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Jun 1, 2015

VICTORY AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD FOR AUDI IN AUSTRALIA

A brief history of the ‘101’ endurance concept in the Australian GT Championship will show that Audi has always been competitive across the longer races, with strategy one of the strong suits of the Audi Sport customer Racing Australia team, but whilst podiums have almost been a given, they can now add victory to the resume after a stunning come-from-behind run by Nurburgring 24-Hour winner Christopher Mies at Phillip Island.


Coming into the second round of the 2015 Australian GT Championships, it was an Audi team that led the championship points, and whilst Nathan Antunes had taken two strong wins from three starts at the season-opener in Adelaide, that team’s chances were given an extra boost ahead of the ‘101’ with the addition of car-owner Rod Salmon to the lineup.

Salmon – like Jamec-Pem Racing’s Christopher Mies – had flown straight into Phillip Island from the iconic twice-around-the-clock Nurburging event ready for action, and like Mies he was quick straight away, but unfortunately the points leaders struck trouble in qualifying after a rare electrical failure dropped the car into ‘limp’ mode, a problem which also impacted their race performance.
For Audi stable-mates Jamec-Pem Racing though, they were having no problems at all, with all four drivers turning personal best lap times in the identical Audi R8 ultras, Mies ultimately topping the timesheets for the Audi squad to start from the front row.
They weren’t the only ones enjoying success either, with Trophy Class points leaders Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer quick in the Adina Apartments Audi R8 LMS, closely followed by title rival Mark Griffith in his Hog’s Breath liveried Audi R8.

At the drop of the flag for the proposed 101-lap journey, it was Crick in the #74 Jamec-Pem Audi he shares with Mies who led the way for the Audi Sport customer racing team, with Salmon moving through the pack early before their intermittent electrical issue returned on lap two.

“I was sitting comfortably in the second pack after the two leaders broke away, and 200 metres or so clear of the next car, when the car just went into limp mode coming out of Siberia,” Salmon explained.

“I moved to the inside of the circuit heading towards the Hayshed, and started resetting the systems, whilst around me cars speared off in every direction, Jan Jinadasa admitting later that he didn’t know how he hadn’t hit me as he speared past me backwards on the inside.”

Sadly whilst Jinadasa’s Lamborghini missed Salmon, it spun back across the path of Dean Koutsoumidis in the AFES Engineering Audi of Peter Fitzgerald, ending their race on the spot.

“I got a great start, and moved past a few people on the opening lap,” Koutsoumidis explained afterwards. “I was close behind Andrew MacPherson’s Porsche when we all came up on Rod Salmon. The Porsche spun as we approached the spot where Rod was crawling, but I managed to slow the car down, follow him past and avoid everything, then just as I was about to get back on the throttle – bang – it was game over.

“Hit by the same car that wiped me out in last year’s 101, just 100-metres further up the road.. I couldn’t believe it. I’m just really disappointed for Fitzy, because for them that’s three big hits so far this year, none of which were the fault of his car or drivers..”

Another Audi driver that managed to avoid the ensuing carnage was Griffith who almost immediately had leapt into the lead of Trophy Class.

“I had a ripper start and grabbed a heap of cars in the first lap, so it all unfolded behind me, but unfortunately for us, our dramas came later,” he explained. “In the end we had three right rear tyre failures, the first one two laps after the compulsory pit stop, the next one ten laps later, and the last towards the end where it wasn’t worth pitting, so Dan drove around 30-seconds off the pace to the end.

“It was frustrating because we were looking good for a straight Trophy class fight with our Audi team-mates Greg Taylor and Bart Mawer, but whilst we had the edge at the start, we never really got a chance to go after the win with that unscheduled stop..”

Through all of this the two Jamec-Pem cars circulated to a plan with Crick and McLaughlan turning consistent laps to allow them to pit later than many of their rivals, Crick admitting it was all part of the plan.

