There’s no question that GT racing globally has been on the rise over the last decade, but whilst that success has been a blessing for promoters, it has also had an after-effect on the very people on which the category had been originally focussed – the amateur, or ‘gentlemen’ drivers.
Now, much of the GT world is dominated by professional drivers, or in some cases, drivers whose international driver grading cause much discussion, the upshot of which is that the people who own many of the cars (GT is very much a ‘customer’ focussed category) have been forced to take a ‘back-seat’ to faster and more experienced drivers, ultimately forcing them back into the garage.
This has often been a bone of contention for the many drivers who were the faces of the original structure of GT competition, with a number of them electing for retirement much earlier than they originally intended.
One of those drivers though, a multiple winner at Bathurst in ‘production’ cars, Rod Salmon, has taken a different approach and put together a new series called GT-1 Australia, a championship focussed purely on amateur drivers and fun, just like the good old days..!
Running under the Australian Motor Racing Series [AMRS] rulebook, GT-1 Australia is open to a variety of sports and MARC cars, with an eligibility list very similar to the annual Bathurst 12 Hour, and the first event of the 2018 season gets underway this weekend at Mallala in South Australia.
“There are a number of us who own cars, but just don’t want to race at the highest level of GT in Australia,” Salmon admitted. “We’ve been talking about it for years as the various series have become more competitive, and whilst there have been options in the last few years, they just haven’t really gelled, so we spoke with AMRS and they were very happy to accommodate us.
“The idea is to go racing and enjoy ourselves. Yes, we want to be competitive, but we’re not so focused on having to be on the big event cards, nor having cutting edge television, we just want to go racing with our mates, have a few laughs and not be worried about some young hot shot potentially putting us into a fence.”
There are five events already on the 2018 calendar, starting from Mallala before moving to Morgan Park in Queensland then onto New South Wales with Wakefield Park and Sydney Motorsport Park, before the final at Winton in Victoria.
Every event will feature two 50-minute races with compulsory pit stops open to one or two drivers, however every driver must have a maximum FIA bronze driver grading.
Eligible cars include pre-2015 specification GT3 cars, MARC sports cars and Challenge cup cars like Porsche and Ferrari.
Already planning is well underway for the 2019 season, with Salmon admitting there will be a number of new developments to reveal over coming months.
For Mallala a solid entry of 15 cars comes off the back of immense interest in the category, with 26 full-season entries already committed for the 2017 championship.
Round 1 2018 GT-1 Australia
Mallala Motorsport Park, South Australia
Saturday April 7
Practice 1 – 9:40am (30-minutes)
Qualifying 1 – 12:00pm (30-minutes)
Qualifying 2 – 3:00pm (30-minutes)
Sunday April 8
Race 1 – 10:10am (50-minutes)
Race 2 – 2:00pm (50-minutes)
Mallala Entry list;
Jamie Arraton – Ferrari 458 Challenge
Jake Camilleri – MARC II
John Goodacre – MARC I
Mark Griffith – Ginetta G55
Adam Hargreaves – MARC I
Gary Higgin – Audi R8 LMS
Scott Hookey – Ferrari 458 Challenge
Keith Kassulke – MARC II
Steve McLaughlan – Audi R8 LMS
Rick Mensa – Porsche Cup Car
John Morriss – Porsche
John Nikolovski – Ferrari 458 Challenge
Rio Nugura – Audi R8 LMS
Rod Salmon – Audi R8 LMS
Matt Stoupas – Audi R8 LMS
2018 GT-1 Australia competition calendar
Round 1 – 6-8 April, 2018 – Mallala, South Australia
Round 2 – 8-10 June, 2018 – Morgan Park, Queensland
Round 3 – 17-19 August, 2018 – Wakefield Park, NSW
Round 4 – 26-28 October, 2018 – Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW
Round 5 – 16-18 November, 2018 – Winton, Victoria
Source. Motorsport Media