Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Australian GT‏: Great start to the year for Audi in Australian GT‏

Melbourne Performance Centre Press Release

The Audi Sport Customer Racing team turned up in force in Adelaide for the opening round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli, with six cars - four Audi R8 GT3 ultras, and two Trophy Class specification Audi R8 LMS GT3s - in which to do battle for outright and Trophy Class honours.

From the outset it was the clear the Championship class Audis were going to be outright contenders, with the Jamec Pem Racing team of Audi factory driver Christopher Mies and former V8 Supercar driver Steven Johnson dominating opening practice, whilst Clipsal debutante Nathan Antunes was also right in the fight in Rod Salmon’s Skwirk/Beechwood R8 ultra.

In Trophy class, new Audi recruits Mark Griffith (two-time Australian GT Sports champion) and Greg Taylor were right in the hunt too, carrying over the dominant performance that gave Audi a 1-2 result in the 2014 championship.

By qualifying it was clear that the Audi R8 was one of the perfect weapons of choice for the demanding street circuit, with three cars in the top five, whilst Greg Taylor’s co-driver Barton Mawer - a former front-running open wheel pilot - qualified their LMS GT3 in position eight, not a bad result in a field of almost 20 current FIA-specification GT3 cars..

Off the start of race one, Mies’ co-driver Greg Crick was forced wide off his front row starting position and back to fifth as Antunes followed the Aston Martin through to be third behind it and the pole-sitting Ferrari. By lap two though the field was brought under Safety Car conditions after new Mercedes recruit Morgan Haber came to grief at the notorious turn eight. That started a sequence of Safety Car laps that ultimately saw the field drive into pit lane for their compulsory pit stops [CPS], Antunes the big winner after engineer Rik Kemp called him in just seconds after the window opened - the leading Ferrari forced to go around again..

Off the restart Barton Mawer was holding down P2 in the Greg Taylor Audi R8 LMS, the Sydney-based driver quickly forced back to third as Marcus Marshall pushed his way through to second behind the #36 Mercedes, and then the lead. Behind the leading trio though Antunes and Crick were charging, Antunes catching the leading Porsche three laps from home, then taking the former V8 Supercar driver on the run down to turn eight with two to go.

By chequered flag time Antunes was two seconds clear, with Peter Fitzgerald doing a sterling job across the closing laps to move into fourth, a position which was upgraded to third after a ten second penalty was applied to Mawer for contact with the Klark Quinn McLaren at turn nine mid-race. Despite that, Mawer’s sixth place made him the leading Trophy Class driver, one position ahead of Crick in the #74 Jamec Pem entry.

Eleventh on his Australian GT Audi debut was reigning GT Sports champion Mark Griffith, the laconic Queenslander beaming from ear-to-ear, the result giving him second in the Trophy Class points race.

Saturday afternoon’s second 60-minute race was always going to be about strategy, with some teams putting their amateur driver in first, whilst others elected for the Pro..

Both Jamec Pem entries opted for the latter with Mies and Johnson in the thick of the action with race one winner Antunes from the outset. Mies moved into second on lap four behind Antunes (Skwirk Audi), whilst Johnson moved through the field to be inside the top ten after the opening lap, and third behind Mies by lap nine.

Mies pushed Antunes hard and grabbed the lead at one point, Antunes taking it back shortly after as Johnson closed in to make it a three-way Audi battle at the front.

Johnson’s third became second on lap 17 after Mies became the sandwich between Antunes and the lapped car of Kevin Weeks on the exit of turn nine, the contact sending Mies to the pits for an early stop, the team electing to put Crick behind the wheel as they checked the car for damage.

Johnson meanwhile continued to press Antunes until he made his CPS on lap 22 handing the car over to McLaughlan. By that stage the bulk of the field were forced to complete their CPS, which handed McLaughlan second, the Jamec Pem Racing team-boss soon through to the lead after Antunes made a late scheduled stop on lap 34.

