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Muscat Storms To Debut AGT Victory Despite Rear-Of-Field Start
Posted by: newsla on Mar 30, 2014 - 04:16 AM
Sports Cars
Muscat Storms To Debut AGT Victory Despite Rear-Of-Field Start

New Erebus Motorsport recruit Richard Muscat failed to make qualifying after a technical issue kept him from recording a time, however what appeared to be a setback turned into a huge advantage after the young Victorian controlled the race after the compulsory pit stops [CPS] to take a dominant win on his maiden GT outing.


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Quick during practice, Muscat was expected to battle Steven Richards (Interlloy Lamborghini) and John Bowe (Il Bello Rosso Ferrari) for pole position in qualifying, but a technical issue with the fuel system forced them to effect repairs for the session, the crack Erebus Motorsport GT team though forced to concede in the end after failing to get the car onto the circuit in time.

That left Richards and Bowe to fight for the top spot, Richards smashing the existing qualifying record by three seconds to top the timesheets with a best of 1:09.5087. Bowe too was quick, setting a 1:09.8793 early before handing the car over to Peter Edwards.

Tony Quinn was third, the VIP Petfoods boss also breaking into the 1:09s, with Klark Quinn moving into fourth in the dying stages of the session.

Steve Owen put the dual championship winning Porsche GT3-R into P5, with James Winslow stopping the clock with an impressive 1:10.5283 to take top honours for Audi in the Trophy class, seven tenths clear of stable-mate Rod Salmon.

Matt Kingsley was the quickest of the Challenge class cars with 13th (1:13.8643), whilst Mark O’Connor put the Lotus Exige Cup R on top of the GT4 Sports category, recording the 20th fastest time (1:15.8037) overall.

Whilst 25 cars contested the three sessions of practice, just 24 started qualifying after John Morriss withdrew his former GT Asia championship winning Porsche GT3-R to concentrate on his Radical Cup commitments.

“It’s a lot of car to get a handle on after just three practice sessions,” he explained. “It only arrived earlier this week and there’s a few systems we want to sort first. We weren’t 100% sure we’d race, but Friday gave us a chance to shake the car down. We’ll be back for round two at Phillip Island and I think it will be quick.”

Off rear-of-field for the start, Muscat was forced to push hard early to ensure that Richards and Bowe wouldn’t get too far away off the start.

As it was, a slow starting midfield stalled his early progress, but a fast-starting Tony Quinn put paid to Steven Richards ability to break away off the start, the reigning Bathurst 1000 champion jumped off the line by the Aston which led into turn one.

By turn ten Richards forced his way back into the lead after pulling alongside Quinn on the run out of Dandenong Road corner to cross the line to complete lap one as leader.

Keen to extend his lead over Muscat - who by virtue of failing to qualify would be penalised 35-seconds less than the Lamborghini during the CPS - Richards charged setting one new lap record after another before the Pirelli DH slicks came up to pressure on Bowe’s Ferrari and the former V8 Supercar star charged through to the tail of the Lamborghini by quarter race distance.

“I could see him coming,” Richards admitted afterwards. “He was driving it like a V8 Supercar and bouncing it off the kerbs, whereas I was driving around them.”

In the end Bowe caught the Lamborghini and grabbed the lead at turn one just prior to the CPS.

Stopping together, Peter Edwards rejoined in the Ferrari nine seconds clear of Justin McMillan by virtue of Richards’ status as a ‘Pro’ driver.

By that stage though Muscat had claimed the lead after stopping mid-race, his 58-second penalty handing him a 20-second advantage over the Ferrari, which was now in a fight with McMillan for second.

Behind them Klark Quinn had worked his way through to battle his father Tony who admitted that he was happy to concede the position. “What’s the point of holding the quicker guys up, let them go..”

As the laps wound down the battle was on for second with McMillan hauling in Edwards and Klark Quinn catching them both. Ten minutes from home McMillan pounced on the run into turn one, diving up the inside of Edwards under brakes, but the former State Series champion was forced to lean on the ABS, understeering into the innocent Liam Talbot on the exit. The contact forced the Audi into a spin which ultimately damaged the cooling system at the front of the Gallardo, forcing McMillan to pit and retire the car.

“It was my fault, no question, I just couldn’t pull it up on the ABS,” he admitted afterwards. “In the end the contact broke the radiator and the cooling system, so it dumped its water and that was that. The damage is mostly superficial so we’ll be back tomorrow with no huge pit-stop time penalty..”

McMillan’s retirement elevated Klark Quinn to third and then second as the McLaren worked its way past the Ferrari. At the flag though it was all Muscat, the SLS AMG pilot 20-seconds clear of Quinn, with Edwards third and Tony Quinn fourth.

“I couldn’t have had a much better run,” the Mercedes pilot admitted afterwards. “I was probably a bit hard on the tyres early because I didn’t want the leaders to get away too far - in fact we had a qualifying setup with the traction control to ensure I had pace - but after the CPS it was just a matter of punching out consistent laps and being there at the end.”

Steve Owen bought the Supabarn Porsche GT3-R home fifth, with the Trophy Class Supabarn Porsche Cup S of Theo Koundouris sixth and Trophy class winner. Steve McLaughlan worked his way past Melbourne Performance Centre team-mate Dean Koutsoumidis late in the race to record a second placed finish in Trophy class and seventh outright. Koutsoumidis and Winslow were third in class and eighth outright after a stunning opening stanza by Winslow which had the Equity-One Audi fifth before the CPS.

Despite the spin after contact with McMillan, Talbot bought the Skwirk.com.au Audi home in ninth place with Jan Jinadasa tenth in the JJA Consulting Gallardo LP520 after an impressive opening stint by Daniel Gaunt which had the Lamborghini as high as eighth.

