Denyer/Morcom win inaugural AEC title
Grant Denyer and Nathan Morcom held on to win the inaugural Australian Endurance Championship title in a Highlands 101 dominated by the Craig Baird/Michael Almond Mercedes.
Denyer and Morcom’s title hopes were hanging in the balance when their #59 Tekno Autosport McLaren encountered overheating issues from the start of the race, which restricted its pace throughout.
The car slowed significantly for the final laps prompting Morcom to make a pitstop with five laps remaining to ensure he made it home in eighth to claim the title.
While all eyes were fixed on the drama surrounding the struggling #59 McLaren, Baird and Almond produced a highly impressive drive to victory in the Scott Taylor Motorsport Erebus prepared Mercedes.
The Aston Martin of Greg Murphy and Tony Quinn followed Baird home to the chequered flag ahead of the Miedecke Stone Motorsport Aston Martin of George and Andrew Miedecke.
Baird quickly built up a 30 second lead after a strong start from pole position, before he handed over to Almond at the first stop on lap 20.
A brisk stint from Almond saw the Mercedes return to the head of the field aided by two Safety Car periods.
The first was caused by the #73 Michael Hovey/Jaxon Evans Lamborghini while the second was caused by the #60 Tekno McLaren, which stopped on track with Matt Kingsley at the wheel.
Almond handed the car back to Baird in the lead after the second stop where it remained until the chequered flag.
A late Safety Car deployed to retrieve the stricken Shae Davies/Mark Griffith Mercedes threatened to derail their bid.
However, Baird managed to gap Murphy in the final 20 laps to claim the victory.
Supercars star Garth Tander managed to bring the #2 Jamec Pem Audi R8 he shared with Steve McLaughlan home in fourth.
Drama befell the sister entry of Chris Mies and Tony Bates which retired after 33 laps when the latter made contact with the wall, damaging the left rear of the R8.
Eggleston Motorsport appeared in contention for the podium places as Peter Hackett emerged in the lead for a period as the Mercedes squad worked a different strategy.
In the end, co-driver Dominic Storey surged from 12th to fifth in his final stint after the second pitstop.
The Glen Wood/Justin McMillan Lamborghini finished sixth after solid run that saw it home as the last car on the lead lap.
Marenello Motorsport’s Adrian Deitz/Cameron McConville Ferrari 458 was seventh ahead of the championship winning #59 McLaren in eighth.
The top 10 was completed by the Trass Family Ferrari of Sam Fillmore and Danny Stutterd and the Andrew MacPherson/Brad Shiels AMAC Motorsport Porsche.
Only 15 cars were classified as finishers following late retirements for the Supabarn Supermarkets Audi and the Clark Procter/Andrew Porter privateer Nissan GT-R GT3.
Newly crowned Australian GT champion Klark Quinn and co-driver Mike Whiddett retired after completing 36 laps when their McLaren suffered overheating issues.
Result: Australian Endurance Championship Highlands 101