Thursday, February 19, 2015

Australian GT: Mark Griffith and Daniel Gaunt set for Audi R8 LMS campaign in GT Trophy

By Johan Laubscher

Another new-look Audi Sport customer racing pairing is set to join the GT Trophy ranks of the Australian GT Championship this year. On Thursday it was announced that Mark Griffith and Daniel Gaunt will be driving an Audi R8 LMS run by Melbourne Performance Centre.

The duo will be driving a leased Audi R8 LMS owned by Ockert Fourie, who raced the OLOF Motorsport liveried car during 2013 and 2014.

Mark Griffith is the two-time reigning GT Sports class champion, a title that he won both times in his Ginetta G50 GT4. Griffith originally had other plans for his 2014 season. He had planned to run a GT3 specification Ferrari 430 race car in the Challenge class, but he changed his mind after he had the chance to sample an Audi R8 LMS towards the end of last year.

That led to the deal being signed which will see Mark Griffith and Daniel Gaunt driving the #19 Griffith Corporation Motorsport Audi R8 LMS in the GT Trophy class of the Australian GT Championship. The pairing will be aiming to fight for the class title this year.

The beginning of this project goes back to November 2014 when the Australian GT Championship held its finale at Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand, run alongside the Highlands 101 endurance race.

Rod Salmon had begun the 2014 season with his Audi R8 LMS ultra which was entered for the 2014 Bathurst 12 hour. An unfortunate crash suffered by Jason Bright during qualifying caused severe damage to Salmon’s Audi and as a result it was sent back to Germany for chassis repairs. The damaged car looked to put an end to Salmon’s 2014 Australian GT efforts, but a deal with Peter Conroy saw Salmon leasing Conroy’s older Audi R8 LMS during 2014. He competed in the GT Trophy class for older GT3 machines and claimed the class championship title at the final round in New Zealand.

Salmon’s Audi R8 LMS ultra had arrived back in Australia and was prepared in time for the journey to New Zealand, thus both of Salmon’s cars made the trip to Highlands Motorsport Park (pictured above). Salmon raced the Conroy leased R8 LMS to the Australian GT Trophy title on the Saturday and then competed in the Highlands 101 with his Audi R8 LMS ultra on Sunday. This meant that the leased Audi R8 LMS was available for the Highlands 101. Mark Griffith was invited by Melbourne Performance Centre with an offer to race the car in the endurance event. He shared the #6 Audi R8 LMS with Dale Paterson and they achieved a seventeenth overall place finish.

The opening round of the Australian GT Championship will be taking place at Adelaide from 26 February to 1 March. It is certainly very exciting news to hear about more Audi Sport customer racing entries joining the grid.

Photo credit: 
Official Audi Sport on twitter
Highlands Motorsport Park