After two thrilling rounds at Albert Park and Barbagallo Raceway, the CAMS Australian GT Championship will hold the first round of the CAMS Australian Endurance Championship.
The Endurance Championship’s first meeting for the year will take place at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit before heading to The Bend Motorsport Park and Sandown Raceway for the next two rounds in what is certainly going to be an entertaining year for the championship.
While they may have won the last year’s season opener at The Bend, reigning champions Max Twigg and Tony D’Alberto did not enjoy a similar result in Phillip Island, finishing third outright.
Taking top honours on the island was Tony Bates and Daniel Gaunt in the Audi R8, while Steve Richards and Michael Almond secured second place ahead of the eventual champions.
Bates’ late charge
Starting in third after a solid qualifying session, Bates had an encouraging start to the race, holding his place for five laps until he lost his position and was down in sixth a few laps later.
A pit stop on lap 20 saw him drop as low as 15th and in the shadow of Twigg and Alberto’s Mercedes. Staying behind the Mercedes, both cars managed to claim a place on each lap for the next six and slowly but surely they were on their way up the ranks.
By the midway point, the passing had dried up for the Audi and they spent 10 laps as a witness to the Twigg and Geoff Emery battle taking place. However, soon the Audi was back in the battle itself, which eventually they won.
The #24 Audi finally got its first taste of the lead on the 60th lap when leader Liam Talbot pitted, although it was only a short one lap stint.
After getting back in the car after a quick pit, Bates didn’t have to wait much longer to get back into the lead as less than 10 laps later, he overtook a pitting Peter Hackett and never looked back.
Disappointing end for dominant polesitter
The Porsche 911 GT3-R of Liam Talbot and John Martin did so much right for the whole race but were victims of a mistake turning elation to despair.
The duo started in P1 and held their lead for the next 16 laps, only losing it to serve a pit stop. It took them only eights laps to get back to the top of the field, a position that they held for another 18 laps.
As the race continued, it was business as usual for the Porsche pilots as they guided their GT3 back to first place after heading to the pits again, only for the final sting to cause heartbreak.
With Martin in the car for the final laps, upon exiting turn one on his first lap back, he slid off the track, across the grass, over the curbs and found himself airborne. A hard landing saw the car too damaged to continue.
It was the end of what had been up a dominant performance, the team looked done and dusted in the Championship as they eventually settled for fifth outright.
The CAMS Australian Endurance Championship is part of the second round of the Shannons Nationals taking place at Phillip Island on 7-9 June.
The category will have two qualifying sessions on Saturday before the three-hour race takes place on Sunday morning.
Tickets for the Shannons Nationals’ visit to Phillip Island are now on sale and can be purchased here, while fans can watch all the CAMS Australian Endurance Championship action live and free through the live stream on thenationals.com.au.
The Shannons Nationals’ second round for 2019 takes place at Phillip Island on 7-9 June.