Lago Racing win dramatic Hampton Downs 101
David Russell and Roger Lago claimed an event filled inaugural Hampton Downs 101 after a late Safety Car set up a grandstand finish to the third round of the Australian Endurance Championship.
The pole-sitting Lago Racing Lamborghini took the 101 lap race from the John Martin/Duvashen Padayachee Walkinshaw Porsche and the Tekno Autosports McLaren of Nathan Morcom and Grant Denyer.
Russell led the opening 22 laps race before electing to undertake the first of two mandatory pitstops.
The outfit was forced to fight their way back through the field after Lago was issued with a drive-through penalty midway through the race for contact with Max Twigg.
However, a succession of Safety Cars aided the squad’s rise through the field with Russell behind the wheel for the final stint.
Russell found himself in third in the closing stages albeit 20 seconds adrift of the race leading Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 458 of Peter Edwards and Graham Smythe.
The Ferrari emerged in the lead after capitalising on Safety Cars and a shorter compulsory pitstop time.
However, the race’s fifth Safety Car, caused by the stricken Richard Moore/Tony Longhurst Aston Martin, saw Smythe’s advantage evaporate.
Russell quickly passed Morcom before setting his sights on Smythe.
The Kiwi Ferrari driver ran wide on lap 98 handing the Queenslander the lead, which he held to the chequered flag.
“I’m just so happy,” said Russell.
“We are such a small team and the boys have worked extremely hard, I’m more happy for them than for us.
“This is a big win for us and Roger did an awesome job. We got lucky with the Safety Cars but those are the breaks.”
The drama continued until the final lap when Morcom and Smythe made contact while fighting over second at the Porsche dipper, which forced the latter into a spin.
The incident was investigated by the stewards.
Martin managed to take advantage to slot into second, while Morcom finished third in the McLaren 650S, which enjoyed a spell in the lead courtesy of a long first stint.
“I got inside of him (Smythe) and it looks like he chopped right in front of me but we will see what happens,” said Morcom of the incident.
A strong final stint from Garth Tander saw the #2 Jamec Pem Racing Audi, he shared with Daniel Bilski, finish fourth ahead of another impressive run from the Liam Talbot/Jake Fouracre Audi R8.
Christopher Mies and Tony Bates finished sixth while Smythe and Edwards were classified among the retirements.
Eggleston Motorsport had emerged as a contender for victory having led at the halfway stage thanks to strong stints from Dominic Storey and Peter Hackett in the Mercedes AMG GT3.
However, a pitstop mix up saw the team forced to pit again to complete their allotted compulsory pitstop time, which dropped them to seventh.
Klark Quinn and drift star Mike Whiddett, in the #37 McLaren 650S, produced a solid display to claim eighth ahead of the #3 Tony D’Alberto/Ash Samadi Audi R8 GT3.
The top 10 was completed by the Greg Murphy/Tony Quinn Aston Martin after being hit into a spin on lap 67.
Quinn was tagged at Turn 1 by Andrew Miedecke, who was hit by an out of control Bates after suffering a tyre failure. The clash brought out the Safety Car for a fourth time.
The incident ended a promising run for the George and Andrew Miedecke Aston Martin that started from second on the grid.
The other notable retirement was the factory Nissan GT-R of Michael Caruso and GT Academy winner Matt Simmons.
The car held second in the first stint before briefly inheriting the lead with Simmons at the wheel.
However, he made contact with the lapped John de Veth/Nick Chester Reiter Camaro causing damage that ruled the car out of the race before the halfway mark.
“It was unfortunate. I came across a McLaren who passed the Camaro and I went to go through and the Camaro has just come across the nose and we made contact,” said Simmons.
“I can take a lot of positives from the weekend. I have had a blast.”
The race was neutralised on lap 23 when Adrian Deitz was punted by Tim Miles.
It was halted again on lap 37 when Theo Koundouris was spun by Samadi and for a third time to retrieve Twigg’s BMW M6 from the Turn 5 gravel trap.
The Australian Endurance Championship heads to Highlands Park for the final round from November 11-13.
RESULT: Australian GT Endurance Championship Hampton Downs 101