International GT stars trade blows at Phillip Island
Dane Allan Simonsen and German Maro Engel have shared the front-running in Australian GT Championship practice at Phillip Island as Round 7 of the Shannons Nationals kicked-off.
Engel, debuting in the class for Erebus Motorsport’s Mercedes SLS program this weekend, topped the first and third of the three sessions held.
It was the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 of Simonsen that was the quickest on combined times, however, thanks to a 1:30.6286s effort in Practice 2.
Erebus’ championship leader Peter Hackett was also in the mix throughout the day, beating Engel to second fastest overall.
TeamVodafone V8 Supercars star Craig Lowndes showed promise on his AGTC debut by taking his Melbourne Performance Centre Audi R8 to the fourth fastest time, while the Porsche GT3-R of Klark Quinn completed the top five.
Having not seen the circuit prior to today, Engel was arguably the happiest of all post-practice.
“It hasn’t taken me long to get comfortable with the team or the track,” he said.
“It was fantastic that we could end two of the sessions on top of the time sheets, (but) I still think we can find a little more to be even faster tomorrow.
“The circuit is a great circuit, the racing between the GT Championship field is very tight, so I think tomorrow will be very interesting. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and see where it ends up. Today could not have started any better for me.”
Practice for the Kumho V8 Touring Car Series was headed by title contender Josh Hunter and most recent round winner Morgan Haber. Points leader Jim Pollicina was third ahead of Bobby Jane and Matthew Hansen also in the mix.
Already crowned champion James Winslow topped the day for the Formula 3 contenders, ahead of impressive rookie Nathan Morcom. Steel Guiliana and Chris Gilmour were also among the front-runners – Gilmour coming within 0.005s of the day’s quickest time before mechanical issues sidelined in the afternoon.
Experienced contenders also led the way in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Australia practice, with long-time campaigners Jon Trende and John Goodacre topping the two sessions respectively.
Points leader Kane Rose was third quickest in the second session driving a 997 GT3 Cup Car borrowed from fellow competitor Stephen Grove.
A late new-tyre run from points leader Neale Muston saw him top the three sessions held for the Radical Australia Cup – his 1m33.44s lap a full 1.6s faster than Oliver Smith in the third practice session and the quickest of the day by a similar margin.
Points leader Simon Tabinor was fastest in practice for the Dial Before You Dig Australian Saloon Cars; the local driver having a comfortable margin over much of the field in today’s unofficial running. Sprintcar graduate Jon McCorkindale impressed; climbing as high as 11th overall in the third and final session of the day.
Tomorrow’s Phillip Island action will be highlighted by the first of the weekend’s two 60 minute GT races in the late afternoon.