Having claimed a top ten finish and a podium in the competitive Pro-Am category during the 2017 Bathurst 12 Hour, Trofeo Motorsport were back in their stunning black #29 Lamborghini Huracan for the 2018 event with the sole goal of improving on that performance.
With the same driver lineup as 2017 – Jim Manolios, Ivan Capelli, Dean Canto and Ryan Millier – locked in to share driving duties, and with much of the same crew that led the team to their maiden Bathurst podium, hopes were high and despite immense drama throughout the full 12-hour journey – which ultimately saw the race declared within sight of the finish after drama on top of the mountain – the Trofeo team were rewarded with an eighth-place outright finish.
Despite a stronger run than their 2017 podium performance and a better outright result, there was to be no silverware in 2018, although the team admitted there was some consolation in finishing as the leading Australian entry.
“I’m overjoyed with the result,” Trofeo team-boss Jim Manolios admitted afterwards. “The car was almost flawless – just a minor issue with a leaking valve stem in our opening session and a pit-stop penalty which we ultimately proved was wrong – and we were the strongest finishing Australian-based team, and apart from Ivan – who is almost an honorary Australian now – we were the first all-Australian team home!”
A consistent run through the five practice sessions saw all four drivers turn laps, Dean Canto the quickest of the four, turning laps at times inside the outright top ten, but whilst the team extracted more pace ahead of qualifying, drama struck during the first session with Canto coming to blows with one of the Mercedes AMG entries on the run down to the final turn which ultimately forced him back to pit lane to repair the nose of the car and replace the bonnet.
“I caught a guy coming out of pit lane whilst I was on a flyer, so I flashed the lights and he brake-checked me at turn two and we touched,” Canto explained. “I got past and backed him up a little bit at the Chase so he made a desperate lunge at the last corner because he wasn’t happy, but he had a slide on the exit and I was expecting him to carry some speed so we made contact on the exit and the bonnet went straight over my head.
“Then it was on to the second leg with the Class A cars and that was very, very competitive. There was a red flag early – I was on a flyer but had a little slide at Forrest’s Elbow and the Chase but couldn’t complete the lap so I think we should have been just outside the top ten, but it’s that tight we’re 23rd although we’ve gone 1.3 seconds faster than we did last year on a harder compound tyre, and I’m only tenths of a second outside the top ten!”
Canto was tasked again with turning the opening stint after the 5:45am start, the experienced Supercar campaigner holding station, but unable to make too many inroads, the team discovering at the first stop a leaking valve on one of the rear tyres, making his life a little more challenging across the top.
Jim Manolios took over for the second stint, but despite spending more than 100-minutes behind the wheel, the Trofeo Motorsport team-leader achieved only a handful of competitive laps with a string of Safety Car interventions right through the early laps of the day.
Handing over the car to former F1 star Ivan Capelli, Manolios had managed to improve on the team’s track position, handing Capelli the car in position 20, the Italian looking forward to some serious laps in the car after battling red flag interventions during practice, limiting his laps in the car. Sadly he faced another challenge during his early laps, a pinched nerve in his back causing him serious discomfort forcing him back down pit lane within a handful of laps to change over to Ryan Millier.
Millier was again impressive, moving the car up the order, however during one of the early stops the team was issued a drive-through penalty for starting the engine whilst the car was still in the air for a tyre change, the team providing video evidence to prove that had not been the case, however the damage had been done, the #29 Trofeo Motorsport Huracan dropping to a lap down on the leaders, a lap they would never recover despite some spirited driving.
After his first stint, Millier handed the car across to Capelli to complete the remainder of his two hours behind the wheel, before Millier once more jumped back in as Safety Car interventions continued on track.
With around two hours remaining, Canto was back behind the wheel, but under fire from the #100 BMW of Phillip Eng, the Austrian driver applying maximum pressure to Canto, but Canto was up to the challenge running a string of 2:05 laps to hold him out across the last hour of the race to be eighth and first car off the lead lap when the result was declared with just a handful of laps remaining thanks to the big incident on top of the mountain.
Post-race the mood was somewhat subdued in the Trofeo garage, the team having accomplished their main goal of improving on 2017 and finishing with an unmarked car. Sadly, despite an incredible effort by everyone in the team, there was to be no silverware in 2018, Jim Manolios admitting that he felt that questionable driver gradings had eliminated that opportunity, but to have finished eighth outright as the leading Australian team, there was much to celebrate.
What the drivers had to say;
“I’m very happy with our performance which whilst not netting a podium result, was another forward step from 2017. Had we been able to get the most out of qualifying we should have been just off the tail of the top ten, and that would have presented a different opportunity, so too had we not suffered the valve issue in Dean’s first stint, but overall our goal was to improve on 2017 and to finish with a straight car and we achieved just that. To be the first Australian team home too without a full factory effort behind us is a result in itself, so full credit to the whole Trofeo Motorsport team for all their hard work.”
“We were racing for position at the end, so I was being pushed pretty hard from behind, we were both giving it everything we had. I’m in better condition than I was last year, we’ve been running the new RINI cool-suit and I’m as fresh as a daisy – last year I was ready to pass out after a big final stint. It’s a shame we lost that lap early on with the valve issue, because if we’d been a lap up – we had really good pace at the end – who knows where we could have finished, likely on the podium for our class. It’s still good though, to finish eighth for the day outright and fourth in class is worth celebrating.”
“We were very close to the podium, with fourth in class, but to finish eighth outright against the competitive field we had this year, was a very good job from the whole team.”
“The car was fantastic, especially across the top of the mountain, it was very well balanced. The traffic was chaotic, you just had to pick your moments and be smart and try not to get caught up. It was a great result for the whole team and a solid reward for all the effort the team has gone through, not just this weekend, but since Bathurst last year.”
Source. Motorsport Medis