2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Phillip Island, Victoria (23-24 May)
After setting the pace during the opening round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli at Melbourne’s Sandown Park, the M-Motorsport/Interlloy team of Justin McMillan and Steve Richards were looking forward to round two at the team’s ‘home’ circuit of Phillip Island, believing they would be one of the outright contenders for the 101-lap endurance race.
Opening practice only cemented that view after Richards topped the opening wet practice session early, ultimately falling to fifth after pitting early to assess data. Dual Victorian State Series champion Justin McMillan proved too that he was no slouch in the slippery conditions, although the team did elect to send the Interlloy Gallardo FL2 GT3 out on slick tyres to give McMillan some laps on a surface he was likely to encounter during the big race on Sunday.
“To be honest it was tricky out there, but there will be races where conditions like that become prevalent, so it was ideal to go out and turn laps and gain some experience with how a car with this much power and torque handles the wet. The boys added another degree of difficulty too by sending me out on slicks.. now THAT was an eye-opener.
“Overall both Richo and I are pretty happy. Today wasn’t about going after a time, because Saturday is predicted to be dry, so there was no sense unduly risking the car to set a time that didn’t mean anything. Right now laps are important, regardless of the conditions, but we don’t need to be setting the world on fire until qualifying tomorrow..!”
In the end the gorgeous #48 Lamborghini was classified 11th ahead of qualifying where Richards elevated the car to sixth.
“All good,” he smiled post-session. “That’s where we wanted to be, we have a 23 second advantage over the points leader in each of our compulsory pit stops [CPS] by virtue of not going after pole, and in an endurance race, that will play right into our hands.”
Richards was tasked with starting the car and he began strongly, carefully picking his way through the field to be second early, turning laps in the 29s to hold position around 15-seconds back from race leader Richard Muscat in the Mercedes.
On lap 20 though the race was brought under Safety Car conditions after a big accident at turn five eliminated Lamborghini rival Roger Lago, Dean Koutsoumidis and Keith Kassulke.
Muscat immediately dived into pit-lane, Richards following him through to hand over to McMillan.
On lap times that put the Lamborghini in the effective lead of the race, with the Mercedes in P2, however some teams elected to play the strategy game and stay out behind the Safety Car. McMillan held his position on the restart until a problem started to eventuate with the right front tyre, forcing him to pit again ten laps later with a deflating tyre.
The M-Motorsport team effected their second stop at their CPS time and rejoined, McMillan now tenth, but a sequence of consistent laps moved him back up the order again to fourth before he was once again forced to return to pit lane with the same problem.
Sadly for the popular Lamborghini drivers, they weren’t finished with pit stops, returning once more for a new right front before ultimately claiming 12th place, four laps down on the race leaders.
“Something has failed in the right front of the car which has forced increased load on that corner,” McMillan lamented post-race. “For sure we’re disappointed, but on the positive side I’m happy with my pace. The car is straight, we had no other issues and proved we could run with the leaders, so it’s only a matter of time before the pendulum swings our way and it’s us on the podium with the big trophy.”
Richards too was reflective having seen situations like this occur a number of times throughout his career.
“Mechanical failures happen, that’s just the nature of motorsport. We’re not 100% sure yet what caused the issue, but we’ll uncover it and it will probably never happen again.
“It was a tough weekend in the changeable conditions, but there were a lot of positives, the biggest one for me being Justin’s pace in all conditions. He was consistent lap after lap and didn’t have a single moment when all around him other cars were spearing off the circuit, so I’d say disappointment, but lots of forward momentum for the remainder of the season.”
The M-Motorsport team now has a six week wait until their first event of 2014 on the V8 Supercar program, with three 40-minute races scheduled for the Townsville street circuit over July 4-6.
Phillip Island - 101 Race (24 May)
1. 7. Tony Quinn/Garth Tander (GT - Aston Martin Vantage GT3) - 82-laps
2. 36. Richard Muscat/Jack Le Brocq (GT - SLS AMG GT3)
3. 88. Peter Edwards/John Bowe (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
4. 48. Tony DeFelice/Tony D’Alberto (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
5. 1. Klark Quinn/Craig Baird (GT - McLaren MP4-12C)
6. 69. Theo Koundouris/Sam Power (GTT - Porsche 997 Cup-S) - 80-laps
7. 6. Rod Salmon/Nathan Antunes (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3)
8. 77. Jan Jinadasa/Daniel Gaunt (GTT - Lamborghini Gallardo LP520) - 79-laps
9. 51. Andrew MacPherson/Ben Porter (GT - Porsche 997 GT3-R)
10. 47. James Koundouris/Steve Owen (GT - Porsche GT3-R)
11. 73. Michael Hovey/Matt Campbell (GTT - Porsche Type 997 GT3 Cup)
12. 48. Justin McMillan/Steve Richards (GT - Gallardo FL2 GT3) - 78-laps
2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
GT Championship Class points (after round two of six)
1. Richard Muscat (152 points), 2. Peter Edwards/John Bowe (127), 3. Klark Quinn (113), 4. Tony Quinn (95),
5. James Koundouris/Steve Owen (81), 6. Garth Tander (58), 7. Justin McMillan/Steve Richards (57)