Justin McMillan’s M-Motorsport came into the Australian Grand Prix weekend as the Australian GT Championship series points leaders, the Interlloy/Wilson Storage supported Gallardo R-EX having claimed top points at the opening round in Adelaide just two weeks prior.
With the series returning to the Grand Prix for the first time in six years, neither McMillan – who made his series debut in 2013 – nor Wood, had competed on the popular 5.303-kilometre street circuit previously, and with just two 20-minute sessions to share ahead of the first of four 25-minute races, it was always going to be a tough weekend..
Ultimately the M-Motorsport team left Albert Park with a string of top ten finishes, one failure to finish after an accident which claimed four Lamborghinis, and a place inside the top four in the championship, so the momentum continued despite the challenges.
“It was a tough weekend in many respects,” Glen Wood admitted on reflection. “Thursday’s two 20-minute sessions gave us very little time to really get a handle on the car, although we were quick. My session was plagued by traffic and – on my one clear lap – a spinning Ferrari, so 12th was the best we could do in qualifying, although I felt we had a top six car.
“We had improved the car since Adelaide, as we really suffered there under brakes and in the slower corners, so that gave us plenty of hope, but starting mid-pack was always going to be a challenge, so too the addition of the compulsory pit stop [CPS] times to the total race time, as opposed to the pit stops.”
Australian GT [AGT] runs a parity system to even out the field. That system sees each team given a CPS time during their mid-race stop as part of a normal AGT round, a penalty which factors in driver experience and their qualifying position. Due to time restraints with the Grand Prix, the series was only allowed a 25-minute window for each race, which didn’t allow for a CPS, therefore organisers had no choice but to add the team parity penalty to the race time, which made for a very confusing weekend for the fans as often the race winner, wasn’t the winner of the race..!
Wood started the first hectic race and swapped positions at the tail of the top ten, before crossing the line tenth, the M-Motorsport Lamborghini credited with position seven after CPS times were applied.
In race two Justin McMillan was scheduled to start on the third row, but like much of the field in the damp conditions, he elected to pit early for slick tyres as the track began to dry, dropping him down the order, a steady run through the pack seeing him credited with 19th position.
Frustratingly for the team, race three was a short lived affair.. Wood takes up the story.
“Tony Quinn and Roger Lago had an incident up front coming out of turn two causing a car park in front of me. I felt I had a little room to get through and was trying to avoid our team-mate John Magro who was bouncing off the wall, as was Tony D’Alberto beside me avoiding Dean Canto bouncing off the other wall, resulting in D’Alberto and I meeting in the middle.
“Sadly the Ferrari, and three of the Lamborghinis came off second best, but luckily we came away with relatively light damage, but enough to force us out of the race.”
Team-owner McMillan was back behind the wheel for the final race, running a careful race from the rear of the field to be ultimately classified eighth to maintain the team’s championship position inside the top four.
“There wasn’t much to gain in the final race from the rear, and the last thing we wanted to do was damage the car, so I picked my moments and just focused on working with the car,” he admitted. “We’ve made some good solid steps forward this weekend, and I’m happy with my performance on my debut at Albert Park.”
“Our focus now in on the next round of the championship at Barbagallo in Perth,” Wood added. “The car improved a lot over the weekend, but we didn’t get much chance to show it in all the Safety Car affected races, and our race three drama. I’ve driven Barbagallo before, and I think it will really suit the R-EX with its mix of medium-high speed corners. We’ll go away and do a bit more development on brakes and I think we’ll see some improvement there too, although there’s less stop-start in WA than either Adelaide or the Grand Prix, so that won’t be as vital.”
Round three of the championship is scheduled for Perth’s Barbagallo circuit in Western Australia, the series first ever visit to the West in early May (6-8) ahead of round four and the opening round of the Australian Endurance Championship at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit three weeks later (27-29 May).
2016 CAMS Australian GT Championship
Rnd#2 – Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne (17-20 March)
Qualifying (Combined, 2x 20-minutes) – 17 March
1. Mies/Emery (Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 1:54.9059
2. Webb/Denyer (McLaren 650S GT3) – 1:55.6953
3. Baird/Taylor (Mercedes AMG GT3) – 1:56.0252
4. Canto/Taplin (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3) – 1:56.0750
5. Marshall/Koundouris (Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 1:56.1138
12. McMillan/Wood (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Gallardo R-EX GT3) – 1:57.1890
Race#1 (25-mins) – 17 March
1. Craig Baird (Mercedes AMG GT3) – 11-laps
2. Christopher Mies (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. Marcus Marshall (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
4. George Miedecke (Aston Martin Vantage GT3)
5. Andrea Montermini (Ferrari 488 GT3)
7. Glen Wood (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
Race#2 (25-mins) – 18 March
1. Nathan Morcom (McLaren 650S GT3) – 11-laps
2. Benny Simonsen (Ferrari 488 GT3)
3. Klark Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Elliot Barbour (McLaren 650S GT3)
5. Grant Denyer (McLaren 650S GT3)
19. Justin McMillan (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Gallardo R-EX GT3)
Race#3 (25-mins) – 19 March
1. Matt Solomon (Mercedes AMG GT3) – 6-laps
2. Steve McLaughlan (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. Klark Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Greg Taylor (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
5. George Miedecke (Aston Martin Vantage GT3)
DNF. Glen Wood (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
Race#4 (25-mins) – 20 March
1. James Koundouris (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
2. Geoff Emery (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. Tony Walls (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Tim Miles (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
5. Aaron Tebb (Porsche 997 GT3-R)
8. Justin McMillan (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Gallardo R-EX GT3)
2016 Australian GT Championship (points after two rounds of six)
1. James Koundouris/Marcus Marshall (225-points), 2. Klark Quinn (206),
3. Nathan Morcom (197), 4. Justin McMillan/Glen Wood (184),
5. Chris Mies/Geoff Emery (182), 6. Roger Lago (177), 7. Matt Solomon (169),
8. Tony Walls (163), 9. Antunes/Barbour (133), 10. Jonathon Webb/Grant Denyer (131),
Source. Motorsport Media