The M-Motorsport team closed out their 2017 season in New Zealand with the final round of the Australian Endurance Championship, Justin McMillan and Glen Wood narrowly missing out on a podium finish in the hotly contested event, after holding down third for much of the closing stages of the three and a half hour race.
Former podium finishers at Highlands (2014), the M-Motorsport team were right within striking distance of the title contenders during practice, Glen Wood bringing the team into the Top 10 qualifying shootout against a string of Australian Supercar regulars, the talented young Victorian claiming a position on the fifth row for the start of the annual endurance classic.
Team-boss Justin McMillan led the team away, hanging on to the lead pack in his most impressive drive of the year, despite having been out of the seat for almost nine months, McMillan spending two stints behind the wheel for 58-laps, passing long-time rival Roger Lago and enduro title contender Tim Miles before pitting to hand the car over to Wood to complete the 501-kilometre challenge.
“I was stunned to be able to run with, and then pass those guys,” McMillan admitted afterwards. “They’ve been running all season, and I haven’t been in the Lamborghini since Adelaide at the start of the year, so to be able to stick it out for that long, and start to make up positions was a good foundation for Dubai and Bathurst early next year.”
From mid-field, Wood charged across the closing stages of the race to be in a solid podium position towards the closing laps, but an infringement during the team’s final pit stop which saw more than the allowed number of crew members working on the car (a slight variance in the accepted rule for the New Zealand event saw the team caught short), saw a late drive-through penalty for Wood which dropped him back to fourth.
“I can’t thank Justin and the team enough for that opportunity,” Wood admitted afterwards with a broad smile. “The car was incredible and it just got better and better all race. Justin set the foundations of a potential podium finish with a great qualifying lap in his stint, and a stunning drive during his stint behind the wheel, and from there it was just a matter of pressing on.
“The Interlloy/First Security Gallardo was flawless whilst around us others weren’t quite so reliable, and that is testament to the efforts of the team. Yes, it was unfortunate that we missed the podium (by 15-seconds), but we were running against teams that had been racing all season, so they were a lot more race-ready than us, yet we were right there all weekend – I’m proud what we achieved.”
“It’s a great way to cap off the year, beating guys like Shane Van Gisbergen and the teams who were battling for the Endurance Championship crown, that was particularly satisfying,” McMillan added. “We’re a strong team, and we proved that again this weekend, and that gives us great confidence heading to Bathurst next February with two M-Motorsport KTM X-Bow GT4s where the win is our only focus.”
For McMillan and Wood, their attentions turns to preparation for the season-opening Dubai 24-Hour race in January next year where they will join a Reiter Engineering supported KTM team for the twice-around the clock event, before returning to Bathurst for the annual 12-Hour race with a two car team – one car spear-headed by McMillan, the other by Wood.
For the M-Motorsport team though their next commitment is a ride day at Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway on December 5, ahead of a test on December 13 at Phillip Island and a second two-day test at the Island on January 13-14 to prepare for the 12-Hour.
2017 CAMS Australian Endurance Championship – Rnd#4
Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, NZ – 10-12 November
Qualifying (11 November);
1. 63. Storey/Hackett (Mercedes-AMG GT3) – 1:30.708
2. 58. Parente/Ross (McLaren 650S GT3) – 1:30.745
3. 8. D’Alberto/Twigg (Mercedes-AMG GT3) – 1:31.345
4. 911. Martin/Talbot (Porsche GT3-R) – 1:31.390
5. 77. Van Gisbergen/Whiddett (McLaren 650S GT3) – 1:31.714
6. 75. Evans/Miles (Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 1:31.721
10. 48. Wood/McMillan (Interlloy/First Security Lamborghini R-EX GT3) – 1:33.780
Highlands 501 (12 November);
1. 8. Twigg/D’Alberto (Mercedes-AMG GT3) – 121-laps
2. 7. Quinn/Waite (McLaren 650S GT3)
3. 6. Deitz/McConville (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) – 120-laps
4. 48. Wood/McMillan (Interlloy/First Security Lamborghini R-EX GT3)
5. 23. Lago/Russell (Interlloy/First Security Lamborghini R-EX GT3)
6. 63. Storey/Hackett (Mercedes-AMG GT3) – 119-laps
Source. Motorsport Media