May 8, 2015
TANDER AND QUINN RETURN TO DEFEND PHILLIP ISLAND 101 GT CROWN
THREE-TIME Bathurst 1000 winner Garth Tander will spearhead the biggest Australian GT Championship field in five years when the rapidly-growing category returns to Phillip Island for its second round of the season on Saturday May 23 as part of the Shannons Nationals.
The Holden Racing Team V8 star paired with Tony Quinn to win last year’s Phillip Island 101-lap endurance race and this time will share Quinn’s McLaren 650S (repaired after an accident in the Adelaide season-opener) rather than the Aston Martin in which they won last year’s race.
Tander and Quinn already have a solid record in ‘101’ endurance racing with victory not only at Phillip Island last year but also in the season-closing, non-championship Highlands 101 in New Zealand last November.
Australian GT Championship points leader and Adelaide round winner Nathan Antunes will have car owner Rod Salmon back alongside him at Phillip Island given all cars must have two drivers for the 101-lap endurance race, however the list of V8 pilots joining the field will give the Audi duo some stiff competition.
Nissan Motorsport V8 Supercar pilot James Moffat has been granted release for the weekend to share Kevin Weeks’ Trophy Class Ford GT and will make his AGT debut at Phillip Island while Super Black rookie sensation Andre Heimgartner will also make his AGT debut in the Fastway Couriers Trophy Class Porsche.
A range of V8 Supercar endurance pilots have identified AGT as the perfect place to keep their race laps up and no less than nine (more than one-third of the co-drivers that will race later in the year) will be in action at Phillip Island.
Warren Luff and Jonathon Webb will share McLaren 650S machines with Tony Walls and Klark Quinn respectively while 2012 Bathurst 1000 runner-up Dean Canto will share Andrew Taplin’s Aston Martin Vantage.
Tony D’Alberto will be joined by AGT debutante Grant Denyer in the returning Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 after the team missed Adelaide due to major damage sustained in practice for the Bathurst 12 Hour.
Erebus Motorsport will give Alex Davison an extra race appearance prior to his duties in the V8 enduros and have entered him alongside Morgan Haber in one of their two Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3s.
Former Erebus GT driver Jack Le Brocq – who will make his Bathurst 1000 debut in October alongside Ash Walsh – will make his first appearance as co-driver in Justin McMillan’s thumping Camaro while Andrew Jones will make his AGT debut in a Porsche with Xavier West.
Steve Owen makes a return to AGT alongside Theo Koundouris in the Canberra pilot’s Trophy Class Porsche GT3 Cup S while Steve Richards will again join Dale Paterson in one of two thumping 7.9-litre V8 Camaros that endured some teething problems in the Adelaide season opener.
The Flying B Bentley Continental GT3 will make its first appearance in AGT on Australian soil after repairs from damage sustained at the Bathurst 12 Hour. Two-time Phillip Island AGT round winner John Bowe will again join Peter Edwards in the car that made its debut last year in the AGT season-closer in New Zealand.
Phillip Island has also attracted quality international drivers with Italian open wheel and GT veteran Andrea Montermini to make his AGT debut alongside Ferrari car owner Tony DeFelice.
Montermini, who competed in Formula 1, IndyCar and the Le Mans 24 Hour, will be joined on the grid by German Christopher Mies, who returns to combine with Greg Crick in one of two JAMEC PEM Racing Audis – the other will be driven by team boss Steve McLaughlan and V8 veteran Steven Johnson.
The remainder of the classy field is made up of eight Trophy Class cars (headed by the points leading Audi R8 LMS of Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer) and five Challenge class machines, led by points leader Richard Gartner.
Gartner will be joined by Kumho V8 Touring Car Series pilot Michael Hector in his Porsche GT3 Cup Car.
The Phillip Island 101 will be held over either 101 laps of the Grand Prix Circuit (just under 450 kilometres) or three hours, whichever comes first.
The race could be a pivotal one in determining the championship this season with each car to complete two compulsory pit stops and each driver to complete at least 30 percent of the race distance.
Championship points will be awarded ‘on the run’ with one-third of the points riding on the race to be allocated at the 40-lap mark.
A major change to the event format has been also been confirmed with two 15-minute qualifying sessions held on Saturday morning, one for each nominated driver in each car.
Pole position and the rest of the grid will be determined by taking an average of the combined times from these sessions – the first time in Australian GT Championship history this system has been used.
This system of two qualifying sessions will be adopted for the rest of the 2015 Australian GT Championship at upcoming rounds at Townsville, Sydney Motorsport Park, Sandown and Highlands Motorsport Park.
The Phillip Island 101 also forms the first of two rounds in this year’s AGT that count towards the CAMS Australian Tourist Trophy.
The combined points in the Championship class at Phillip Island and August’s Sydney Motorsport Park rounds will determine the victor for 2015.
The Phillip Island 101 will be streamed live online on Saturday May 23 with television coverage on SBS’ ‘Speedweek’ program on Saturday June 21.
Practice for the event begins on Friday May 22 at 9.55am at Phillip Island.