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Jul 07, 2014 - 06:26 AM
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Muscat Recovers For Victory At Townsville
Posted by: newsla on Jul 07, 2014 - 06:20 AM
Sports Cars
Muscat Recovers For Victory At Townsville


Despite a slip in the second race whilst well within sight of victory, Erebus Motorsport’s Richard Muscat fought hard to claim a third season victory in the final 40-minute Australian GT race at Townsville to take the round win and extend his championship points lead.

 

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Off pole for race two in the cool morning air, reigning champion Klark Quinn looked like he could well go back-to-back after his opening race victory, but just prior to his compulsory pit stop [CPS], the Darrell Lea McLaren MP4-12C pulled off the circuit with flames bellowing from the exhausts. All sorts of speculation suggested a possible engine failure, but the team’s factory technicians soon confirmed it was nothing more than an engine sensor failure.

That handed the advantage back to Muscat, but that advantage too quickly evaporated after Muscat spun the Mercedes out of the lead. By then Tony D’Alberto had worked the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari back into contention from a 17th placed start to hand John Bowe an opportunity he would not soon relinquish, the Bathurst 12-Hour winners recovering from the disappointment of race one to take their first AGT win of the year.

Race#2 - Stunning drive from D’Alberto sets up race win
Quinn controlled the start of race two in the cool morning air, with the track temperature at just 20 degrees. Cautious on the cooler surface, Quinn managed to stay ahead of Muscat until turn four, the Mercedes driver ultimately working his way past, although not without contact.

That upset Muscat’s rhythm slightly as a vibration started in the right rear, something which he admitted contributed to a rare error on lap 12, after he spun at turn nine and had difficulty getting the car into reverse.

“After Klark and I made contact - it wasn’t much - I could feel a slight vibration in the right rear wheel. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but whilst I was just comfortably driving away ahead of the CPS, I gave the car too much gas coming out of the right hander at turn nine and spun,” Muscat admitted matter-of-factly. “It was my error, no question, but I then had trouble finding reverse, and that cost me valuable positions.”

That handed the reigning champion the race lead, and Klark Quinn settled into a comfortable rhythm as he drove away from the field, but amazingly, just six laps later he too was out, with flames bellowing from the tail-pipes of the twin-turbo V8 McLaren.

Fortunately it looked far more dramatic than it was, Quinn finding a marshaling point to stop, before switching off all the systems and quickly ejecting himself from the car.

Later diagnosis would reveal an engine sensor failure which ultimately allowed all the fuel injectors to dump maximum fuel into the chamber at full throttle. The fuel ignited and flamed out the tail-pipes, but for spectators and Quinn himself, it looked dramatic.

“I’d been complaining about my rearward vision out of the McLaren, so the team fitted a rearward facing camera yesterday. It’s probably not mounted in the perfect spot for vision, but as I looked out the rear to see what was going on, the high tail pipes and the position of the camera made it look like an inferno, so I was outta there!”

By that stage Tony D’Alberto inherited the race lead, although briefly as the Maranello Motorsport team elected to pit him in case there was a Safety Car to recover the Quinn McLaren. That handed Phillip Island winner Tony Quinn the lead.

D’Alberto had done a stunning job, coming from 17th on the grid to the lead, handing Bowe an advantage that he would not soon relinquish, as first one, and then the next of his rivals made their compulsory pit stops, giving the Ferrari driver a strong lead he would hold all the way to the flag.

“That was fantastic,” D’Alberto admitted afterwards. “The car was fantastic, and the other drivers gave me plenty of room as I came through the field. JB [Bowe] did a brilliant job and maintained the gap to Tony [Quinn], and that was all we needed.”

“What a difference a day makes,” Bowe laughed. “Yesterday I made our life difficult after that early puncture and then the drive-through, and even then Tony did a brilliant job to eke out some sort of recovery, but that opening stint of his is what won us the race, impressive from 17th on the grid. I can’t wait to see what he does in race three!”

Behind him Richard Muscat was mounting a recovery, picking off one car after another to be third in the closing stages - his pace so quick (1:12.7121), he was turning laps just half a second off Steven Richards’ pole time, although too far back to catch Tony Quinn before the flag. Richards himself was one of the quickest cars on track, picking off cars after the CPS to claim fourth, with the impressive Trophy class combination of Rod Salmon and Nathan Antunes fifth in the Skwirk.com.au Audi R8 LMS.

