack Le Brocq took to six race victories in 2013.

 

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In the end the young Victorian took the top spot in both the second and third 20-minute sessions, after reigning Bathurst 12-Hour champion John Bowe set the pace in the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia during the opening stint.

“It was pretty comfortable running in the high tens, but to really push the car means you’re on the edge, especially at places like Dandenong Road corner,” Muscat admitted. “You’re coming into the corner braking from 220-230 and you really don’t want to mess it up, it’s areal knife edge thing.”

Whilst Muscat ran all three sessions, Bowe left car-owner Peter Edwards to turn laps in the two remaining sessions, whilst M-Motorsport put Justin McMillan behind the wheel for sessions two and three after Steven Richards set a solid pace on old rubber early, the former Victorian state series champion third fastest in session two.

“Have to be happy with that.. I’ve done a few miles around here, but I’m really comfortable in the car, so we should be pretty right come race day,” he beamed afterwards. In what could come as ominous news for the Lamborghini team’s opponents though, the team uncovered a slight mechanical issue with the right rear of the car late in the day, an issue which almost certainly cost the car time on track.

“The fix was straight forward, but it did restrict our pace a little, so I think we’ll be right on the money come qualifying,” Richards explained.

Asked if strategy was going to play into the team’s qualifying plans, Richards admitted that the strategy was simple, they were going after pole.. “We’re not stuffing round, if it’s there - and we’re not far off - we’ll go for it.”

Fourth fastest was V8 Supercar part-timer Steve Owen in Klark Quinn’s championship winning Porsche, and like the Interlloy Lamborghini, the Supabarn GT3-R was not running at 100%.

“My quickest lap was lap three in the opening session,” Owen admitted after P3. “The car has a slight chassis dynamics issue which I’m sure we’ll be on top of tonight. That said, I’m not sure that Sandown is going to be one of our best circuits, it really doesn’t suit the car, but to be this quick early despite an issue means that we should be in the mix.”

Klark Quinn recovered well to be fifth fastest overall, the two-time champion suffering a rare spin at turn one on his out lap in the opening practice session, bringing the session to an early halt.

“The power delivery of the turbo takes getting used to, and it just caught me out,” he shrugged afterwards. “It’s not as progressive on the power as the Porsche was, and the lag is something I’m not used to. When it kicks in, it kicks in pretty hard, so I just have to adapt to it and work my way forward.”

Typical of his low-fuss nature, he recovered in session two to be second fastest, less than two-tenths behind pace-setter Muscat.

Tony Quinn was sixth fastest, the VIP Petfoods boss suffering a rare mechanical failure in session two after the power-steering pump failed on the out lap. He wasn’t the only casualty, Rod Salmon’s ‘new’ co-driver Liam Talbot had a spin at the exit of turn three and just clipped the wall before the car stalled. Damage was mostly superficial, but the new Trophy class team were forced to sit out the bulk of session three after an electrical glitch forced them to pit after their out lap.

Whilst the battle at the front of the field raged between the pre-season favourites, the Trophy class battle was no less intriguing, swinging between Daniel Gaunt in the Jan Jinadasa Lamborghini, James Winslow in the Dean Koutsoumidis Audi R8 and reigning champion Steve McLaughlan in his Audi.

In the end it was Winslow who took class honours ahead of an impressive drive in the final session by experienced Porsche pilot Theo Koundouris, the margin just four tenths of a second with Ben Eggleston not far behind in his Aston Martin DBRS9.

Challenge class honours in the end were taken by Indiran Padayachee who trumped team-mates Brendan Cook and Matt Kingsley and reigning champion Ben Foessel in the final session to be quickest ahead of Saturday mornings qualifying session.

Perhaps the biggest surprise though was the pace of the GT Sports Donut King Lotus Exige Cup R of Tony Alford and Mark O’Connor which was actually faster than all three Challenge class cars and class rivals Mark Griffith and Tony Martin.

Saturday will see qualifying commence at 12:45pm, with the opening one-hour race – with compulsory pit stop - scheduled for 3:10pm.

WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR?
GT Championship (for 2012-2013 specification GT3 cars)

Klark Quinn can never be discounted for outright pace, but the form GT3 car in the world right now is arguably the SLS AMG GT3, and one of the form young drivers in Australia is Richard Muscat, the pairing could be the new benchmark. Don’t discount Steven Richards in the Lamborghini, or Steve Owen in the former Klark Quinn Porsche, and for that matter, Tony Quinn. He won two of the last five races of 2013 and the Sandown round in a Mosler in 2010.. it will be tight, and intriguing..

