May 30, 2016
MCLAREN MAKES HISTORY IN FIRST AEC EVENT
Grant Denyer and Nathan Morcom have combined to win the first race of the CAMS Australian Endurance Championship, holding on in a nail-biting finish at Phillip Island.
Morcom headed a narrow McLaren 1-2, with Shane Van Gisbergen just two tenths of second behind in after 101-laps and more than two hours of racing.
Having started tenth, a patient 30-lap opening first stint from Morcom left Denyer out front following their first stop, the duo combining to hold the advantage to the finish.
Van Gisbergen had led the opening stanza, staving off the attentions of Bruno Spengler (Marc GT BMW M6 GT3), Craig Baird (Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3) and Miguel Molina (Jamec Pem Audi R8 LMS).
Charging from seventh to second, Baird applied intense pressure to Van Gisbergen before they both stopped for the first time after 21 laps.
Scott Taylor took over from Baird at the first stop while Klark Quinn stepped into the McLaren for the middle part of the race, with Tony Bates replacing Miguel Molina in the #1 Audi.
The Marc GT BMW headed the race before it too made its first stop, the Denyer/Morcom McLaren rising to the top of the timing sheets after the first round of stops.
Bates’ challenge came to an end with a puncture with 59 laps remaining, though rallied back to seventh at the flag with sister Melbourne Performance Centre prepared car of Garth Tander and Steve McLaughlan also had their charge blunted late in the race.
At the front, Denyer managed a 15-second advantage for much of his stint.
That gap opened to more than 30-seconds after the second round of pit stops when Denyer handed the car back to Morcom for the run to the flag.
Having run second during the middle-phase of the race, Peter Hackett was unable to resist the hard-charging Daniel Gaunt, the Darrell Lea Aston Martin driver racing his way towards the race leading McLaren.
There would be a dramatic twist in the tale however when Gaunt was forced to pit for a splash-and-dash with just nine laps remaining, promoting the Dominic Storey/Peter Hackett Mercedes back into second with a looming Van Gisbergen in third.
Raising heart-rates in the Tekno Autosports garage, traffic in the final laps slowed Morcom’s progress.
The McLaren driver’s advantage quickly evaporated in traffic as Van Gisbergen, who’d found a way by Storey’s Mercedes, closed in.
But there was no way through, Morcom holding out the Darrell Lea driver by just 0.27s at the flag.
Storey clinched third for the Eggleston Motorsport crew while Jack Smith and Nicholas Rowe combined to take the Invitational Class in a race that ran without interruption from start to finish.