CAMS Australian GT Championship driver David Crampton will return to the Championship in 2019 after a bullish debut season, which saw him finish runner-up in the GT4 class.
Behind the wheel of the Vantage Freight KTM X-Bow, the 56-year-old had a rocky start to GT life in the Bathurst 12 Hour, but eventually steadied the ship, putting in a number of consistent performances.
Despite Crampton’s hopes of a title being dashed towards the ends of the season, the GT rookie believed the season provided him with some big lessons with the GT vehicles.
“It was one hell of an experience to say the least,” Crampton said.
“It started with a ‘bang’ at Bathurst [12-Hour] which was a lesson in itself, but thanks to M-Motorsport and my team-mates, they soon had me re-focussed and ready to compete with the Australian GT regulars.
“There’s a big straight line speed differential between the GT3 and GT4 cars, but I just had to concentrate on being quicker as soon as I jumped in the car, and to hold my lines.”
Crampton began the year with an early exit in Bathurst, forcing him to sit on the sidelines during the Championship’s opening round at Albert Park for the Formula One Rolex Australian Grand Prix.
The New South Welshman managed to make his official debut the following month in South Australia, claiming a class podium finish for the first endurance round with Trent Harrison at The Bend Motorsport Park.
Despite Crampton being unable to replicate his South Australian form in Victoria, suffering another early exit in Sandown, he was still grateful of his team’s support.
“I have to give full credit to Justin, Trent and the team, they stuck with me and we came up with a plan on how to best achieve my goal of being competitive,” Crampton explained.
“They’ve worked with me to ensure that everything fell into place, and now we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Crampton and Harrison again had more lessons to learn about GTs in the next two rounds with experience costing the pair a maiden round victory.
A slow pit stop at Phillip Island and contact with eventual GT4 class champion Nick Kelly at Sydney Motorsport Park saw the pair lose valuable points but gain much needed experience.
“We were running strongly again and leading the class, but I got cleaned up in the incident between Nick Kelly and Andrew Miedecke coming out of turn three and turfed pretty hard into the barriers,” Crampton said.
“It was a pretty big hit again, but like Bathurst the tub was okay and importantly, so was I, but the damage was done to our championship assault so that was basically game over.
“It had been one hell of a season and I’d learnt a lot. The team were outstanding and I knew then I wanted to put that experience to good use this season, so from there it was just a matter of turning more miles in the car in testing.”
With the former Radical Australia Cup driver once again expected to line up with Harrison for the CAMS Australian GT Championship endurance rounds in 2019, Crampton was looking forward to a bigger season.
“I love the GT4 concept and I hope it attracts plenty of entries this year,” Crampton admitted.
“Mileage wise they are fantastic value for money, running costs are down and bang-for-buck they’re brilliant – they’re also fantastic to drive, especially on the twisty stuff, they just monster the GT3 cars and that’s a lot of fun.
“There’s a good program on offer for Australian GT this year, a good mix of circuits I know and a couple that will be new, whilst the two street races will be a good test and will keep us in the fight a little more than the power circuits like Phillip Island and Sandown.”
The opening round of the 2019 CAMS Australian GT Championship takes place at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 14-17 March.