Saturday, September 22, 2012

Victory for Lowndes in an Audi at Phillip Island‏

Melbourne Performance Centre Press Release 

Victory for Lowndes at Phillip Island

Rnd#5 Australian GT Championship - Review: Saturday, September 23, 2012

After a titanic battle with German star Maro Engel, five-time Bathurst winner Craig Lowndes has emerged victorious in the opening race of round five of the Australian GT Championship at Phillip Island - after sixty minutes, the margin of victory was just 2.7-seconds.

“That was fun,” Lowndes beamed afterwards as he celebrated with the Melbourne Performance Centre [MPC] crew. “It was a hard race, made a little more testing by the fact that I didn’t have any radio communication, so I was a little restricted on strategy. I’d liked to have gone a lap longer than Maro and run in clean air after he pitted, but it wasn’t to be. We’ll see how it plays out tomorrow.”

Lowndes qualified the MPC/Audi Race Experience/OneWorld Bar/Pirelli Audi R8 LMS on the second row after Engel set a blistering pole time of 1:29.6148. Danish sportscar ace Allan Simonsen put the Ferrari 458 Italia he shares with Nick O’Halloran alongside, with Lowndes third, the top three separated by just half a second.

“There’s no way I could have matched Engel’s time,” Lowndes admitted after qualifying. “But that’s one lap, and the Mercs seem to be hard on the tyres, so we’ll see how 60-minutes goes.”

The start was ‘interesting’ to say the least. With the rolling start, the pole man - Engel - set the pace, but with Simonsen toying with him, he held back on the approach to the line as Simonsen accelerated, the Ferrari comfortably clear as they hit the line and immediately out of the equation with a drive-through penalty.

That left Lowndes to battle the German, and the two established stars battled lap by lap to be more than 30-seconds clear of third-placed Klark Quinn as the Porsche driver pitted just after the half hour mark.

Courtesy of his status as a ‘pro’ driver, Lowndes - and Engel - were handed an additional 18-second pit penalty during their compulsory stop, so they needed to pick up 18 seconds on the field to be in contention for victory. Fortunately for Lowndes - who was struggling to find a way around Engel - the pole-sitter had another five second penalty for qualifying on the front row.

Just prior to the 40-minute mark, the two drivers came into pit lane, Lowndes leaving in front with Engel [who had changed his two outside tyres, Lowndes remained on the Pirelli tyres  on which he’d started the race] rejoining behind team-mate Peter Hackett.

Over the following 20-minutes Engel got to within 1.2-seconds of Lowndes, but the V8 Supercar star stayed composed, convinced that there wasn’t much opportunity for Engel to make a move.

“I knew it was only a matter of time before he used up his tyres, and I also knew that with these aero cars - especially when they’re so closely matched - that there wouldn’t be too many overtaking opportunities. Before the pitstop I got to within striking distance of him but there were only two opportunities to get past - one at Honda, and two over the top to Lukey Heights. I had one half chance and he closed the door, so I knew where he’d try it, but in the end tyre wear pulled him up.”

Off the start Rod Salmon worked his way forward into the top seven from what was a disappointing run during qualifying. “We tried to soften the car up to help it turn in, and we also took some wing out of it for qualifying,” he admitted. “In the end it was the wrong choice and it got a bit taily. I had a fairly lurid high speed spin through turn one, so I wasn’t keen to repeat that, but we changed it for the race and it was almost perfect.”

Unfortunately for the former Bathurst 12-Hour champion, a fuel pickup issue slowed his progress and ultimately brought him to a stop within sight of the line. “We were on target for a top six or seven, but it wasn’t to be. The car has the pace, and I feel stronger each lap, so we’ll get on top of the drama overnight and get back into it tomorrow.”

John Briggs debut in the R8 too suffered some setbacks. Despite making gains on his practice pace, the former Sports Sedan champion started further back than he would have liked, admitting that he was finding the driving style for the R8 a little different to what he’d driven in the past.

“I’ve spent 30 years man-handling cars around the circuit..” he said. “And the Audi is about finesse. Craig [Lowndes] had a chat to me this morning and suggested that I carry more speed through the corners off the throttle, and trail-brake, and whilst I can do it, and he’s right - it works - my default is to be more aggressive. Once I can sort that out, we’ll be right.”

Unfortunately for Briggs, a lurid slide across Lukey Heights mid-race set his pace back, but after the pitstop he settled into a rhythm and got quicker with each lap, setting his fastest lap three laps from home.

For tomorrow’s second race, it will be ‘game on’ again between Lowndes and Engel, the two drivers starting off the front row, and with identical pit-stop time penalties. Lowndes though is typically unphased.. “I just have to get off the start first and open up a lead heading into the break. With clean air in front of me, I just have to punch out the laps - the way the Pirelli’s are wearing, there’s no reason why we can’t repeat the result tomorrow!”

