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Australian GT; Muscat Recovers For Victory In Sydney, But It's Quinn's Round
Posted by: newsla on Aug 24, 2014 - 04:13 PM
Sports Cars
Australian GT; Muscat Recovers For Victory In Sydney, But It's Quinn's Round


12-months ago, the Erebus Motorsport GT team dominated the Sydney Motorsport Park round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli, and series points leader Richard Muscat driving for the same team in season 2014 was expected to do much the same, but despite setting a stunning pole in qualifying and winning race two, the weekend went to Phillip Island winner Tony Quinn.

 

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Quinn’s weekend started brilliantly, the VIP Petfoods Aston Martin Vantage driver winning the opening race after early race leader Richard Muscat suffered a fuel pickup issue during a Safety Car period, forcing him to retire just after mid-race.

Saturday’s opening 60-minute race had seen a high rate of attrition with seven of the 26-strong field forced into retirement, including the quick Donut King Lotus Exige of Tony Alford which had made heavy contact with the concrete barriers 20-minutes into the race. It took safety crews some time to extract Alford, although he stepped from the car under his own power. In the end he went to hospital for observation, but whilst well enough to walk away from the car, it had been all but destroyed in the incident forcing him out of the round.

Fellow GT Sports entrant Tony Martin also failed to make race two after a gearbox failure in his Ginetta G50, whilst gearbox problems also sidelined James Koundouris and Steve Owen in the Supabarn Porsche GT3-R, the car that won the 2013 championship.

Starting rear-of-field, the big question was how long it would take for points leader Richard Muscat to work his way to the front. Tenth at the conclusion of lap one, and sixth by lap two suggested the Victorian was going to play a big part in the final result.

Off the line during the rolling start though it was Tony Quinn who powered away from the front with son Klark in tow. Steven Richards held on to third place in the opening laps, with the twin Melbourne Performance Centre [MPC] prepared Trophy Class Audi R8s of Nathan Antunes and James Winslow doing battle behind him, the pair battling hard through to turn two.

Klark Quinn pressed hard off the start and pulled alongside his father around ‘Corporate Hill’ but Tony Quinn was having none of it, forcing the Darrell Lea McLaren driver to hold station behind him. “The old man wasn’t making it too easy for me,” Klark reflected post-race.

Five laps in, the lead train was six cars long, with the Aston leading the McLaren, the Interlloy Lamborghini, the two Audis and Muscat who was now just two seconds from the race lead.

Richards was the first to pounce, moving past the McLaren, but the reigning champion quickly reclaimed the position, but as they came around to lap Jim Manolios in the Trofeo Motorsport Ferrari, Richards was baulked on the run through turn five allowing Antunes through to third as a result.

Richards though regrouped to charge past Antunes, then three laps later Klark Quinn, before working his way past Tony Quinn for the lead on lap 16. The VIP Petfood boss though didn’t make it easy for Richards, the Lamborghini driver forced to take a couple of bites before finally making it through, although by that stage, Muscat was hot on his heels..

Jim Manolios was first to pit as the Compulsory Pit Stop [CPS] window opened, handing the car to rookie sensation Ryan Millier. Millier managed to complete half a dozen laps before pulling off the circuit at turn 17 with a suspension failure in the left front.

“The car didn’t feel right and was getting progressively worse,” Millier confirmed. “I’d radioed the team to tell them it felt like a flat tyre, but then the ball joint failed completely and I couldn’t do any more than pull of the circuit.”

Steve McLaughlan was the first of the front-runners to pit, although the JAMEC-PEM Audi pilot admitted that he wasn’t particularly comfortable with the recently upgraded car, handing it over to local hero Warren Luff who had qualified on the front row on Friday. Luff worked his way forward to a seventh placed finish, but like McLaughlan admitted that it had taken some time to get comfortable with the new car.

“The 2013-spec Audi has very different aero to the LMS that Rod [Salmon] and Dean [Koutsoumidis] campaign, so it requires a different driving style. No doubt it will be fast, we just need more laps to dial ourselves in.”

Just before 55% of race distance, Steve Richards hit the pits [Pro ranked drivers can complete no more than 55% of race distance], handing the Gallardo to car owner Justin McMillan, Nathan Antunes and James Winslow following the Lamborghini down pit lane for the same reason.

By virtue of Richards’ status as a Pro driver, and the Antunes/Winlsow duo carrying a ‘Master’ seeding, all three were forced to stop longer than the ‘unseeded’ Tony Quinn, although Koutsoumidis held a slight Trophy Class advantage by virtue of Salmon’s longer stop due to finishing a position higher in race one.

That was all the Equity-One Motorsport team boss needed as he fired out of the pits five seconds ahead of his MPC team-mate, with Koutsoumidis ultimately crossing the line 15 seconds clear of his title rival, however the Salmon/Antunes combination took the round win by virtue of setting the pole time for the Trophy Class category on Friday.