GT Trophy (for GT3-spec cars 2011 and older)
This is almost harder to predict than the Championship class. Three very quick Audis will be in the mix, but so too local stars Dale Paterson and Ben Eggleston, and discount the Porsches at your own risk! This will be well worth keeping a close eye on. Expect too a selection of fast young stars to join the car-owners during the year as the regulars turn what they say is just a good day out with mates, into a battle for sheep stations..!

GT Challenge (Challenge class cars - Porsche/Ferrari)
With Matt Kingsley back from a brief sabbatical, the Cook/Kingsley combination look the goods, but Ben Foessel too developed as a driver across 2013 and got stronger with every round, so he could prove to be the thorn in his rivals side and again keep them from title victory.

GT Sports (GT4 category cars)
Mark Griffith should have the series his own way in 2014. He emerged as a strong contender during 2013 with team-mate Jack Perkins offering support, but he showed at the Bathurst 12-Hour that he was up to six seconds a lap faster than he’d been 12 months prior. Don’t be surprised to see some guest drivers in the #19 Ginetta this year, and keep an eye on the battle with the Lotus, that should be interesting too especially given its practice pace!

SCHEDULE (AEDST)
Saturday, 29 March
Qualifying - 12:45pm (30-minutes)
Race #1 - 3:10pm (60-minutes)

Sunday, 30 March
Warm-up - 9:35am (10-minutes)
Race #2 - 11:10am (60-minutes)

AUSTRALIAN GT AND SANDOWN PARK
The Australian GT Championship has competed at Sandown on four prior occasions; 2007 (won by Allan Simonsen/Tim Leahey - Ferrari 430), 2008 (Allan Simonsen/Nick O’Halloran - Ferrari 430), 2011 (Tony Quinn - Mosler) and 2011 (Greg Crick - Dodge Viper).

Greg Crick is the current GT lap record holder on the 3.104 kilometre circuit is Greg Crick in his Dodge Viper Competition Coupé GT3 at 1:11.8700 set in 2011.

WHERE TO WATCH..
Keep track of round six of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli via the AGT website - www.australiangt.com.au and via Facebook; AustralianGT

The event will also be liv-streamed on Sunday, you can watch the footage by logging-on to www.thenationals.com.au

Tickets are available at the gate for the Sandown event, or by visiting www.sandown.net.au

Saturday tickets; $15 (adult), Saturday; $25 (adult), weekend; $30 (adult), children under 14 free.

Rnd#1 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
PRACTICE (combined x3 20-minute sessions):
1. Richard Muscat (GT - SLS AMG GT3) - 1:09.7504 [P3]
2. Edwards/Bowe (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 1:10.3951 [P1]
3. McMillan/ Richards (GT - Gallardo FL2 GT3) - 1:10.6842 [P3]
4. Koundouris/ Owen (GT - Porsche GT3-R) - 1:10.8105 [P3]
5. Klark Quinn (GT - McLaren MP4-12C) - 1:10.9576 [P2]
6. Tony Quinn (GT - Aston Martin Vantage GT3) - 1:11.0744 [P3]
7. Koutsoumidis/Winslow (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:11.6640 [P3]
8. Theo Koundouris (GTT - Porsche 997 Cup-S) - 1:12.0857 [P3]
9. John Morris (GT - Porsche GT3.R) - 1:12.3924 [P3]
10. Ben Eggleston (GTT - Aston Martin DBRS9) - 1:12.3995 [P3]
11. Steve McLaughlan (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:12.4983 [P3]
12. Jinadasa/Gaunt (GTT - Gallardo LP520) - 1:12.7609 [P3]
13. Salmon/Talbot (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:12.8085 [P1]
14. Dale Paterson (GTT - Mosler MT900 GT3) - 1:13.9258 [P3]
15. Andrew MacPherson (GTT - Porsche 997 Cup-S) - 1:14.7439 [P3]
16. Lusty/Fane (GTT - Mosler MT900 GT3) - 1:14.9090 [P3]
17. Michael Hovey (GTT - Porsche Type 997 GT3 Cup) - 1:15.2302 [P3]
18. Alford/O’Connor (GTS - Lotus Exige Cup R) - 1:15.6758 [P3]
19. Keith Kassulke (GTT - Ascari KZR-1 GT3) - 1:16.1517 [P3]
20. Jim Manolios (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 1:16.6239 [P2]
21. Indiran Padayachee (GTC - Porsche GT3 Cup) - 1:16.8497 [P2]
22. Cook/Kingsley (GTC - Porsche GT3 Cup) - 1:17.0863 [P2]
23. Foessel/Foessel (GTC - Porsche GT3 Cup) - 1:17.5893 [P2]
24. Mark Griffith (GTS - Ginetta G50 GT4) - 1:19.2238 [P3]
25. Tony Martin (GTS - Ginetta G50 GT4) - 1:22.8498 [P3]


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