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Jul 12, 2013

TIGHT AT THE TOP AFTER GT PRACTICE AT SMP

• Steven Richards on top after three practice sessions
• Jack Le Brocq and John Bowe within tenths of Richards/McMillan

• McLaughlan, Cook, and Griffith on top in their respective classes

The expected battle royale between former open-wheel champions Steven Richards, Jack Le Brocq and John Bowe played out to the script today at Sydney Motorsport Park [SMP] during opening practice for Rnd#4 of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli. Rod Salmon’s new co-driver and SMP specialist Nathan Antunes impressed too, setting the fifth fastest time, only ousted by Tony Quinn during the closing stages of the final session to be in a group of five cars within a second of each other.

Richards set the benchmark time in the opening session before handing the #48 GB Galvanizing Lamborghini Gallardo FLII to car-owner Justin McMillan to complete sessions two and three, the Australian GT Championship rookie improving through the two 20-minute sessions to be fifth fastest in practice three.

“I had a spin in the hairpin [turn 8] during my first run, just going in too hot and that slowed me up a bit,” McMillan admitted, “but we started to get there in the end. Richo has plenty left, so I think we’re set for an interesting weekend.”

The big surprise of the day, and the talk of the pits was the pace of Rod Salmon’s new co-driver Nathan Antunes. There was much pre-event discussion about the driver seeding for the former open-wheel star, but AGT management stood their ground reminding teams that under the rules, Antunes seeding attracts no penalty as he is not a current championship winning driver, nor a professional competitor. “I’m loving all this concern about Nathan’s pace because it takes the focus of what the teams should be concentrating on..” Rod Salmon laughed.

After dominating the Phillip Island round, Jack Le Brocq was back for Erebus Motorsport, but this time in the ‘purple’ SLS AMG GT3 that Craig Baird took to victory at the second round on the streets of Adelaide. As he had done on debut, he eased himself up to speed in the ‘gullwing’ Mercedes, topping the times in both sessions two and three, to fall just 17 one hundredths short of Richards.

“Just taking it easy,” Le Brocq admitted. “Today is only practice, and with six weeks out of the car against the likes of Richo and Bowey that have been racing a lot in that period, it’s just taking me a little time to get myself back up to speed, but we’ll be right tomorrow.”

Like Steven Richards, Bowe was out in session one, before sitting out the remainder of the day to allow car owner Peter Edwards to get miles, the Il Bello Rosso Ferrari 458 running strongly around the top five all day.

2012 SMP race winner Roger Lago was having a steady day, the JBS Swift Gallardo LP560 pilot suffering from gear selection problems in the opening session before creeping up to fourth fastest in the final session of the day.

“We’re just taking it easy after the engine issues we had at Phillip Island, just to ensure all the systems are working the way they’re supposed to. We’ll be right tomorrow, and hopefully qualify around third or fourth.”

Dean Koutsoumidis and Andrew McInnes claimed the seventh fastest time in the Equity-One Audi R8 not too far behind points leader Klark Quinn, with McInnes setting the pace for the Melbourne Performance Centre supported team jumping into the 31s in the final session. “I’d like to think there’s a 30 in it,” McInnes admitted, “and that will put us right in the mix for a top five.”

After the disappointment of Phillip Island and heavy contact with the pit-straight wall during practice, reigning Challenge Class champion Jan Jinadasa came through practice unscathed in the [now] pristine JJA Consulting Gallardo LP520, but he had to settle for second in Trophy Class behind Phillip Island round winner Steve McLaughlan, the pair separated by eight tenths of a second ahead of qualifying.

Matt Kingsley’s reappearance in the Brendan Cook Challenge class team had an immediate impact, the former GT3 Cup Challenge champion leap-frogging both Trophy Class cars to set the ninth fastest time, before handing over to Brendan to complete sessions two and three.

Doing double-duty with GT3 Cup Challenge this weekend was Challenge class points leader Ben Foessel, the younger of the two Foessel’s pipped his father again to be second in class behind Cook, despite a lurid spin into turn eight during session two where he cleaned up a braking marker.

“We’d had some dramas with the rear of the car this morning, but quickly got on top of those,” he admitted post-session. “But I went in a bit deep at turn eight and had a bit of a ‘tank slapper’ and cleaned up the polystyrene brake marker. Fortunately damage was pretty light, but I made sure I didn’t make that mistake again the following time around..”

And Jack Perkins has again set the pace in the GT4 Sports class, taking Mark Griffith’s Vawdrey Trailers Ginetta G50 to an incredible tenth place on combined times, almost five seconds up on Darren Berry. Car-owner Mark Griffith was quick too, almost two seconds up on Berry and Keith Kassulke. Further back than he would have liked, points-leader Michael Hovey pointed out that it was the race that would sort out the positions, not practice. Tony Martin was the fourth quickest, the four Ginetta’s in the end going quicker than the Motor School Porsches of Ben and George Foessel.

Qualifying for race one will get underway at 11:25am (Saturday, 13 July), with the opening one-hour race scheduled for 1:55pm. Sunday (14 July) will see the second one-hour enduro kick off at 12:15pm. (AEST) 
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2013 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Combined Practice [12 July]
01. 48. Justin McMillan/Steven Richards - Gallardo LP600+ GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:28.6915 [P1]

02. 63. Jack Le Brocq - Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:28.8669 [P3]

03. 88. John Bowe/Peter Edwards - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:29.1771 [P1]

04. 7. Tony Quinn - Aston Martin Vantage GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:29.4754 [P3]

05. 6. Rod Salmon/Nathan Antunes - Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra [CHAMP] - 1:29.5393 [P2]

06. 1. Klark Quinn - Porsche GT3-R [CHAMP] - 1:29.7774 [P3]

07. 23. Roger Lago - Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:30.5614 [P3]

08. 71. Dean Koutsoumidis/Andrew McInnes  - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:31.9664 [P3]

09. 25. Brendan Cook/Matt Kingsley  - Porsche GT3 Cup [CHALLENGE] - 1:33.8875 [P1]

10. 19. Mark Griffith/Jack Perkins - Ginetta G50 GT4 [Sport] - 1:34.4289 [P2]

11. 75. Steve McLaughlan - Dodge Viper Competition Coupé [TROPHY] - 1:35.4172 [P2]

12. 77. Jan Jinadasa - Lamborghini Gallardo LP520 [TROPHY] - 1:36.3268 [P2]

13. 50. Darren Berry/Keith Kassulke  - Ginetta G50 GT4 [Sport] - 1:39.1257 [P3]
14. 73. Michael Hovey  - Ginetta G50 GT4 [Sport] - 1:39.2660 [P3]
15. 9. Tony Martin - Ginetta G50 GT4 [Sport] - 1:39.7892 [P3]

16. 4. Ben Foessel  - Porsche Type 996 GT3 Cup [CHALLENGE] - 1:40.6950 [P3]

17. 3. George Foessel - Porsche Type 997 GT3 Cup [CHALLENGE] - 1:41.5575 [P3]