Fraser Ross turned in a flawless drive during Australian GT’s second race on the streets of Surfers Paradise, the McLaren 720S GT3 driver adding a win to his new lap record to conclude an almost perfect weekend, although it was race one winner Ryan Millier who claimed the round victory after finishing second in the Trofeo Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
For championship rivals Geoff Emery and Peter Hackett it was a weekend of two halves – for Hackett it was attack at all costs, whilst for Emery, he was playing very much a conservative approach, although in the end it didn’t work out perfectly for either.
Hackett emerged third for the round after a second and third placed finish, the experienced Mercedes-AMG campaigner though looking for a lot more in his effort to close down an advantage that stood at 178-points coming into the Gold Coast.
The GT4 battle saw some epic racing between the two M-Motorsport KTMs, the victory this time though going to Trent Harrison who raced solo across the weekend, a great reward for some strong performances during the season, although the ongoing success of team-mates Justin McMillan and Glen Wood saw them crowned 2019 Champions with one round remaining.
For Emery, his decision to let the leading teams fight amongst themselves meant he slipped back into the pack where he was forced to battle a quartet of MARC cars, something which would ultimately have an affect on his race..
The Trophy Series battle saw Dale Paterson’s thundering Camaro elevate the Victorian to the top step of the podium and the championship points lead, whilst Nick Karnaros put himself in the box seat for the Trofeo Challenge title after carding a big haul of points across the weekend.
The dramatic Scott McLaughlan Supercars qualifying incident saw a delay in the start of the second race as officials set about clearing debris and repairing the barriers, in the end the experienced support team seeing just five minutes shaved from the 60-minute race length with a start behind the Safety Car.
Once let loose race one winner and pole-sitter Ryan Millier led the field away, but he was quickly under fire from Fraser Ross who had charged through on Peter Hackett on the first flying lap with a big dive at turn 11, the McLaren running fresh Pirellis and intent on getting through to the lead as quickly as possible.
He was almost immediately onto Millier’s tail, firing through to lead a couple of laps later at turn four, Millier staying within a couple of seconds of the charging McLaren.
Behind the leading trio Tony Quinn sat a lonely fourth whilst further back points leader Geoff Emery was under fire from the MARC cars, the #1 Audi locked in a great battle with Adam Hargraves but unable to effect a pass allowing his title rivals to pull further and further ahead.
Ten minutes in the Safety Car was back to tackle debris at the first chicane, it was ultimately shown to be a piece of the kerbing dislodged by one of the MARC Cars, however is was soon recovered.
Ross continued to lead after the restart, whilst behind him the teams settled into a rhythm ahead of the compulsory pit stops, Hackett and Millier in first with the two cars effecting perfect stops to leave side-by-side, Millier ultimately taking the advantage to hang on to second.
Ross hit the pits for his stop soon after, emerging ahead of an epic battle for position, Geoff Emery taking advantage of his tough opening race to be able to stop a lot shorter than his rivals and emerge ahead of Millier and Hackett, the four cars within a couple of seconds of each other with 25-minutes still on the clock, but all of them well back from race leader Tony Quinn who was yet to stop.
Millier was on a mission and it took just half a lap for him to charge through on Emery with a huge deep lunge under brakes at turn 11, Hackett also taking advantage to be through by turn 12.
Behind the leaders newly crowned Super 3 champion Broc Feeney was continuing to make an impression, holding down fifth at one stage ahead of the stops, he was quickly up to pace after the stops despite losing ground to the two MARC II Mustangs by virtue of his higher driver grading (which affects each driver’s stop time during the CTPS).
Sadly as the final stops were concluded we were back under Safety Car conditions after an unfortunate incident between Geoff Emery and Bayley Hall in the second of the MARC I cars at turn one.
With the advantage of superior braking, Emery was looking to work his way past Hall, but got caught up with nowhere to go as the Focus braked earlier, the two making contact. Emery continued with minor bodywork damage, whilst for Hall he was turned into the barriers breaking the right-rear wheel and damaging the left side of the car – his AGT debut was over.
For his part Emery was handed a drive-through penalty, although despite the setback it had no real affect on the Championship battle, the Audi driver classified fifth, whilst title rival Peter Hackett was only third, minimising the points damage. Hackett ultimately carded 180 points to Emery’s 136 for the weekend, lowering the deficit to 134 points with two rounds and 220 points remaining heading into Sandown’s finale.
Up front Fraser Ross was untouchable in the end, the 59Racing McLaren storming away to a 4.6-second lead over Millier across the final 15-minutes, Millier comfortably second ahead of Hackett and Quinn.