“This year there has been no free dinners and Rod [Salmon] and Nathan [Antunes] have been really making us work for it,” Koutsoumidis said post-race. “Obviously coming first in class today was fantastic. We found a good sweet spot with the setup and took advantage of it.”

With Richards in early, Muscat and the Quinns pressed on until the final moments of the CPS window, with Tony Quinn leaving the pits as race leader due to Muscat’s CPS penalty which as a result of his race one DNF, saw him adopt his race one CPS..

Despite that Muscat took just three laps to close Quinn down, taking the lead back on lap 28, on his way to a 26-second victory. Tony Quinn came home a distant second, with Klark Quinn a similar distance further back in third.

As the laps wound down the big battle was over P4, with John Bowe charging hard across the final few laps to take Justin McMillan’s Lamborghini on the final lap. Muscat’s pace was such that he caught and passed the dueling Trophy Class Audi R8s in the final laps to have lapped the field up to McMillan in P6. In the process Muscat set the fastest lap of the race on lap 28 (1:28.0780), just hundredths short of team-mate Jack Le Brocq who had set the benchmark in the Erebus Mercedes in 2013 at 1:27.9783.

“I was on target to break Jack’s record, but I caught Kevin Weeks in the Ford GT and lost a couple of tenths, so that one will stand for a while,” Muscat mused.

“It wasn’t the perfect weekend, but obviously things like that [race one] do occur when you’re racing, you just have to take it - it’s character building stuff. We knew it was going to be tough with the pit-stop penalty that we had. I just had to put my head down, and it was great to have that battle with the four or five guys at the front - great racing, very close and very tight but there was no contact at all.”

Tony Quinn was typically relaxed about the race, and was more focused on the category than his own performance. “It was another great weekend, and I would like to thank Pirelli for their great tyres. It was an enjoyable weekend I think. The V8’s love us and want us back next year because we put on a good show, and I think we’ll live up to the premise.”

Reigning champion Klark Quinn appeared to be battling a less than perfect McLaren across the weekend, but his consistency provided him another podium and second overall for the weekend.

“It was a very tough race,” he explained. “By half time I was hoping they’d shorten the race.. It was a great weekend overall though, and congratulations to the guys on the podium. The ‘old boy’ [TQ] put up a good fight and wouldn’t let me through, not once, not twice.. even the fourth time he wouldn’t let me through.. I don’t know what that means..!?”

For Justin McMillan, his third place was just reward for a season where the Interlloy Lamborghini had been threatening the leaders on an ongoing basis, so it was only a matter of time until they collected some silverware.

“It felt good to contribute to this trophy..” he said in reference to the two pole trophies that Richards had collected for the team so far in 2014. “The M-Motorsport team did a great job with the car this weekend, and Steve obviously drove well.”

Behind the lead pack Andrew Macpherson crossed the line in P9, having started rear-of-field after a driveline failure in race one, with Adrian Deitz and Josh Hunt tenth in the second Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia.

Michael Hovey and Matt Campbell too recovered from a rear-of-field start after contact during a restart in race one had eliminated them with cooling issues, whilst Kevin Weeks too carded a strong finish after suffering gear selection issues in race one.

Theo Koundouris claimed 13th but third in Trophy Class for the weekend behind the two MPC Audis. “I think it was about as quick as we could have gone,” Koundouris admitted post-race. “The Audis were so quick this weekend, so congratulations to them, and thanks to the team - they effectively rebuilt the car after an issue during what was supposed to be a test session a week ago, so they’ve been doing a couple of all-nighters to get us here.”
After what they felt was a scoring mixup in race one, Ferrari Challenge Asia regular Paul Van Loenhout and co-driver Renato Loberto claimed the Challenge Class win in their Ferrari 458 Challenge EVO, crossing the line comfortably clear of points leader Ben Foessel and the Matt Kingsley/Brendan Cook combination who had taken the win in race one.

“We had a great weekend,” Van Loehout said. “Thanks to Renato [Loberto], he took the car from 18th to 11th and that put us in a position to challenge for the win.”

After the unfortunate incident that claimed Tony Alford in race one, and the subsequent gearbox failure by Tony Martin, Mark Griffith claimed the GT Sports class victory in race two, and with it, the championship points leader.

“That’s not how we wanted to take back the points lead,” Griffith admitted. “I’m just glad Tony [Alford] is okay, he’s such a great competitor.”

There were three retirements in the end, JJA Consulting Group Lamborghini duo Jan Jinadasa and Dan Gaunt who actually ran out of fuel after an issue with economy, whilst Indiran Padayachee had a mechanical failure that saw him pull into the pits on lap 18, whilst the Manolios/Millier Ferrari suffered suspension issues.

