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Sep 23, 2012

LOWNDES WINS ON DEBUT AS SIMONSEN RUES RACE START

A controversial start to race one of the Australian GT Championship – protected by Sargent Security saw Allan Simonsen jump clear of Maro Engel in a rolling start duel to lead by over a car length as they crossed the start line, incurring an immediate black flag drive through penalty from race officials for the offence.

Simonsen led the tightly bunch pack until the end of lap two when he peeled off into pit lane, to serve his penalty, handing the lead back to Engel with Lowndes, Hackett and K Quinn all snapping at his heels and the rest of the field in hot pursuit.

Lowndes and Engel fought hard and managed to draw away slightly from the chasing pack allowing them to fight their own duel with Lowndes eventually emerging victorious having dialled in a stronger overall race package to take an impressive debut win, legacy of his endurance racing experience perhaps.

“What a great race, I really enjoyed that” said Lowndes afterwards. “We definitely didn’t have the pace at the start and I had to fight hard to stay with Maro (Engel) but our setup strategy saw the car’s handling come back to us as the race went on and we were competitive when it counted. We didn’t even change the Pirelli tyres on the Audi R8 LMS at the pit stop, preferring to just sit out the time and go again - we were that confident”.

Engel held on for a fighting 2nd place and set a new lap record of 1.31.4883 in his Michelin shod Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3 the process, breaking the previous record of 1.31.9369 set by Allan Simonsen at Round 3 of the Australian GT Championship – protected by Sargent Security.

Further down the order Hackett and K Quinn were fighting their own battle, trading 3rd & 4th places a number of times before Hackett’s consistency gave him the edge over his championship title rival. Behind them Bowe was dicing with Defelice and Samadi but it soon became apparent Bowe was starting to experience some difficulties that resulted in an off track excursion on lap 13. He managed to limp the Ferrari back to the pits for attention but the power steer related problem proved to be terminal and the Maranello Motorsport Team were forced to park the car for the day.

Pit stops and driver changes mixed the order before the race settled down with Lowndes managing to hold his European rival, Engel, at bay and Hackett drawing clear of K Quinn for 3rd place. The Mosler of Samadi / Grant took a hard fought 5th, followed by Wagg, Defelice, the hard charging Ferrari of O’Halloran making his way back up the order after team mate Simonsen’s  drive through penalty, McInnes, Briggs, Knight and Salmon.

The Edwards / Bowe IL Besso Rosso Ferrari was classified a non finisher whilst Tony Quinn in the VIP Petfoods Mosler MT900 GT3 did not even make the start following a mechanical issue during qualifying.

Race two of the Australian GT Championship – protected by Sargent Security is scheduled to start at 2.20pm tomorrow.