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Aug 23, 2014 - 01:43 PM
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Australian GT; Tony Quinn Prevails In Race Of Attrition In Sydney
Posted by: newsla on Aug 23, 2014 - 01:41 PM
Sports Cars
Australian GT; Tony Quinn Prevails In Race Of Attrition In Sydney


Tony Quinn has claimed victory in the opening one-hour race at Sydney Motorsport Park during the fourth round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli, after prevailing in a race of attrition that saw two Safety Car periods and seven DNFs..

 

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Starting from pole position, championship points leader Richard Muscat charged off the line to lead through the opening lap and open up a strong lead over Warren Luff in the JAMEC PEM Audi R8 LMS ultra of Steve McLaughlan ahead of the mid-race compulsory pit stops [CPS], but what threatened to be his fourth victory of the season ended with a fuel issue ahead of a race restart on lap 18.

Sadly the Safety Car period came as the result of heavy contact GT Sports points leader Tony Alford made with the concrete barrier on the run into turn 16 just as the CPS window opened.

Starting from the twelfth row of the grid, Alford was leading the class and holding Audi Trophy Class competitor Ockert Fourie at bay on the run into turn eight. Fourie had made a conservative start and had sat behind the Lotus for a number of laps before pouncing on the run into the right hander, the two cars making light contact as the Audi made a move down the inside under brakes.

Neither car appeared to have suffered any kind of serious damage as they negotiated the turn, but just 200 metres later, Alford’s Lotus suddenly speared left and hard into the concrete barriers on the infield as the two cars ran down to turn 16.

The impact immediately brought out the yellow flags and the Safety Car, as safety crews quickly arrived on the scene to assist Alford. It saw a lengthy delay on track as officials extricated Alford from the car, the Donut King supported driver stepping from the car himself, but clearly groggy as a result of the impact, medical staff ultimately escorting him to hospital to ensure there were no residual issues from the incident.

Clearly aware of the time, and the CPS window opening as he arrived at pit lane entry, Phillip Island 101 winner Tony Quinn made his decision to complete his compulsory stop just as the Safety Car entered the circuit to pick up race leader Richard Muscat who at the time of the incident was more than six seconds clear of Luff, and almost 20 seconds up of Quinn in sixth place.

Over the course of the 15-minute delay, the bulk of the field completed their stops - some, like Justin McMillan and Jan Jinadasa though were unable to stop early by virtue of the maximum 55% race distance their ‘professional’ partners are able to complete. That dropped them well down the order by the time the field was released by the Safety Car, but within half a lap the flag was waved once more, this time for pole-sitter Richard Muscat who had rolled to a stop at turn 18 as the field negotiated the final corner ahead of the restart.

“We lost fuel pressure,” the young Victorian shrugged post-race. “It appears a fuel pump has failed, or there is an issue with the feed as there is actually an auxiliary pump in case of issues, but we had no feed. It’s disappointing because we had a strong car otherwise, although the fix should be relatively simple, so we’ll give it our best tomorrow.”

It took the recovery crew just a couple of laps to remove the stricken SLS, but on the restart more trouble ensued as the Porsches of Simon Ellingham, Andrew Macpherson and Michael Hovey came into contact at turn eight, ending what had been a stunning run for both Macpherson and Hovey who were holding down second and third respectively at the time..

“It appeared that Simon had an issue which forced Andrew hard onto the brakes in front of me, and I was being pushed from behind so I had nowhere to go,” a frustrated Michael Hovey admitted afterwards surveying the radiator damage that forced him into retirement.

The incident opened the door for the dueling Trophy Class Audis of team-mates Nathan Antunes and James Winslow, and the marauding Interlloy Lamborghini of Steve Richards who had worked his way through from the back of the pack after the stops, the trio quickly through to battle over third.

In the end the two Audis elected to let Richards go, as they continued their battle for championship honours, the reigning Bathurst champion hauling Klark Quinn in over the closing laps to cross the line just half a second shy of the reigning champion for M-Motorsport’s maiden Australian GT podium.

Up front though, Tony Quinn crossed the line for his second win of the year, five and a half seconds clear of son Klark, in the process moving to within one point of second-placed John Bowe in the championship hunt.

“That was pretty good,” Quinn admitted matter-of-factly post-race. “The Safety Car played into my hands in the end, so we had a ten second advantage over Muscat on the restart, but I’m not sure I would have been able to hold him out for 25-minutes..”

Klark Quinn prevailed in the end over Richards, although he was clearly not 100% happy with the McLaren, admitting that he was still coming to terms with the twin-turbo V8 powered machine.

“I think it’s just laps, I’m just not 100% comfortable yet,” he admitted with a shrug. “We’ll get there though because the car clearly has pace.”