By this stage Crick was pushing hard, the former Touring Car and Sports Sedan star moving inside the top ten, whilst McLaughlan continued to lead. Unfortunately, despite holding the lead for five laps during his maiden race on the streets of Adelaide, McLaughlan spun at turn four as Antunes closed in from behind. A slow recovery on a blind section of the circuit ultimately dropping the #75 Audi back to eighth at the flag, immediately behind team-mate Crick.

Fitzgerald starred once again, claiming a moral victory for the ‘old guys’ by taking fifth place, with Mark Griffith eleventh once again (and third in Trophy Class), and the #38 Taylor/Mawer Trophy Class car home in P17 after suffering on their debut with the increased grip levels after the two V8 Supercar races, a late spin by Taylor also dropping them a lap down.

The final 30-minute race provided the two Jamec Pem Racing Audi drivers a chance to battle with MPC team-mate Antunes at the front of the field, or so they thought. Sadly, the notorious Adelaide street circuit bit, and it bit hard, with the front-running Ferrari making heavy contact with the barriers on the run through the first chicane on lap one, the car bouncing back across the circuit in front of the closely following pack.

Johnson was an immediate casualty, as was the equally innocent Fitzgerald, whilst Mies was able to negotiate his way through the debris unscathed.

Behind them the field was able to work its way through the carnage, although with six cars stopped on the race line, the Safety Car brought the field under control as officials removed the stricken cars. Sadly Johnson and Fitzgerald became instant casualties, but from adversity comes opportunity, and as the field once more dived to pit lane under Safety Car conditions, some of the amateur drivers were able to move forwards including the #38 Adina Apartments Trophy Class Audi of Greg Taylor who was third with two laps to go.

Taylor ultimately held onto fourth outright, which gave he and Mawer the Trophy Class race and round victories, whilst Antunes charged over the final two laps to move from 11th to third, and with it, claim the outright Championship points lead, an impressive 46 points clear of former champion Klark Quinn.

Mies crossed the line in P7, with Griffith 16th, the new Audi recruit ruing what was an almost certain round win after being caught up in the first corner accident.

For the Audi Sport Customer Racing team, the focus is now on repairing the #75 Audi of Steve McLaughlan and the #2 car of Peter Fitzgerald, both cars suffering significant damage as a result of the race three accident, although with 11 weeks until round two, all six cars will be back at their pristine best at Phillip Island.

The Audi teams will now go into test mode at Phillip Island ahead of round two, the only endurance race in the 2015 Australian GT Championship, the 101-lap race at ‘the Island’ on 22-24 May.

Driver quotes:

Nathan Antunes (#6 Skwirk/Beechwood) - 1st Championship Class
“It’s done, I almost can’t believe it.. two wins and a third position puts us clear in the championship lead, and I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. The whole team has done an excellent job. Rod Salmon, the owner of the car has backed me 100% and I’m really grateful, and excited to get to the next round.”

Christopher Mies (#74 Jamec Pem Racing) - 4th Championship Class
“It was rough. I managed to avoid the cars at turn one without any damage and move into third, so hit the pits for the CPS third but came out third last, and with just a couple of laps without a Safety Car, I managed to move up to seventh place. We had a good chance to win this event, but that’s how racing is..”

Greg Crick (#74 Jamec Pem Racing) - 4th Championship Class
“It’s always frustrating when you can’t realise your full potential and run with the leaders because of incidents and Safety Cars, but I think we showed what we’re truly capable of. Chris is a great young talent, and I think you’ll see him become a real contender this year. As for me, I just do what I’m told, but I’m enjoying being back in the thick of the action again, these Audis are just fantastic to drive.”

Peter Fitzgerald (#2 EVA Racing/Evolve Technik) - 7th Championship Class
“We were having an almost perfect weekend up to that last race – I was keeping out of trouble, not holding the fast guys up, and in fact, going into Sunday’s final race we were third on points. Sadly, accidents are a big part of Clipsal, so I suppose it was inevitable. We’ll go away and fix the damage and be ready for Phillip Island, but I’m very happy with our pace and the car in general.”

