The dramatic 2018 season for CAMS Australian GT Championship will draw to a close this weekend when the championship heads to New Zealand for its grand finale.
It’s been an entertaining season with five different drivers all having their turn on the top step of the podium, with the outright leader yet to win a round.
Beginning in March at the Formula 1 2018 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, the Championship has also visited The Bend Motorsport Park, Sandown and Phillip Island as part of the Shannons Nationals, as well as Sydney Motorsport Park.
The Championship now heads to Hampton Downs for the first time, with a champion also set to be crowned for the first time across the Tasman Sea.
The 101-lap endurance race will also mark the final of the three-round CAMS Australian Endurance Championship, with the first two rounds in Tailem Bend and Phillip Island.
There is a huge 320 points on offer for the winning team, with nine drivers all in the hunt for silverware.
1. Fraser Ross –847 points
Despite not picking up a round victory in 2018, Ross has shown consistency all year, finishing in the top five in every race and on the podium twice.
For the McLaren 650S GT3 pilot to win the Championship in his second year, Ross will require podium finish at a minimum and hope that his direct competitors don’t finish above him.
It shouldn’t be hard for Ross to finish the race, but now would be the best time for him to claim his first round victory for the year.
2. Peter Hackett – 831 points
Hackett will be confident going into the final round, with last year’s Hampton Downs 500 winner also winning the Championship’s previous round at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Behind the wheel of a Mercedes-AMG, the task is simple for Hackett. Finish above both Ross and Richards on the podium and the Championship should be heading his way.
Like Ross, Hackett has been extremely consistent all year by finishing every race and finishing well.
3. Steve Richards – 812 points
No one can blame Richards for being the most confident driver on the grid this weekend, with the endurance specialist fresh from a Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 victory earlier in the month.
Unfortunately for Richards, a disastrous opening round at Albert Park may come back to haunt him, despite finishing both 2018 endurance races on the podium.
Richards is probably in the best position to take out the outright victory, however he and co-driver Michael Almond must be focused throughout the whole event as any mistake could cost them
4. Geoff Emery – 792 points
It was a disastrous start to the 2018 season for the reigning champion, with the Audi R8 pilot placing fifth and 12th in the opening two races.
Emery managed to get his season on track with a round win at Sandown and a third place at Phillip Island in the endurance round, but his charge may be too little too late.
To win the championship, Emery will need finish in the top-two and hope that the three drivers above him fail to make the podium.
5. Tony Bates – 784 points
An outright podium finish is the most likely scenario for Bates and his Audi R8, however the win in Phillip Island will give him the confidence he needs to have a proper crack.
Bates has failed to score well in two rounds, Albert Park and Sydney, this year and will be kicking himself if he falls short because of those disappointing days.
Needs to make up 80 points, so in similar fashion to Emery, will require both Ross and Hackett to fail in making the podium.
6. Liam Talbot – 783 points
A round win and a round runner-up have been Talbot’s highlights for the year, but a measly 15-point endurance round in Phillip Island pretty much ruined any hopes of a title win.
Still in the hunt, thanks to those two solid results, but needs a lot to go his way, including a second round victory for the year and the unlikely scenario of a DNF to both Ross and Hackett.
7.Max Twigg and Tony D’Alberto – 640 points
Only competing in select endurance rounds alongside each other in the WM Waste Management Mercedes AMG, the pair won’t be focused on the outright championship, as they will need a miracle to claim that title.
The Mercedes AMG drivers will be purely focused on the Endurance Championship and confident, especially with their good form in tis year’s endurance rounds, of claiming the Endurance top honours where they hold a slight lead over Richards and Almond.
8.Scott Taylor – 589 points
Taylor is all but certain out of the running but still technically has a mathematical chance.
Requires all seven cars above him to retire and also needs to finish above Daniel Gaunt who sits just below him on the standings – which would be likely as Gaunt is driving alongside Tony Bates.
The CAMS Australian GT Championship will hold a one-hour practice session on Friday and two pre-qualifying sessions on Saturday morning, before qualifying on Saturday afternoon sets up the Hampton Downs 500 on Sunday afternoon.