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May 23, 2014

SUPERCAR STARS ENJOYING GT SWITCH

SOME OF THE biggest stars of the V8 Supercars circus have posted impressive performances in practice for the third round of the Shannons Australian Motor Racing Nationals at Phillip Island.

Supercheap Auto Racing’s Tim Slade topped the sole fully-dry session in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia today while his Walkinshaw Racing stable mate, Garth Tander, helped Tony Quinn’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 top the Australian GT charts in a day of typically mixed weather at the Victorian circuit.

Frequent rain showers were split by brief moments of sunshine today as Carrera Cup and Australian GT were joined by the Australian Manufacturers Championship and Radical Australia Cup in practicing for this weekend’s endurance event at the 4.46km circuit.

All action from Saturday and Sunday will be broadcast live via Nationals TV this weekend with the free streaming service available via www.thenationals.com.au.

Slade topped the final all-in Porsche Carrera Cup practice today, banking a quick 1m30.57s lap before handing over to his co-driver, car owner and regular driver Adrian Mastronardo.

Unfortunately, soon after taking the wheel he found the wall heavily entering Lukey heights, badly damaging the rear of the Sonic Motor Racing prepared Veritas Porsche and placing their position on the grid in doubt should the damage not be reparable overnight.

Before his co-driver struck dramas, Slade was enthusiastic about trading his regular VF Commodore V8 Supercar for the Porsche.

“I love it. The main job is V8 Supercars which is pretty high pressure, high stress environment so it’s awesome to jump into a category like Carrera Cup as a co driver,” he said.

“It’s a little less pressure, less stress and it’s really cool I get to do it with Sonic, as well. I spent a lot of time and learnt a lot from Mick (Ritter) and all the guys at sonic in my early years.

“Adapting to the different car isn’t bad because I guess I’ve driven a lot of different stuff over the years from V8’s, to New Zealand Touring Cars, driven these cars last year and even a sprint car. I’ve managed to o a few days down here so I’ve got some time in the car. They’re good to drive with the paddle shift and things like that so it all helps.”

Volvo Polestar Racing / GRM driver Scott McLaughlin will share Steven Grove’s Porsche this weekend and – despite a few minor off-track excursions – said he was enjoying the experience.

“It’s pretty awesome. I think the car is feeling pretty good and we have a good little balance there. It’s handy to have our engineer, Phil, here because he engineers Earl Bamber over in Asia and does a bit with him in Supercup, so he knows the cars pretty well.

“We’re just trying to find the balance and today was more about finding the race car. We know what we have with a qualifying car after testing.”

The Kiwi star dropped another entertaining one-liner to describe an off-track incident during practice that saw him take to the very wet Phillip Island infield.

“I had a bit of a slip up at one and two, trying to cut the grass for everyone at Phillip Island.. but that’s what happens.. sometimes you’ve just got to be the lawnmower!

“It’s different, adapting to the left hand drive, you jump in and take different apexes and that sort of thing. I’ve got to get my head around a few braking things and not blipping the throttle and things like that.”

HRT driver Tander and Quinn topped two of the three GT sessions today in the rapid Aston Martin, though times in each of the three practice sessions were hard to read given the changing track conditions.

The 26-strong Australian GT contingent this weekend will tackle qualifying on Saturday morning prior to launching into a 101-lap (450km) enduro in the afternoon.

The Erebus Motorsport Mercedes Benz SLS AMG driven by Richard Muscat and Jack LeBrocq, the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari (John Bowe / Peter Edwards) and the Klark Quinn / Craig Baird McLaren MP412C GT3 were also in the mix in practice and are expected to be key contenders in the first AGT 101 to be held on Aussie soil.

The Eastern Creek Karts Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X RS driven by Garry Holt and Stuart Kostera were marginally quickest in the only dry AMChamp practice sessions today, 0.03s quicker than the Beric Lynton / Tim Leahey BMW 1M.

Defending Great Southern Four-hour enduro winners Bob Pearson and Glenn Seton topped a sodden final session later in the day ahead of what is shaping up to be an unpredictable four-hour battle on Sunday afternoon.

Neale Muston and Tim Berryman were split by 0.03s in the final practice session for the Radical Australia Cup today with another pitched battle between the pair expected in the SR8 class battle at the front of the field.

SR3 class frontrunner topped the four-cylinder class times, 0.5s ahead of John Morriss and Peter Paddon.

The Radical Australia Cup cars will tackle three, 40-minute races this weekend.