There was plenty to celebrate at M-Motorsport after Richards crossed the line third to claim their maiden podium result to add to their twin 2014 pole position trophies.

“The timing of the Safety Car got us in the end,” McMillan admitted. “Richo had plenty of pace, but by the time I hit the pits for my stop, he rejoined at the back of the field, so it was a monster drive!”

Nathan Antunes crossed the line fourth, just a couple of car lengths clear of title rival James Winslow in Dean Koutsoumidis’ Equity-One Audi, the two Audi R8 pilots claiming first and second in Trophy Class, Antunes also leap-frogging his rivals in the championship as a result of the win, to move into second behind team-boss Rod Salmon.

“That’s a pretty good result,” he beamed afterwards. “I could see Steve Richards coming in the Lambo, and I knew that if either James or I got caught up in a fight with him, it could have affected our race, so we both decided to let him go and carry on our battle for the class win. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t desperately want to be on the outright podium, but there’s a championship on the line and this just adds to Rod’s tally at the top of the list.”

Theo Koundouris claimed third in Trophy Class and sixth outright in the Supabarn Porsche Cup-S, carrying the flag for the Canberra-based outfit after his brother James was forced into retirement early in the #47 Porsche GT3-R with what the team believe might have been clutch failure.

Seventh outright and fourth in Trophy Class was former round winner Jan Jinadasa and co-driver Dan Gaunt who set up the result during the opening stanza of the race, whilst Steve McLaughlan and Warren Luff claimed eighth in the recently upgraded Audi R8 LMS ultra.

Former US open-wheel star Josh Hunt was ninth in the second Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 he shares with car owner Adrian Deitz, the duo keeping their noses clean throughout the race, where at one point Hunt had the car inside the top five.

Tenth, one lap down and unable to take advantage of Muscat’s retirement was Townsville race winner John Bowe, the Bathurst 12-Hour champion and car-owner Peter Edwards looking strong early despite an electrical failure which forced the two drivers to make gearshifts manually.

“The sensor that blips the throttle on down-shifts and regulates throttle position failed on the out-lap, so it was pretty tough run after that,” Edwards lamented. “I told the boys that if it started to rain during the race I was pulling in, because there was just so much going on and so much to think about, and my brain was already full,” he laughed.

Trofeo Motorsport’s Jim Manolios and GT-rookie Ryan Millier finished an impressive 12th, Millier at one point well inside the top ten, and pitting from third to hand over to Manolios. Local star Barton Mawer was next in the monstrous Angelo Lazaris-owned Lotus Exige S GT3 despite rolling to a stop off the start through turn one.

“It appears the fly-by-wire throttle system failed off the start, so I had no throttle,” Mawer explained. “I stopped and reset the system, and it started again, but I’d also run through the cut through at turn four because I thought I had a bigger problem and that gave me a drive through penalty, so that stalled our forward progress. We’ll work on the car overnight and see how we go tomorrow.”

Next up was the Ockert Fourie/John Magro Audi ahead of Challenge Class race winners Brendan Cook and Matt Kingsley.

“I’m surprised we beat the Ferrari 458 Challenge of Van Loenhout and Loberto because it’s a fast car,” Brendan Cook admitted. “We had a good run though and I’ll take the points, because that closes down the lead that Ben Foessel had opened up ahead of this round, so now it’s ‘game-on’ for race two to go after the points lead!”

Foessel was next up, recovering from a spin mid-race after contact with Macpherson’s Porsche, with reigning GT Sports champion Mark Griffith taking the class win after Alford’s retirement, the Ginetta driver inheriting the lead after Tony Martin was also forced into retirement on lap 23 with terminal gearbox failure.

There were seven retirements in the end, including the returning Ford GT of Kevin Weeks which suffered a gearshift linkage issue - an Achilles heel of the gorgeous V8-powered Trophy Class car. Both Alford and Martin will miss the grid for race two, whilst the James Koundouris/Steve Owen Porsche and Weeks’ Ford are expected to take their position on the grid.

Race two is scheduled for 11:30am on Sunday, 24 August.

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

SCHEDULE (AEDST)
Sunday, 24 August
Race #2 - 11:30am (60-minutes)

AUSTRALIAN GT AND SYDNEY MOTORSPORT PARK
Sydney Motorsport Park [SMP] is an annual fixture on the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli calendar, and has been contested at least once every year since 2005 (twice in 2008). The most prolific winner is former champion and V8 Supercar regular David Wall with four wins, whilst the late Allan Simonsen and Peter Hackett have two apiece. An ominous sign perhaps for the 2014 field is that Mercedes Benz have won the last two races at SMP, the last of which saw former national Formula Ford champion Jack Le Brocq win both one-hour races and smash the lap record in the process (it currently stands at 1:27.9783).


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