Steven McLaughlan (#75 Jamec Pem Racing) - 11th Championship Class
“Unfortunately with that last much shorter race we didn’t get a chance to see how good Chris [Mies] really is, because they only raced for a couple of laps, and unfortunately for Steven Johnson, he was an innocent party in a rather major crash at turn one. I think as a team we’re in a good position, it’s just unfortunate when things like that happen, but we’ll go away and repair the #75 car and be ready to go for Phillip Island.”

Steven Johnson (#75 Jamec Pem Racing) - 11th Championship Class
“Steve [McLaughlan] did a brilliant job to be honest. He’s a gentleman driver and hasn’t done a lot of racing as such, but to lead a number of laps [race two] towards the end was fantastic, but he just made a little mistake and spun. I don’t blame him at all for that, he set a new PB and went well under the lap time he was aiming for, so he did a good job. I had a great time. It’s a pity about what happened in the final race, but we’ll be back, and I think we’re looking pretty good for Phillip Island.”
Greg Taylor (#38 Adina Apartment Hotels) - 1st Trophy Class
“We all learnt a lot this weekend about the car and how it reacts to certain things, but Wall Racing are a great team and a lot of credit for the success we had on the weekend goes to the way they prepared the car.

Barton Mawer (#38 Adina Apartment Hotels) - 1st Trophy Class
“That was the first real time I’d driven an Audi, and I have to say, I was very impressed. I had high expectations, but the car really delivered. I still have some things to learn about the car, including the braking which caught me out at turn nine when I clipped Klark Quinn, but wow, what a car. I’d also never really had much to do with MPC before either, but despite us being a customer team, they did everything they could to accommodate us, and as a result, we’re now leading the points. A great weekend all up!”

Mark Griffith (#19 Hog’s Breath/Griffith Corporation) - 2nd Trophy Class
“How good was that.. I had an absolute blast all weekend. Sadly we got caught out in the lap one accident - no contact, I just got sandwiched in with cars that couldn’t move, and that meant the whole field went past me before I could reverse out and continue. Heading into the last race we were comfortably leading the Trophy Class points, but we ended up third as a result. Despite that, I’m pretty happy the car is straight and we were quick!”

Team quotes:

Rod Salmon (#6 Skwirk/Beechwood) - 1st Championship Class
“From the outset we were pretty confident Nathan would perform here - despite the fact that it was his first race in Adelaide - and he’s done a fantastic job. We backed him, he’s delivered in spades and overall the team are very, very happy. In the first session he was third fastest after three laps, and considering many of these drivers have been here before, it just shows the quality of the guy. I think the season’s looking really good, I think now that we’re in front in the series, it’s just a matter of staying there and thinking smart all the way through. As his co-driver for Phillip Island, I’ve really got to perform and and keep him on top of the championship, that’s my job now, but I’ll be coming back from a 24 Hour race at the Nurburgring, so I’ll have plenty of car time under me..”

Troy Russell (Audi Sport Customer Racing Australia)
“That’s been a fantastic start to the season, apart from the final race incident in which Steve Johnson and Peter Fitzgerald were caught up. Aside from that it has been an almost perfect opening round. Nathan Antunes did everything that was asked of him, and whilst I know that Christopher Mies is disappointed not to have figured in the result, he showed just how good a driver he is, and just what we can expect from him later in the year. It was also pleasing for us to see the new Wall Racing team come in and be quick in Trophy Class, and for Mark Griffith to run so strongly in his first AGT race with Audi. The damaged cars will be repaired ahead of Phillip Island - we’ve checked the damage and fortunately it has been mostly superficial, so we’ll have a full compliment of cars ready for testing, hopefully as soon as April.”


