After a fairly decent break since Clipsal and the Australian Grand Prix in March, the awesome MR crew were very keen to go racing once again.
Despite the break, we had been flat out with the first round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge at Sandown as well as testing including two interstate hit-outs to continue the development of all of our cars and drivers, but particularly Wallsy’s McLaren and Hovey’s Ginetta.
Both categories were running co-driver events at Phillip Island so we were thrilled to welcome V8 Supercar drivers Nick Percat and Andre Heimgartner as co-drivers for Shane Smollen and Simon Ellingham respectively.
It was also our first opportunity to blow some cobwebs off our works driver Warren Luff, who supported Tony Walls in ‘Bruce’ the McLaren, while MR driver Matt Campbell backed-up Michael Hovey in the Ginetta while one of our more decorated GT3 Cup Challenge drivers, Tim Miles, drove with Matt Campbell in the Porsche Carrera Cup Pro-Am.
Shane and (Bathurst 1000 winner) Nick Percat literally dominated the weekend by qualifying on pole (both driver’s best qualifying times are combined to determine qualifying positions), winning race 1, placing second in race 2 and winning the round outright.
Nick started the first race from pole, won the start and lead much of his stint handing over to Shane in the lead after an extraordinary dice with former McElrea Racing ‘2010 Mini Challenge’ driver Scotty McLaughlin.
Shane maintained the lead and pulled a healthy margin over his main opposition Steven Grove to record his first race win of the season.
Smollen started the second race from pole and was without-a-doubt the class of the ‘Challenge class’ drivers racing with many of the established Pros until handing over to Percat.
After a perfectly executed pit-stop Percat was in 13th and drove the wheels off Shane’s car to catch the leader on the last lap but ran out time to pass and make it the perfect weekend.
Matt and Tim didn’t quite have the result of their team-mates in car 56.
The highlight undoubtedly for Matty was recording the fastest time in the Pro drivers qualifying session.
His time of 1:30.00 was quite extraordinary and to out-qualify drivers of the calibre of Tim Slade, Scott McLaughlin, Alex Davison and Nick Percat was most impressive.
Despite Matty’s pole lap, the combined times of both drivers meant they started outside the top 10.
Matty did his best to drag the car through the field before handing over to Tim Miles.
Tim’s progress was curtailed with a spectacular spin onto the front straight, then a clutch problem related to the ‘high speed manoeuvre’ which put them out for race 1.
Tim started race 2 and did a very solid job handing the car back to Matt at the 28 minute mark.
A small delay in the pits meant that Matt had to pass more cars than he would have preferred. The resulting 11th place is not fair reflection of the potential of the pairing.
It’s fair to say we expected a better result for Tony and Luffy at the Pro-Am.
Apart from a puncture in Tony’s qualifying session, which robbed him of valuable track time, there were no unforeseen issues and ‘Bruce’ ran like a Swiss clock all weekend.
Luffy did his usual professional job and worked quietly on creating a stable handling car which they could both use to good effect in the race.
After starting further down the field than ideal Tony progressed through the pack really well and handed over to Luffy around mid distance.
Luffy continued climbing through the very highly decorated field, eventually breaking into the top 10.
A bizarre decision by the officials late in the race to extend the finish time by 15 minutes added further complications regarding our strategy and maximum allowed driving times, but the guys did a great job to finish a very challenging event well inside the top 10.
This was definitely the race that got away from us!!
The underrated Matt Campbell in the equally underrated Ginetta G50 completely stunned the establishment by qualifying on pole for the co-drivers session on Saturday morning with a a stunning lap of 1:27.67 to head-off more experienced professionals like Garth Tander and Dean Canto.
A minor fuel leak that only occurred when the car was filled to full fuel load forced Matt to start from pit-lane.
He simply drove from the back through to the front of the field before coming in for fuel, tyres and handing over to Hoves.
Again there was a small fuel leak which the officials decided needed to be mopped up before the car left the pit box rather than when it had moved away…
Because an eagle-eyed flag Marshall spotted some drips of fuel from the overflow before the Ginetta had used the excess 2 litres which would have resolved the issue, poor Hoves was given a mechanical black flag and was ordered to come in for officials to confirm that the problem was rectified.
After returning to the circuit Hoves had a great stint before handing back over to Matt to charge back up to 9th by the end of the race.
Having a 2011 model Cup car is a significant handicap in AGT as they are classified as ‘Trophy’ class and have to compete against the likes of an Audi R8, Porsche GT3 Cup S,Ford GT3, etc…
The main benefit of the Cup Car is that it allows Simon to get extra mileage for his driver development as he is eligible to compete in both the Australian GT and selected rounds of the GT3 Cup Challenge Championship, which is a great compromise.
Simon and Andre did a great job. The original plan was to start Simon, hand-over to Andre and then Simon would finish. However, a late start to the race opened an opportunity for Simon to start, use a full fuel load then hand-over to Andre who would be able to do a full stint and not exceed the 55% driving time for Pro drivers.
This plan was perfect until the officials made the last minute decision to extend the race distance by 15 minutes past the ‘time certain’ published race finish time.
Despite the necessity to do a splash and dash and put Simon back in the car to finish the race, 4th in Trophy class and 16th outright was an excellent outcome.
We are gutted for Hoves and Matty as an outright win or at least a podium was on the cards.
We will be working closely with McLaren in the coming weeks to get a bit more pace out of ‘Bruce’ in time for the next round.
Simon gained some more solid race experience and will hit the track again in the GT3 Cup Challenge Championship at Winton in 3 weeks.
Congrats to Shane on an outstanding weekend, particularly coming into the round in 4th place in the Tag Heuer Challenge Championship and leaving in the lead!
After such a chilly weekend at PI, we are really looking forward to heading up to one of our favourite events at tropical Townsville for the Porsche Carrera Cup and Australian GT in 7 weeks.
Thanks to all the boys and girls from MR and our Customers and Supporters.