“To start I was just running to a scheduled pace, and I managed to hang on to the top four. I didn’t push too hard because we were well within reach, so when the Aston and a couple of others came past, I let them go, but once we knew we were in the window with fuel, I pushed a little harder.

“Chris took over after lap 46, because that meant I’d done my minimum laps, and it was up to him to push. Sadly we were no real chance without the Safety Car, because I think with each stop we were stationary 25-seconds longer than anyone else, and actually went a lap down on the second stop, but the Safety Car periods allowed us to get onto the tail of the leaders late, and Chris just charged.

“It’s probably no surprise that he’s that good, because he drives these things almost every day, but I’m rapt because I’m learning off him too which is making me a quicker driver. The 29.5 I did was the quickest I’ve been around there, and I reckon I lost almost half a second with a slight error – that’s pretty amazing for an old bloke to achieve that!

“Age and experience in these cars is clearly in Chris’ favour because try as I might, I just couldn’t match him into turn one – he was a good few kilometres an hour up on me, yet we’re braking at the 35 metre mark into turn one at 275kph..! He’s a great kid and an exceptional driver, one of the best in the world in these cars.”

Whilst Mies ultimately made his way to the front, he was forced to work for the win, the Klark Quinn McLaren with Jonathon Webb at the wheel one that was making life difficult for the German, the V8 Supercar team-boss driving a very wide line to hold Mies up allowing Webb’s team-mate Garth Tander to close across the final laps, the margin of victory in the end just 1.1-seconds..

“Having two race wins in two weeks is something special,” Mies admitted. “With Cricky and the boys from MPC and Jamec-Pem it’s always nice to be with them, it’s a lot of fun and we’re laughing all day. It’s my second Australian GT race and already we’re winners, even with the big pit stop penalty we had. We were lucky with the Safety Car, but to finish first, first you have to finish!”

The Jamec-Pem team were able to celebrate two cars in the top ten, with Steven Johnson seventh across the line in the second Jamec-Pem entry, a position which team-boss Steve McLaughlan admitted was pretty good.

“I’m not too disappointed with that because I think we were good for a comfortable top ten, and if the Safety Cars had gone our way, an outside chance at a podium, but the pace of the car was good, I set some personal best lap times around here in the Audi and Steve was typically quick.

“The win for the #74 car was a little unexpected given the big CPS penalty they were carrying, but we played the strategy game and knew that if we were in the right place for a Safety Car that we could attack, and that’s exactly what Chris did, so all things considered a good result – everything went reasonably to plan.”

One of the quickest cars on circuit over the closing laps was Nathan Antunes who was effectively running ‘tail-gunner’ to Mies, the two circulating together as the clock wound down, but despite their pace, the earlier electrical incident had put them out of the equation, although the damage was mitigated somewhat by a recovery to 11th place overall.

“We were both happy with our pace at the end of the race, but it was a tough weekend to come away with 11th when we’d both driven to plan and were quick enough to be on the podium – but that as they say is motorsport, you have to take the good with the not so good..” Antunes shrugged.

In the battle for Trophy Class honours the win went to Taylor and Mawer who turned in a flawless race, only a late
race tyre failure kept them from an almost certain top ten finish.

“I have to say, that every time I get in the Audi the more impressed I am about how good a race car it is, it’s almost bulletproof,” Mawer admitted.

“Greg drove an excellent first stint, although he did suffer a harmless spin at Siberia early in his session which cost him a little bit of time, but up until the dying stages we were about sixth, and then the tyre went down. Sadly the boys got a little caught out with the late call, but they turned us around pretty quickly so that we retained the Trophy Class lead which was ultimately the plan. A great result in the end.”