Rounding out the 12 was Dale Paterson and Andrew MacPherson in their Trophy class cars ahead of Challenge class winners Brendan Cook and Matt Kingsley (Walz Group Porsche GT3 Cup Car) and GT4 Sports race winners Tony Alford and Mark O’Connor in the Donut King Lotus Exige Cup R.

After starting the opening round with an untried ‘new’ car, Trofeo Motorsport’s Jim Manolios impressed during qualifying to run within a couple of seconds of Peter Edwards in the newer specification Ferrari 458 Italia, however despite smiling broadly pre-race, he was nowhere to be seen once the opening race started.

“There’s a number of little intricacies with the car we’re not aware of,” he explained. “One of which was the onboard firebomb. The scrutineers want to check the external cutoff switch prior to the race which is at the base of the windscreen along with the external plug for the firebomb. We disconnected the firebomb so they could check it without setting it off, but we didn’t know there was a secondary system, so bang - off it went with fire retardant filling the cabin. That was that, no fire-bomb, no start.. We’ll be right tomorrow, but it wasn’t the way I wanted to start my first race with the Ferrari!!”

In the end Manolios wasn’t the only ‘retirement’, with Graham Lusty forced to retire the Mosler MT900 after taking over at the CPS from Geoff Fane, the big Chevrolet V8 powered British-built car suffering a coolant leak, whilst mid-race Trophy class leader Ben Eggleston was forced to retire the Aston Martin DBRS9 in the closing stages with a broken torque tube, both are expected to join the field for Sunday morning’s second and final 60-minute race.

The second one-hour race will get underway at 11:10am (AEST) Sunday, 30 March, and be televised via live streaming through www.thenationals.com.au from 9:00am (AEST).

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

The opening round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli will be televised on SBS Speedweek on Sunday, April 13 from 1:00pm AEST (check local guides for confirmation).


Rnd#1 - 2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Sandown Park, Melbourne - Qualifying (29 March)
1. McMillan/ Richards (GT - Gallardo FL2 GT3) - 1:09.5087
2. Edwards/Bowe (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 1:09.7971
3. Tony Quinn (GT - Aston Martin Vantage GT3) - 1:09.8783
4. Klark Quinn (GT - McLaren MP4-12C) - 1:10.0310
5. Koundouris/Owen (GT - Porsche GT3-R) - 1:10.3460
6. Koutsoumidis/Winslow (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:10.5238
7. Salmon/Talbot (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:11.2813
8. Theo Koundouris (GTT - Porsche 997 Cup-S) - 1:11.5989
9. Ben Eggleston (GTT - Aston Martin DBRS9) - 1:11.6132
10. Steve McLaughlan (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:12.4053
11. Jinadasa/Gaunt (GTT - Gallardo LP520) - 1:12.5119
12. Dale Paterson (GTT - Mosler MT900 GT3) - 1:13.3426
13. Cook/Kingsley (GTC - Porsche GT3 Cup) - 1:13.8643
14. Michael Hovey (GTT - Porsche Type 997 GT3 Cup) - 1:14.2034
15. Jim Manolios (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 1:14.5540
16. Andrew MacPherson (GTT - Porsche 997 Cup-S) - 1:14.7458
17. Keith Kassulke (GTT - Ascari KZR-1 GT3) - 1:14.7626
18. Lusty/Fane (GTT - Mosler MT900 GT3) - 1:15.0335
19. Foessel/Foessel (GTC - Porsche GT3 Cup) - 1:15.5988
20. Alford/O’Connor (GTS - Lotus Exige Cup R) - 1:15.8037
21. Indiran Padayachee (GTC - Porsche GT3 Cup) - 1:16.6130
22. Mark Griffith (GTS - Ginetta G50 GT4) - 1:19.3382
23. Tony Martin (GTS - Ginetta G50 GT4) - 1:22.4123
DNQ. Richard Muscat (GT - SLS AMG GT3)
DNQ. John Morris (GT - Porsche GT3.R)


Rnd#1 - 2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Sandown Park, Melbourne - Race 1 (29 March)
Race 1 (60-minutes) - Unofficial race result
01. 36. Richard Muscat - Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 [CHAMP]
02. 1. Klark Quinn - McLaren MP4-12C GT3 [CHAMP]
03. 88. John Bowe - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 [CHAMP]
04. 7. Tony Quinn - Aston Martin Vantage GT3 [CHAMP]
05. 47. Koundouris/Owen - Porsche GT3-R [CHAMP]
06. 69. Theo Koundouris - Porsche Cup S [TROPHY]
07. 75. Steve McLaughlan - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY]
08. 71. Koutsoumidis/Winslow - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY]
09. 6. Salmon/Talbot - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY]
10. 77. Jinadasa/Gaunt - Lamborghini Gallardo LP520 [TROPHY]
11. 70. Dale Paterson - Mosler MT900 GT3 [TROPHY]
12. 51. Andrew MacPherson - Porsche Cup S [TROPHY]
* full results to come due to a timing system failure post race

The 2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli is proudly supported by Pirelli, Darrell Lea and Z Motorsport Memorabilia.

2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli - calendar
Rnd#1, 28-30 March - Sandown, Melbourne, Victoria*
Rnd#2, 23-25 May - Phillip Island, Victoria*
Rnd#3, 4-6 July - Townsville, Queensland**
Rnd#4, 22-24 August - Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW**
Rnd#5, 12-14 September - Sandown, Melbourne, Victoria**
Rnd#6, 7-9 November - Highland Motorsport Park, NZ
(* with the Shannons Nationals, ** with V8 Supercars)

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