Returning former AGT regular Ross Lilley was sixth in his new Lamborghini FL2, although not 100% happy with his performance, whilst Andrew MacPherson was seventh, and the final car on the lead lap in his IMAK Porsche GT3-R.

Ben Foessel and Michael Almond won the battle for Challenge class honours, whilst impressive series debutante Hayden Cooper won GT Sports by over a lap in the Ginetta G50.

Race #3 - Muscat recovers to win the race and the round
John Bowe may have controlled the start of the final race, but the sheer torque of the big V12 Aston Martin allowed Tony Quinn to lead into turn one, with Richard Muscat too diving through on the Ferrari.

Muscat then pressed Quinn to make his way into the lead before the end of the lap, but Bowe was soon on his tail and through, keen to open up a lead ahead of the CPS where by virtue of his front row start, he would be forced to stop for ten seconds longer than Muscat, part of the reason the Mercedes driver let him go.

The first retirement of the race was Brendan Cook in his Challenge class title contending Walz Group Porsche, after contact with the tail of the Paterson Mosler as a result of a brake lockup, Cook parking the Porsche on the pit exit lane after concerns there had also been a mechanical failure in the engine.

Next to go was the luckless Dale Paterson who after a mammoth rebuild in association with the M-Motorsport team, had recovered from his opening race turn one retirement to run 12th in race two and fifth in Trophy class, again he was involved with early race contact which ultimately forced the big Mosler back into retirement.

Ross Lilley was the first to stop as the CPS window opened, with Bowe in at 45% of race distance to hand over to D’Alberto [‘Pro’ drivers are not allowed to contest more than 55% of race distance]. That put Muscat back into the lead, and the Genis Steel/Wilson Security SLS started punching out quick laps to ensure he’d hold the advantage after his CPS.

That elevated Tony Quinn to second, with Klark Quinn an impressive third after his rear-of-field start. Despite his lengthy CPS - which he carried over from his opening race win - he held on to finish an impressive fourth, but could do nothing about Muscat, D’Alberto and his father Tony in front of him.

After his stop, Muscat was 12-seconds up the road from D’Alberto, who despite re-setting the lap record on lap 25 [1:12.6988], fell four seconds short of taking the win, whilst Tony Quinn settled for third and second overall for the round.

“I’m getting too old for this,” he laughed post-race. “No look, the car was great, the team did a brilliant job, but I was never going to mix it with those two young guys. Klark did a great job to win the opening race, it’s just a pity that a relatively minor electrical issue spoiled his weekend, but that - as they say - is motor racing!”

Justin McMillan brought the M-Motorsport/Interlloy Lamborghini home an impressive fifth, falling just a handful of points shy of a podium finish, although they did take home their second pole position trophy of the year.

James Koundouris made a great recovery to finish sixth - but like the car’s former car-owner Klark Quinn, he was also forced to come from rear of field.

“We had a left rear drive-shaft failure in race two this morning, so I had my work cut out,” he shrugged. “But like Steve [Owen] being away, it forced me to ‘step-up’ and it gave me a chance to really drive the car, and I’m pretty happy with the result - we’re certainly getting there.”

Nathan Antunes finished sixth, making it a clean sweep of the Trophy class for he and points leader Rod Salmon, whilst James Winslow came home seventh in the Equity-One Audi, the two MPC/Audi stablemates not far apart at race end, although they were split by the race leader.

“I was catching him, but just didn’t have enough laps,” Winslow lamented post-race.

Andrew MacPherson was next in the Porsche GT3-R ahead of Theo Koundouris who grabbed third in Trophy class for the final race. Ross Lilley was next, just ahead of Jan Jinadasa who had taken over the JJA Consulting Gallardo LP520 from Dan Gaunt in an impressive fifth place, whilst Michael Hovey was unable to match his two top ten finishes to start the weekend with 12th, however he was classified third overall in Trophy class for the weekend.

After Brendan Cook’s early DNF, Ben Foessel and Michael Almond took outright Challenge class honours, whilst Hayden Cooper’s DNF ended what should have been certain class victory in GT Sports, instead points leader Tony Alford took the win ahead of reigning champion Mark Griffith and Tony Martin who had recovered from a broken driveshaft and a DNF in race two.

The Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli now enjoys a seven week break ahead of round four at Sydney Motorsport Park on August 22-24, again alongside the V8 Supercars for 2x 30-minute races and one 60-minute race.

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

The third round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli will be televised on Channel 7 in the coming weeks (time to be advised).


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