The M-Motorsport/Interlloy Lamborghini was the talk of the Sandown pits on the Friday night of the opening round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli, with both Steven Richards and car-owner Justin McMillan sitting within reach of the pace-setters heading into qualifying.
That discussion only got louder after qualifying with Richards setting a new qualifying lap record to set pole position for the opening 60-minute race later in the day.
“I think we surprised a few people with the pace of the Interlloy Gallardo,” he admitted as he climbed from the car. “We knew we would be quick, but the Lambo’s strength is on fast-flowing circuits like Phillip Island and Sydney Motorsport Park, drag strips like Sandown and for that matter Bathurst haven’t traditionally suited us, but that said we had the new lap record early at Bathurst and we’ve done it again today, so lets see what the race brings.”
Richards started race one and held control of the field off the rolling start, but the torque of the V12 Aston Martin of Tony Quinn behind allowed the Aston to power past and lead into turn one. Richards though was soon back through and he started to put together a string of laps well under the outright race lap record to pull clear of Ferrari’s John Bowe.
As the race drew towards the compulsory pit stop though, Bowe closed and actually jumped to the front before pitting to hand over to Peter Edwards, Richards following him down pit lane.
By virtue of Richards’ status as a ‘Pro’ driver and due to their pole position start, the Interlloy team were forced to stop for an agonisingly slow 93 seconds [each team is allocated a minimum compulsory pit stop time based on a set of documented criteria], rejoining some ten seconds behind Edwards in ninth place.
As the laps wound down, McMillan wound the pace up to close to within striking distance of Edwards. As they came up to lap Jim Manolios in the second Ferrari 458, Edwards was temporarily baulked allowing McMillan to pull alongside on the straight. Matched evenly on horsepower the pair went into the braking point at turn one side-by side, McMillan going deeper, but unable to pull the car across to the apex, the ABS stopped the wheels locking, but that ultimately forced him to understeer into the side of the innocent Liam Talbot.
Contact was made with the left rear of Talbot’s Audi R8, forcing him into a spin. The resultant impact also damaged the front bodywork of the Gallardo and broke some of the cooling lines to the radiators located in the front of the car, a situation McMillan was unaware of until he spun on his own coolant coming onto the front straight.
After he rejoined the circuit McMillan took the car straight into pit lane where the team confirmed that the damage was too difficult to repair in the five minutes available until the end of the race.
“It was my fault, no question, I just couldn’t pull it up on the ABS,” he admitted afterwards. “In the end the contact broke the radiator and the cooling system, so it dumped its water and that was that. The
damage is mostly superficial so we’ll be back tomorrow, but this time with no huge pit-stop time penalty.. [by virtue of their lowly finishing position]” “It’s a disappointing end result, and I know Justin is disappointed too, but he really had to go for it,” Richards explained afterwards. “Klark [Quinn] was closing in pretty quickly and we really wanted to get a podium, so he had to make a move because we were running out of time.The only mistake he made was feeling he had to pass the Ferrari completely when he really just needed to be alongside and inside of him, but that’s just a timing thing. It’s easy to reflect on now, but a lot more difficult at over 230kmh..”
Despite the setback, there was one positive, a pit-stop penalty of just 58 seconds in race two, 35-seconds less than the time that race one winner Richard Muscat would incur during his compulsory stop, something which would give the 40 attending Interlloy guests a first-hand look at just how quick the Lamborghini is against some of the world’s best GT3 cars.
Needing to stay within around that mark of Muscat over the opening stint, McMillan carefully worked his way through the field to be in the top ten by quarter race distance when the field was brought under Safety Car to retrieve a car bogged on the exit of turn nine. That bunched the field up again reducing the leader’s advantage to around 20 seconds. With the leader in the pits McMillan charged over his final few laps before handing over to Richards. Pitting on lap 20, McMillan handed the car to his team-mate, who immediately went on attack. Emerging in front of the polesitting Mercedes, he worked his way forward setting one qualifying lap after another to be third and catching the leading Aston Martins of Ben Eggleston and Tony Quinn, before returning to the pits with 20-minutes remaining, much to the surprise of the fans and crew.
“There is a problem with the right rear wheel,” McMillan explained afterwards. “The spindle that holds the wheel on has been working its way loose. It did it to me on Friday in practice so we worked on it to alleviate the problem then, but it returned.” Sadly for the M-Motorsport team they lost over a lap to the leader repairing the problem before Richards returned to the circuit work his way back into the top ten before the flag.
“It’s not the way we wanted to start the season,” he admitted afterwards whilst accepting the impressive poleposition trophy. “But we showed we have good pace, and Phillip Island is well suited to the Lamborghini, so I’d expect we’ll be back in the mix for round two.”
For now the M-Motorsport team will return to base and repair the car ahead of the Phillip Island round (23-25 May), with McMillan also expected to enter the team’s Gallardo Super Trofeo at the Bathurst Motor Festival over Easter (18-20 April).
01. 48. McMillan/Richards - Interlloy Gallardo FL2 GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:09.5087
02. 88. Edwards/Bowe - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:09.7971
03. 7. Tony Quinn - Aston Martin Vantage GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:09.8783
04. 1. Klark Quinn - McLaren MP4-12C [CHAMP] - 1:10.0310
05. 47. Koundouris/Owen - Porsche GT3-R [CHAMP] - 1:10.3460
06. 71. Koutsoumidis/Winslow - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY] - 1:10.5238
07. 6. Salmon/Talbot - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY] - 1:11.2813
08. 69. Theo Koundouris - Porsche 997 Cup-S [TROPHY] - 1:11.5989
09. 38. Ben Eggleston - Aston Martin DBRS9 [TROPHY] - 1:11.6132
10. 75. Steve McLaughlan - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY] - 1:12.4053
01. 36. Richard Muscat - Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 [CHAMP] - 49-laps
02. 1. Klark Quinn - McLaren MP4-12C GT3 [CHAMP]
03. 88. John Bowe - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 [CHAMP]
04. 7. Tony Quinn - Aston Martin Vantage GT3 [CHAMP]
05. 47. Koundouris/Owen - Porsche GT3-R [CHAMP]
06. 69. Theo Koundouris - Porsche Cup S [TROPHY] - 48-laps
07. 75. Steve McLaughlan - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY]
08. 71. Koutsoumidis/Winslow - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY]
09. 6. Salmon/Talbot - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY]
10. 77. Jinadasa/Gaunt - Lamborghini Gallardo LP520 [TROPHY]
DNF. 48. McMillan/Richards - Interlloy Gallardo FL2 GT3 [CHAMP] - 43 Laps
01. 36. Richard Muscat - Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 [CHAMP] - 47-laps
02. 88. Edwards/Bowe - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 [CHAMP]
03. 38. Ben Eggleston - Aston Martin DBRS9 [TROPHY]
04. 01. Klark Quinn - McLaren MP4-12C [CHAMP]
05. 71. Koutsoumidis/Winslow - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY]
06. 75. Steve McLaughlan - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY]
07. 47. Koundouris/Owen - Porsche GT3-R [CHAMP]
08. 6. Salmon/Talbot - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [TROPHY] - 46-laps
09. 51. Andrew MacPherson - Porsche 997 Cup-S [TROPHY]
10. 48. McMillan/Richards - Interlloy Gallardo FL2 GT3 [CHAMP]
(after round one of six)
1. Richard Muscat (100 points), 2. Peter Edwards/John Bowe (85), 3. Klark Quinn (83), 4. James Koundouris/Steve Owen (60), 5. Tony Quinn (37), 6. McMillan/Richards