Rnd#5 Australian GT Championship
Qualifying - Saturday, September 22, 2012
1. Maro Engel (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG) - 1:29.6148
2. Simonsen/O’Halloran (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 1:29.7993
3. Craig Lowndes (Audi R8 LMS GT3/Pirelli) - 1:30.1830
4. Peter Hackett (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG) - 1:30.7216
5. Klark Quinn (Porsche Type 997 RSR) - 1:31.3074
6. P. Edwards/J. Bowe (Ferrari 458 Italia) - 1:31.8506
7. Tony Defelice (Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia) - 1:32.7706
8. Samadi/Grant (Mosler MT900 GT3) - 1:33.3360
9. Martin Wagg (Aston Martin DBRS9) - 1:33.7377
10. Rod Salmon (Audi R8 LMS GT3/Pirelli) - 1:33.8440
11. John Briggs (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:34.0005
12. Koutsoumidis/McInnes (Lamborghini LP520) - 1:34.4239
13. Knight/Marshall (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car) - 1:34.4720
14. Tony Quinn (Mosler MT900 GT3) - 1:42.8475

Rnd#5 Australian GT Championship
Race One - Saturday, September 22, 2012
1. Craig Lowndes (Audi R8 LMS GT3/Pirelli) - 37-laps (best: 1:31.7605 - lap 34)
2. Maro Engel (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG) - best 1:31.4883 (lap 5)
3. Peter Hackett (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG) - best 1:32.5073 (lap 4)
4. Klark Quinn (Porsche Type 997 RSR) - best 1:32.4407 (lap 4)
5. Samadi/Grant (Mosler MT900 GT3) - best 1:33.8382 (lap 2)
6. Martin Wagg (Aston Martin DBRS9) - best 1:35.2117 (lap 20)
7. Tony Defelice (Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia) - best 1:33.9565 (lap 2)
8. Simonsen/O’Halloran (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - best 1:32.1722 (lap 7)
9. Koutsoumidis/McInnes (Lamborghini LP520) - best 1:36.2494 (lap 3)
10. John Briggs (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - best 1:36.4959 (lap 35)
11. Knight/Marshall (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car) - best 1:36.6397 (lap 4)

DNF. Rod Salmon (Audi R8 LMS GT3/Pirelli) - lap 33
DNF. John Bowe (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3/Pirelli) - lap 10
DNS. Tony Quinn (Mosler MT900 GT3) 

Rod Salmon - #6 Audi R8 LMS GT3/Pirelli
“I was hoping to run inside the top six or seven, and we were seventh when the fuel drama started, so that was good. I might not have set the times I wanted, but the car was handling very well, the issues we had this morning with it being a bit too flighty in the rear end were all sorted. It’s a pity not to make the finish, but I look forward to the chance to do it again tomorrow.

Craig Lowndes - #888 Audi R8 LMS GT3/Pirelli
“That’s pretty good for a start..! The tyres were fantastic, but the radio issue meant that the only real option I had to stop was when Maro [Engel] stopped. I would have liked to have done another lap because in clear air I knew I’d be faster. The Mercs were quick but they chew their tyres up, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d get the break again. Now it’s down to race two, and with an identical pitstop time penalty, it’s going to be very interesting!”

John Briggs - #70 Audi R8 LMS GT3
“I’m improving with each run. We made the car better for qualifying, and it was better again in the race, but it’s still not where I want it. The spin set me back a bit, but I got more comfortable towards the end. I think with some laps under my belt now that there’s some things I’d like to change with seating position which will help me again, but certainly it’s better and Craig’s advice has been invaluable.”

Rnd#5 2012 Australian GT Championship - Phillip Island
Event Schedule (AEST):
Sunday September 16, 2012
Warm-up; 12:15 (10 mins)
Race Two; 14:40 (1-Hour)

Melbourne Performance Centre

Since 2004, Victorian motorsport enthusiasts Lee Burley and Troy Russell have operated Melbourne Performance Centre [MPC], a professional motorsport operation dedicated to ‘gentleman’ [and lady] racers. 

Their business model is simple; to provide fellow enthusiasts and competitors a range of services [that includes a Mainline AWD1500 4WD dynometer] that will enhance their experience with the sport, from the build, preparation and engineering of race cars, to transportation and support at the circuit.

Audi Driving Experience
Get behind the wheel yourself to discover a new level of excitement with the Audi Driving Experience. Refine your technique, develop more skilled control at higher speeds and pursue the ultimate in performance.

From advanced programs, right through to the Audi race experience, there is a program to suit every kind of driver.

The Audi Driving Experience makes use of a range of Audi’s vehicles, from sports road cars right through to their Bathurst winning race vehicles. From Audi’s advanced driving courses, you can move through to the Audi sportscar experience and finally, the Audi race experience where you can slip behind the wheel of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 racecar that holds the mantel of Australian GT and Bathurst 12-Hour Champion.

To find out more, call Melbourne Performance Centre today.

Melbourne Performance Centre
521 Mountain Highway,
Bayswater VIC 3153
Phone: 03 9738 2294
Fax: 03 9738 2296