Twigg and Ross on top early at the Australian Grand Prix CAMS Australian GT Championship

Twigg and Ross on top early at the Australian Grand Prix CAMS Australian GT Championship

15.03.2019: Day one of the opening round of the 2019 CAMS Australian GT Championship delivered a tantalising taste of what the new season has to offer. Two 20-minute qualifying sessions preceded the opening race of the event with Fraser Ross delivering a fairy tale r

Day one of the opening round of the 2019 CAMS Australian GT Championship delivered a tantalising taste of what the new season has to offer. Two 20-minute qualifying sessions preceded the opening race of the event with Fraser Ross delivering a fairy tale result on the competition debut of the new McLaren 720S GT3.

Mercedes-AMG were the early stars though, Scott Taylor Motorsport team-mates Max Twigg and Kenny Habul sharing a front row start for the opening race after top qualifying, before Habul backed that up in Q2 behind the Fraser Ross McLaren which added pole for race two to his P3 result from the opening session.

Off the line for the opening race Twigg held Habul at bay early, but it was clear Ross had both the motivation, and the speed to push the leaders. And push he did, at one stage grazing the wall on the exit of the final corner, before forcing his way through on first Habul - which involved contact that ultimately ended Habul’s race with a tyre failure - and then Twigg to give the new McLaren it’s maiden worldwide success.

Ross wasn’t the only star of the day, 18-year old Ryan How took the #125 generation one Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra to victory in Trophy Series as a result of his incredible fifth-placed finish, whilst Nick Karnaros claimed the win in the first ever race for the new Trofeo Challenge category, and Glen Wood dominated GT4 over rookie McLaren driver Ryan Simpson.

Whilst Ross and the new McLaren made an impressive debut, his results were overshadowed by a setback with the homologation for the new car, with documentation failing to arrive by the official start of the event, a factor which resulted in the new McLaren being classified ‘invitational’ and not eligible for championship points. He was however approved to compete and fight for race wins and podiums as the official BoP had already been established by SRO.

That effectively left Max Twigg as the winner [on points] of the opening race from Peter Hackett and Geoff Emery.

Qualifying#1 (20-minutes)

The action started almost immediately, with title rivals Geoff Emery and Peter Hackett coming to blows at turn 15 on the opening lap. They had started conservatively with Emery allowing the cars in front to drive away so that he had some clear air in which to push for a quick lap.

Hackett was following closely behind with Fraser Ross right on his tail, but as they hit the left-hand turn 15, Emery appeared to slow, with Hackett diving down the inside, the resulting contact seemed to happen in slow motion as Emery turned in unaware that Hackett was there. The resulting contact saw Emery’s left rear ride up over the front right of Hackett’s Mercedes, damaging the front splitter and the dive planes, in the process forcing a tyre failure for Hackett who had to endure an almost complete lap at walking pace.

The team were quickly able to effect repairs, but the damage had been done, Hackett ultimately getting just one flying lap before a session-ending incident for Victor Zagame who was bogged in the turn three gravel in the GT4 Audi, bringing out the red flag.

By that stage it was Albert Park veteran Max Twigg who used his intimate knowledge of the circuit to claim his second pole in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the circuit (1:56.2857), whilst the returning Kenny Habul (who first raced a Formula Ford at Albert Park in 1999) put in an outstanding effort to claim second late in the session, his 1:56.7096 just four tenths slower than his experienced team-mate.

Fraser Ross was third fastest, just nine one thousandths slower than Habul, with reigning champion Geoff Emery fourth, the Audi star admitting that track conditions hadn't been to their expectations, the local driver though leading an Audi 4-5-6 with AGT rookie Lee Partridge and Emery’s long-time rival Tony Bates all within half a second.

Despite just one flying lap to record a time, Peter Hackett was able to claim seventh, displacing AGT veteran Tony Quinn to eighth. John Morriss claimed the top spot in the Trophy Series category, the Porsche driver admitting it was his best ever run around the Albert Park circuit to topple reigning champion Nick Kelly and teenage sensation Ryan How.