Adam Hargraves was fifth having weathered a late storm from Broc Feeney who despite impressive pace off the slower corners, was lamenting as much as 100-horsepower less than the MARC II Mustang, which allowed Hargraves to hold station all the way to the flag, Feeney forced to both attack and defend over the closing laps as the second Mustang of Geoff Taunton closed in.
Dale Paterson was classified eighth and the leading Trophy Class entry – in the process vaulting to the points lead, the Camaro driver crossing the line ahead of AGT rookie Peter Corbett who was rewarded with second overall for the weekend. Joe Ensabella claimed third in class, lamenting an early retirement during the final race after contact with the barriers on the run onto the main straight, whilst Richard Gartner was fourth.
“We had a great day today after sorting braking and cooling issues in race one,” Paterson reflected. “It felt so good that at one stage I thought about having a go at Geoff Emery, but in the end I started thinking about the Championship.”
Nick Karnaros crossed the line in tenth place for a solid result on his Gold Coast debut, in the process extending his points advantage in Trofeo Challenge, whilst Richard Gartner was back to his smiling best, having repaired the Safe-T-Stop Lamborghini after his race one contact and subsequent retirement.
Geoff Emery was classified twelfth in the Valvoline Audi ahead of Trent Harrison who drove brilliantly to weather an early storm from M-Motorsport X-Bow team-mate Glen Wood, then regain some lost ground during the second Safety Car period to take the fight to Justin McMillan.
“I haven’t been here for nine years, so I’m thankful for the opportunity that David [Crampton] gave me to take the fight to the boys in GT4,” Harrison explained. “The first Safety Car didn’t really fall our way, but the second one allowed me to get a lap back on Justin [McMillan] and Glen [Wood] and I was able to push on and take the win.”
Sadly for local driver Todd O’Brien – another of the AGT rookies, a mechanical failure early in the race stalled his run at the KTMs, the Solar & Energy Finance Ginetta G50 forced into an early retirement, although after his maiden weekend in the championship he was already plotting a faster car and an all out assault for the 2020 season.
With the title battles still brewing in the GT3, Trophy Class and Trofeo Challenge divisions, the fight will go down to the wire during the final round of the season at Sandown in just two weeks time (8-10 November).
What the drivers had to say..
1. 59. Fraser Ross (59Racing McLaren 720S GT3)
“It was really nice to come back here and get a win, we were strong from the get go with a double pole and a lap record. It was nice to know we had the pace to win yesterday – Ryan did a fantastic job and credit to him, he deserves it – but for my crew it’s a real credit to them after all the hours they put in with an engine change earlier in the week – so it was nice to reward them with a win. Can’t wait for Sandown!”
2. 129. Ryan Millier (Trofeo Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3)
“It was definitely a tough race that one, with the two Safety Car interventions – I was trying to gap Hackett because to take the round win I had to stay ahead of him. The car had a lot of pace and I felt comfortable – it was battle to the end and we came home with the win. I definitely love the streets circuits, all the bouncing and the kerbs and the bumps – you can definitely get up on the wheel and enjoy the race.”
3. 63. Peter Hackett (Eggleston Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3)
“The car was great towards the end of the stint after the tyres normalised, but by that stage the leaders had opened up an advantage. Traffic was also an issue, and that made it harder to take the fight to the Lamborghini [Millier] and Fraser [Ross] who was very fast all weekend.”
1. 59. Fraser Ross – 59Racing/hsy/Opti-Coat, McLaren 720S GT3 – 37-laps
2. 129. Ryan Millier – Trofeo Motorsport, Lamborghini Huracan GT3 +4.6072
3. 63. Peter Hackett – Eggleston Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG GT3 +5.3922
4. 7. Tony Quinn – Local Legends, Aston Martin V12 GT3 +23.3295
5. 20. Adam Hargraves – Local Search, MARC II V8 (I) +29.5824
6. 93. Broc Feeney – One World Charters, MARC I V8 (I) +30.1194
7. 95. Geoff Taunton – Taunton Excavations, MARC II V8 (I) +30.3750
8. 71. Dale Paterson – DPM Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro GT3 (AGTT) +32.5726
9. 73. Peter Corbett – Showergrate Shop, Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3 (AGTT) +43.1113
10. 25. Nick Karnaros – Earth Electrical, Porsche Type 991 GT3 (TrofeoChall) +45.0127
11. 69. Richard Gartner – Safe-T-Stop, Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3 (AGTT) +1:11.1020
12. 1. Geoff Emery – Valvoline, Audi R8 LMS GT3 +1:11.3627
13. 50. Trent Harrison – Vantage Freight, KTM X-Bow GT4 (GT4) – 35-laps
14. 48. Justin McMillan/Glen Wood – M-Motorsport, KTM X-Bow GT4 (GT4)
Source. Motorsport Media