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Jun 30, 2014 - 02:43 PM
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The Australian GT Championship Returns To The Streets Of Townsville
Posted by: newsla on Jun 30, 2014 - 02:38 PM
Sports Cars
The Australian GT Championship Returns To The Streets Of Townsville


The Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli will return to the V8 Supercar program for the first time since the Clipsal 500 in 2013, to contest the Townsville street circuit for the second time, and the first since 2011 with a strong field of competitors across the four competing classes.

 

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25-cars will line up on the 2.85-kilometre 13-turn circuit after the late withdrawal of 2011 race winner Kevin Weeks, the South Australian suffering a wrist injury just a fortnight before the event, forcing him to sit out the Queensland round, but his retirement from the field does nothing to diminish the strength of competition, which starts with the likely outright contenders.

Three years ago 2012/2013 champion Klark Quinn emerged victorious after two 30-minute races, although last time around he was behind the wheel of the VIP Petfoods Mosler MT900, this time however he will be campaigning the mighty twin-turbo V8 powered McLaren MP4-12C and will start as one of the outright contenders, but he will be one of a number..

The big focal point will no doubt be the pairing of former V8 Supercar (Touring Cars in his day) champion John Bowe and current V8 Supercar enduro driver Tony D’Alberto, the pair sharing driving duties in the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458. Car owner Peter Edwards is tied up for the weekend leaving D’Alberto to fill his seat in one of the cars best suited to the streets of Townsville.

Points leader Richard Muscat too will be in the mix, although the young Victorian has never previously competed on a street circuit, however he has shown already this season that he’s not phased by new challenges. Throw in Steven Richards and Justin McMillan in the Interlloy Lamborghini and Phillip Island round winner Tony Quinn and you have the makings of three very interesting 40-minute races. Add in a Safety Car - something which is almost a certainty on a street circuit - and picking an outright winner will be as difficult as choosing the winning lotto numbers..!

Trophy Class too will be tough to predict with any number of cars capable of taking the round victory. Arguably the toughest team to beat will be the Melbourne Performance Centre Audis of Dean Koutsoumidis/James Winslow, Rod Salmon/Nathan Antunes and Steve McLaughlan. All three were on the podium at Sandown, whilst Salmon currently leads the points after Koutsoumidis suffered a nasty off at Phillip Island. His car is back to its best, and with Winslow hot from his stunning debut in a Le Mans prototype at the French 24-Hour classic three weeks ago, they could well be the pace-setters.

Don’t discount Phillip Island round winner Theo Koundouris or Dan Gaunt in Jan Jinadasa’s Lamborghini, nor Dale Paterson in the Mosler, all will be in contention, and with three compulsory pit stop races on the schedule, there may well be three different winners.

The Challenge class Porsche battle between 2013 title rivals Ben Foessel and Brendan Cook will continue, with both having taken a round win so far in season 2014. Foessel has been working hard to match the pace of Cook and long-time co-driver Matt Kingsley, the reigning champion coming up trumps last time around at Phillip Island. Picking a winner in this battle will be nigh on impossible..!

The battle for supremacy in GT Sports will again prove a focal point with the ‘new’ Lotus Exige Cup R battling 2013 title contenders Mark Griffith and Tony Martin in their Ginetta G50 GT4s. The Lotus took top honours at Sandown, but the Ginetta’s fought back with an impressive 1-2 at Phillip Island. They will be joined by Hayden Cooper in a third Ginetta for Townsville, the former F3 star could well provide the GT Sports class with the third different winner of the season to date.

WHO TO WATCH OUT FOR?
GT Championship (for 2012-2013 specification GT3 cars)
The big decider at Townsville could well be a Safety Car because it may come down to the timing of the compulsory pit stop as we’ve seen on a number of occasions in the past, most especially on the tighter street circuits. On paper you’d be hard-pressed to look past John Bowe and Tony D’Alberto in the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458, and points leader Richard Muscat in the Erebus Motorsport SLS AMG, but don’t discount Richards/McMillan in the Lamborghini, 2011 race winner Klark Quinn in the McLaren or Phillip Island 101 winner, Tony Quinn - it will be an intriguing battle!

GT Trophy (for GT3-spec cars 2011 and older)
This has been the battle of the year! The Melbourne Performance Centre Audis have been right in the box seat so far and their kerb compliance on street circuits has been a real advantage in the past, but the Phillip Island 101 winning Porsche of Theo Koundouris, Jan Jinadasa/Dan Gaunt in the Lamborghini LP520 and the Mosler of Dale Paterson will be worth keeping an eye on, but if you want a winner, look for a battle for victory between the three MPC Audis and the Porsche..

GT Challenge (Challenge class cars - Porsche/Ferrari)
The battle for GT Challenge is becoming very much a case of deja-vu with 2013 title contenders Ben Foessel and Brendan Cook hard at it again. Cook and long-time co-driver Matt Kinglsey took the win at Sandown, before Foessel grabbed victory at Phillip Island. There’s nothing separating them in the points battle, and both teams are desperate to carry an advantage into the second half of the season.

GT Sports (GT4 category cars)
Tony Alford leads the points in the Lotus Exige Cup R, but he was soundly beaten by the Ginettas of Mark Griffith and Tony Martin at Phillip Island, but what will we see at Townsville, perhaps a first-time winner..!?

SCHEDULE (AEDST)
Friday, 4 July
Practice #1 - 8:00am (20-minutes)
Practice #2 - 11:10am (20-minutes)
Qualifying - 2:35pm (20-minutes)

Saturday, 5 July
Race #1 - 9:40am (40-minutes)

Sunday, 6 July
Race #2 - 8:00am (40-minutes)
Race #3 - 2:10pm (40-minutes)

AUSTRALIAN GT AND TOWNSVILLE
The Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli has only competed at the Townsville street circuit once previously - July 2011 - on that occasion victory went to 2012/2013 champion Klark Quinn in the VIP Petfoods Mosler MT900. Quinn qualified on pole with a 1:14.2557. The round included two 30-minute races. Race #1 saw Klark Quinn emerge victorious ahead of Peter Hackett in the Erebus Motorsport SLS AMG, with Greg Crick third in the Dodge Viper. Kevin Weeks took the win in his Gallardo LP560 in Race #2 from Hackett and Quinn handing Quinn the round win by a single point over Hackett.

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