Luke Seidler held pole position for the first ever event of Trofeo Challenge, ahead of fellow Porsche drivers Nick Karnaros and Shane Barwood, whilst in GT4, reigning Bathurst 12 Hour Class-C champion Glen Wood dominated the opening qualifier to be eight tenths quicker than new recruit Ryan Simpson, however KTM’s second entry led by Trent Harrison suffered a setback after an engine sensor issue saw the team almost ten seconds off their expected pace.

Qualifying#2 (20-minutes)

Max Twigg was again quick in Q2, but not quick enough. In the end, Fraser Ross laid down a blistering 1:56.1447 early to take the top spot, a time which would not be beaten, although Kenny Habul again ensured a front row start - his best though was still nine tenths of a second slower than Ross, and just three one hundredths faster than Peter Hackett.

Max Twigg was next quickest, having gotten the better of long-time rival Geoff Emery by seven one hundredths, whilst teenage-sensation Ryan How was able to circulate faster than both Lee Partridge and Tony Bates to claim a third row start, and with it, top points in Trophy Series.

In Trofeo Challenge, Nick Karnaros claimed top honours from Shane Barwood and Chris Seidler, whilst in GT4 it was Ryan Simpson on top from Justin McMillan and Mark Griffith.

Race#1 (25-minutes)

Max Twigg controlled the rolling start to lead the field into turn one with Habul alongside into the corner, although Twigg held the advantage on the exit due to his inside line. Behind them Fraser Ross held onto third with Geoff Emery close behind. Further back Lee Partridge fired down the inside of Tony Bates before being squeezed across on the exit, the two making light contact which slowed Bates’ pace and forced Partridge off on the exit of the corner allowing the leaders to get a break up front.

Whilst all this unfolded Peter Hackett was able to start his way forward to be fourth by the close of the lap having taken the squabbling Audis in the process.

Fraser Ross was on a mission, the McLaren driver visibly carrying more pace than the two drivers ahead of him, but whilst he ducked left and right and nosed under Habul’s rear wing to unsettle him, the two AMGs were up to the task.

At one point Ross glanced the wall on the exit of the final corner, then ran wide on the exit of turn five whilst menacing the rear of Habul’s AMG, but every time he was able to regain any lost ground and apply even greater pressure to the leaders.

Ultimately it came to a head on lap eight, Ross diving up the inside deep under brakes at turn three to grab second, although the move was not without contact, the left front of the McLaren making contact with the right-side of the #75 Mercedes, in the process deflating Habul’s right rear tyre which ultimately ended his race.

A lap later Ross pulled a carbon-copy move on Twigg who saw the McLaren coming, giving Ross racing room to take the lead knowing full-well that the McLaren wasn’t competing for championship points.

Whilst the battle at the front continued, behind them local teenager Ryan How was moving himself forward lap after lap to be fifth by lap eight having displaced both John Morriss and Nick Kelly to take the top honours in Trophy Series, ultimately out-pacing Tony Bates, the experienced campaigner lamenting a brake issue with trouble pulling the #24 Audi up.

The battle for Trofeo Challenge honours saw a great fight between pole-sitter Luke Seidler, Nick Karnaros and Shane Barwood, but all three were forced to watch David Greig drive off into the sunset over the closing laps before he too fell victim to drama, spinning on the penultimate corner to leave the path clear for Karnaros to claim the maiden victory of the new category. Greig recovered for second with Trofeo Motorsport’s Jim Manolios taking the new Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo EVO to a podium finish on its AGT debut.

In GT4, no-one could touch Glen Wood in the #48 Equity-One KTM X-Bow, the local driver claiming a comfortable win over AGT rookie Ryan Simpson, the reigning Australian Production Car champion quickly coming to grips with the new McLaren 570S GT4 to improve across the session by eight tenths of a second, Mark Griffith claiming the final podium position.

For the Australian GT teams the remaining three days will feature a single 25-minute race per day, the last of which will take place on Sunday morning ahead of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.

-motorsport media - also photo


15.03.2019 / MaP

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