Rnd#1 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Adelaide Parklands Circuit, South Australia
26 February - 1 March

Qualifying (20-minutes) - Friday, 27 February
1. Jono Lester (Ferrari 458 GT3) - 1:21.4855
2. Christopher Mies (Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra) - 1:21.5330
3. Dean Canto (Aston Martin Vantage GT3) - 1:21.6473
4. Nathan Antunes (Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 GT3 ultra) - 1:22.3473
5. Steven Johnson (Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra) - 1:23.1414
6. Klark Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3) - 1:23.3630
7. Marcus Marshall (Porsche GT3-R) - 1:23.6398
8. Barton Mawer ([GTT] Adina Apartments Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:24.3558
11. Peter Fitzgerald (EVA Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra) - 1:25.1426
18. Mark Griffith ([GTT] Hog’s Breath Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:28.3127

Race #1 (30-minutes) - Saturday, 28 February
1. Nathan Antunes (Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 GT3 ultra) - 18-laps
2. Marcus Marshall (Porsche GT3-R)
3. Peter Fitzgerald (EVA Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra)
4. Jono Lester (Ferrari 458 GT3)
5. Tony Walls (McLaren 650S GT3)
6. Barton Mawer ([GTT] Adina Apartments Audi R8 LMS GT3)
7. Greg Crick (Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra)
11. Mark Griffith ([GTT] Hog’s Breath Audi R8 LMS GT3)
16. Steve McLaughlan (Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra)

Race #2 (60-minutes) - Saturday, 28 February
1. Nathan Antunes (Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 GT3 ultra) - 42-laps
2. Klark Quinn/Tony Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
3. Jono Lester/Paul Kelly (Ferrari 458 GT3)
4. Tony Walls (McLaren 650S GT3)
5. Peter Fitzgerald (EVA Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra)
7. McLaughlan/Johnson (Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra)
8. Crick/Mies (Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra)
11. Mark Griffith ([GTT] Hog’s Breath Audi R8 LMS GT3)
17. Greg Taylor/Barton Mawer ([GTT] Adina Apartments Audi R8 LMS GT3)

Race #3 (30-minutes) - Sunday, 1 March
1. Tony Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3) - 9-laps
2. Theo Koundouris (Porsche GT3 Cup-S)
3. Nathan Antunes (Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 GT3 ultra)
4. Greg Taylor ([GTT] Adina Apartments Audi R8 LMS GT3)
5. Jan Jinadasa (Lamborghini Gallardo LP560)
7. Christopher Mies (Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra)
16. Mark Griffith ([GTT] Hog’s Breath Audi R8 LMS GT3)
DNF. Peter Fitzgerald (EVA Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra)
DNF. Steven Johnson (Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 GT3 ultra)

Every qualifying session and every race of the 2015 Australian GT Championship held in conjunction with the V8 Supercars will be broadcast live in Australia on the Foxtel network. Check guides for details and replays.

To watch a video interview with Nathan Antunes, visit; http://goo.gl/tdw1jf
To watch a video interview with Christopher Mies, visit; http://goo.gl/RWXZDe
Keep up to date with further announcements from the Audi Sports Customer Racing team in Australia by visiting; www.facebook.com/MelbournePerformance


2015 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Rnd#1 - 26 February-1 March, Clipsal 500, Adelaide, SA*
Rnd#2 - 22-24 May, Phillip Island, Victoria**
Rnd#3 - 10-12 July, Townsville, Queensland*
Rnd#4 - 21-23 August, Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW*
Rnd#5 - 11-13 September, Sandown 500, Melbourne, Victoria*
Rnd#6 - 13-15 November, Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, NZ
(* with V8 Supercars, ** with the Shannons Nationals)


Melbourne Performance Centre is proud to be the Audi Sport Customer Racing representative for Australia and New Zealand.

For more information on the Audi Sport Customer Racing team in Australia, please contact Sean Henshelwood at Signature Series Group [SSG] via sean@signatureseries.com.au


Photo credit: Melbourne Performance Centre