For the Audi Sport customer racing team, the focus now turns to street race mode with round three of the championship scheduled for the streets of Townsville on 10-12 July.
The Phillip Island round of the Australian GT Championship will be broadcast on SBS ‘Speedweek’ on June 21 – check local guides for details.
————————————————————————————————-
Rnd#2 2015 Australian GT Championship
Phillip Island 101, Phillip Island, Victoria (22-23 May)
Qualifying #1: (23 May)
1. Jono Lester (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) – 1:27.3836
2. Christopher Mies (Jamec-Pem Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra) – 1:27.5356
3. Tony D’Alberto (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) – 1:28.4095
4. Kevin Weeks (Ford GT) – 1:28.8370
5. Justin McMillan (Chevrolet Camaro GT3) – 1:29.3235
9. Peter Fitzgerald (AFES Engineering Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra) – 1:30.7148
11. Nathan Antunes (Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 GT3 ultra) – 1:30.9640
20. Mark Griffith (Hog’s Breath Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 1:32.4968
21. Greg Taylor (Adina Apartments Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 1:32.6890
24. Steven McLaughlan (Jamec-Pem Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra) – 1:33.6313

Qualifying #2: (23 May)
1. Matt Campbell (Ginetta G55 GT3) – 1:27.6712
2. Garth Tander (McLaren 650S GT3) – 1:27.9112
3. Dean Canto (Aston Martin Vantage GT3) – 1:28.062
4. Marcus Marshall (Porsche GT3-R) – 1:28.0758
5. Rod Salmon (Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 GT3 ultra) – 1:28.4299
7. Steven Johnson (Jamec-Pem Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra) – 1:28.6142
11. Daniel Gaunt (Hog’s Breath Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 1:29.4438
13. Greg Crick (Jamec-Pem Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra) – 1:29.5127
16. Barton Mawer (Adina Apartments Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 1:29.6713
20. Dean Koutsoumidis (AFES Engineering Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra) – 1:31.9220

Race: (23 May)
1. Christopher Mies/Greg Crick (Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra) – 88-laps
2. Tony Quinn/Garth Tander (McLaren 650S GT3)
3. Tony D’Alberto/Grant Denyer (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
4. Max Twigg/Geoff Emery (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3)
5. Jono Lester/Graham Smythe (Ferrai 458 Italia GT3)
7. Steven McLaughlan/Steven Johnson (Jamec-Pem Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra) – 87-laps
11. Nathan Antunes/Rod Salmon (Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 GT3 ultra) – 86-laps
12. Greg Taylor/Barton Mawer (Adina Apartments Audi R8 LMS GT3)
15. Mark Griffith/Dan Gaunt (Hog’s Breath Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 85-laps
DNF. Fitzgerald/Koutsoumidis (AFES Engineering Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra) – 2-laps
————————————————————————————————-
2015 Australian GT Championship (points after round two of six)*
GT Championship Class
1. Christopher Mies/Greg Crick (232-points), 2. Tony Quinn (223), 3. Nathan Antunes (183), 4. Max Twigg/Geoff Emery (158), 5. Jono Lester (157), 6. Klark Quinn (149), 7. James Koundouris/Marcus Marshall (121), 8. Garth Tander (119), 9. Michael Hovey (111), 10. Tony Walls (103), 11. Steven McLaughlan/Steven Johnson (94), 16. Peter Fitzgerald (61), 23. Rod Salmon (33)

GT Trophy Class
1. Greg Taylor/Barton Mawer (277-points), 2. Theo Koundouris (245), 3. Mark Griffith (235), 4. Simon Ellingham (160), 5. Daniel Gaunt (13)
* The points are provisional pending official confirmation by CAMS.

2015 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Rnd#1 – 26 February-1 March, Clipsal 500, Adelaide, SA*
Rnd#2 – 22-24 May, Phillip Island, Victoria**
Rnd#3 – 10-12 July, Townsville, Queensland*
Rnd#4 – 21-23 August, Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW*
Rnd#5 – 11-13 September, Sandown 500, Melbourne, Victoria*
Rnd#6 – 13-15 November, Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, NZ
(* with V8 Supercars, ** with the Shannons Nationals)