There is now just three weeks (12-14 September) until the penultimate round of the 2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli, at Melbourne’s Sandown Park, again alongside the V8 Supercars, for two one hour races, ahead of the final round of the championship on 7-9 November at Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand.

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).

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

-------------------------------------

Rnd#4 - 2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Sydney Motorsport Park – Race#2 (60-minutes, 24 August)
1. Richard Muscat (GT - Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3) - 38-laps
2. Tony Quinn (GT - Aston Martin Vantage GT3)
3. Klark Quinn (GT - McLaren MP4-12C)
4. John Bowe/Peter Edwards (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
5. Justin McMillan/Steve Richards (GT - Gallardo FL2 GT3)
6. Dean Koutsoumidis/James Winslow (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 37-laps
7. Steve McLaughlan/Warren Luff (GT - Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra)
8. Rod Salmon/Nathan Antunes (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3)
9. Andrew MacPherson (GT - Porsche 997 GT3-R)
10. Adrian Deitz/Josh Hunt (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
11. Michael Hovey/Matt Campbell (GTT - Porsche Type 997 GT3 Cup)
12. Kevin Weeks (GTT - Ford GT)
13. Theo Koundouris (GTT - Porsche 997 Cup-S)
14. Paul Van Loenhout/Renato Loberto (GTC - Ferrari 458 Challenge) - 36-laps
15. Ben Foessel (GTC - Porsche GT3 Cup)
16. Ockert Fourie/John Magro (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3)
17. Brendan Cook/Matt Kingsley (GTC - Porsche GT3 Cup)
18. Simon Ellingham (GTT - Porsche Type 997 GT3 Cup)
19. Barton Mawer (GTT - Lotus Exige S GT3) - 35-laps
20. Mark Griffith (GTS - Ginetta G50 GT4) - 33-laps

DNF. Jan Jinadasa/Daniel Gaunt (GTT - Lamborghini Gallardo LP520) - 34-laps
DNF. Indiran Padayachee (GTC - Porsche GT3 Cup) - 18-laps
DNF. Jim Manolios/Ryan Millier (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 17-laps
DNS. Tony Martin (GTS - Ginetta G50 GT4)
DNS. James Koundouris/Steve Owen (GT - Porsche GT3-R)
DNS. Tony Alford (GTS - Lotus Exige Cup R)

2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Championship points (after round four of six)

GT Championship
1. Richard Muscat (345 points), 2. Tony Quinn (308), 3. John Bowe (297), 4. Klark Quinn (285), 5. Justin McMillan/Steven Richards (213), 6. Peter Edwards (182), 7. Tony D’Alberto (147), 8. James Koundouris (138), 9. Andrew MacPherson (105), 10. Steve Owen (84), 11. Ross Lilley (64), 12. Garth Tander (58), 12. Steve McLaughlan/Warren Luff (58), 13. Jack Le Brocq (52), 14. Josh Hunt/Adrian Deitz (43), 15. Tony DeFelice (32), 16. Craig Baird (30), 17. Ben Porter (24), 18. Jim Manolios (23), 19. Ryan Millier (19), 20. Roger Lago/David Russell (1)

GT Trophy
1. Rod Salmon (380 points), 2. Dean Koutsoumidis/James Winslow (315), 3. Nathan Antunes (312), 4. Theo Koundouris (265), 5. Michael Hovey (213), 6. Jan Jinadasa/Daniel Gaunt (193), 7. Simon Ellingham (129), 8. Steve McLaughlan (97), 9. Indiran Padayachee (89), 10. Ockert Fourie/John Magro (76), 11. Matt Campbell (74), 12. Dale Paterson (70), 13. Liam Talbot (68), 14. Ben Eggleston (56), 15. Sam Power (52), 16. Barton Mawer (48), 17. Andrew MacPherson (44), 18. Keith Kassulke (33), 19. Kevin Weeks (32), 20. Jono Lester (29), 21. Peter Conroy/Dean Grant (18), 22. Duvashen Padayachee (16), 23. Warren Luff (10), 24. Jonathon Venter (1), 25. Graham Lusty/Geoff Fane (0)

GT Challenge
1. Ben Foessel (383 points), 2. Brendan Cook/Matt Kingsley (357), 3. Michael Almond (150), 4. George Foessel (149), 5. Paul Van Loenhout/Renato Loberto (102), 6. Indiran Padayachee (77), 7. Jeff Neale/Terry Knight (43)

GT4 Sports
1. Mark Griffith (343 points), 2. Tony Alford (297), 3. Tony Martin (221), 4. Mark O’Connor (110), 5. Hayden Cooper (102), 6. Karl Reindler (58), 7. Grant Bromley (52), 8. Ryan McLeod (42)


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