Liam Talbot has won for the third time this year in an Australian GT race marred by a big opening lap crash for Tony Bates on the streets of Townsville.
As the field ran through the Turn 1 sweeper for the first time, Steven Richards ran middle of the road before opening the steering lock in the mid-corner, seemingly in response to Tony Walls moving over on Richards’ inside.
However, Richards had Bates overlapping on driver’s left, with the pair banging together and knocking the latter’s #24 Eggleston Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT hard into the outside wall.
Bates then rebounded across the track and made front-on contact with the inside wall before finally coming to rest.
The Round 1 winner was conveyed to the medical centre as a quarter of an hour passed under Safety Car.
The incident severely disadvantaged the leading #74 Jamec Pem Audi R8 and second-placed #44 Supabarn Audi R8, with their respective pro drivers Kelvin van der Linde and Ash Walsh having started the race.
Meanwhile, Max Twigg lost a lap when he had to pit and fix damage to the #8 WM Waste Management Mercedes AMG GT under Safety Car due to a hit in the rear from Roger Lago (#23 JBS Lamborghini R-EX).
The Safety Car only peeled off just as the compulsory pit stop window opened, triggering stops immediately for Lago, Ash Samadi (#3 ASR Audi R8), and Marc Cini (#9 Hallmarc Audi R8).
Needing to maximise their driving time, van der Linde and Walsh waited until the end of the fourth lap after the restart to swap drivers.
After the compulsory pit stops, Scott Taylor (#222 STM Mercedes AMG GT) led Samadi, Cini, Walls (#11 McElrea McLaren 650S), and Talbot (#911 Walkinshaw Porsche 911 GT3-R).
Samadi soon took over the race lead in time for another Safety Car period, when Andrew Macpherson (#51 AMAC Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3-R) spun and hit the wall on his own fluid after shunting Twigg.
The race restarted for a second time with just over five of 40 minutes remaining, Taylor making a huge lunge on Samadi at Turn 2 but not being able to pull up in time to hold the position.
He needn’t have worried, considering Samadi had just been issued a 5s penalty for breaking formation early at the start, a penalty which was already hanging over the head of Steven Richards as well.
Talbot inherited fourth position when Twigg pushed Walls off the road at Turn 7 on Lap 20.
He took third position two laps later when he, Twigg, and Cini went three-wide through Turn 11, Twigg elbowing Cini wide.
Lap 24 marked the final lap of the race, and Talbot made the pivotal move at the very last corner as he got underneath Taylor to take a second position on the road which turned into the win when Samadi’s penalty was added.
“That was so wild, I don’t even know where to start,” said Talbot of the race.
“We had a bit of contact from an overzealous driver which pushed us wide and almost into a wall so we had to avoid that and we lost two positions, so it pure survival but we had the pace.”
Glenn Wood (#48 M Motorsport Lamborghini R-EX) finished third, from van der Linde/Geoff Emery, Lago, Duvashen Padayachee/Walsh, Samadi, Cini, Walls, and Tony Quinn (#7 Darrell Lea McLaren 650S).
Richards/Bergmuller (#100 Laser Plumbing BMW M6) ended up 12th, their penalty not actually making a difference to the final outcome.
Talbot’s win extends his championship lead ahead of two more races tomorrow at 0930 local time/AEST and 1355.
Results: Race 1, Round 4, Townsville
|1||MEGA Racing||Liam Talbot (Qld)||Porsche 911 GT3-R||24||43:19.8490|
|2||Scott Taylor Motorsport||Scott Taylor (Qld)||Mercedes Benz AMG GT||24||43:20.0718|
|3||Interlloy M Motorsport||Glen Wood (Vic)||Lamborghini R-EX||24||43:20.6739|
|4||Valvoline||K.van der Linde/G.Emery||Audi R8 LMS||24||43:22.4867|
|5||JBS Australia||Roger Lago (Qld)||Lamborghini R-EX||24||43:22.8662|
|6||Supabarn Supermarkets||D.Padayachee/A.Walsh||Audi R8 LMS||24||43:23.4786|
|7||Ah Apartments/Team ASR||Ash Samadi (Vic)||Audi R8 LMS||24||43:24.1637|
|8||Hallmarc Constructions||Marc Cini (Vic)||Audi R8 LMS||24||43:27.8455|
|9||Objective Racing||Tony Walls (NSW)||McLaren 650S GT3||24||43:29.0266|
|10||Darrell Lea/Keltic Racing||Tony Quinn (Qld)||McLaren 650S GT3||24||43:30.1036|
|11||YNA Autosport/McElrea Racing||Fraser Ross (Vic)||McLaren 650S GT3||24||43:30.5843|
|12||BMW Team SRM||S.Richards/J.Bergmuller||BMW M6 GT3||24||43:36.8019|
|13||WM Waste Management Services||Max Twigg (Vic)||Mercedes Benz AMG GT||23||43:21.6739|
|DNF||AMAC Motorsport/IMAK/Kwikmit||A.Macpherson/B.Shiels||Porsche 997 GT3-R||14||28:07.7023|
|DNF||Moveitnet / AFS||Tony Bates (Vic)||Mercedes Benz AMG GT|