Daniel Gaunt and Tony Bates have combined to win a Phillip Island 101 which saw two race suspensions and a leader crashing while around a lap up on the field.
Walkinshaw GT3 had an iron grip on Round 2 of the Australian Endurance Championship as the encounter moved into the final half-hour before an off for John Martin caused terminal race-ending damage for the #911 Porsche 911 GT3 R.
It looked like a similar, one-lap margin had fallen to Peter Hackett and Jake Fouracre in the #63 Mercedes-AMG GT3 but Eggleston Motorsport owner Ben Eggleston admitted that they had to serve another compulsory pit stop.
That handed Gaunt, in Bates’ #24 KFC Audi R8 LMS, a two-second lead over Steven Richards and he gradually pulled away in the eight laps which were notched up before time-certainty took effect.
Walkinshaw GT3’s Martin and Liam Talbot had dominated the race right from the start, the former driving away to an advantage of over 36 seconds when he pitted at the end of Lap 17.
Misfortune for nearest rivals Shane van Gisbergen/Duvashen Padayachee in the #58 YNA Autosport McLaren 650S gave the #911 Porsche a 40-second lead by the time Talbot finished his first stint on Lap 44.
Their day got even better when Rio Nugara drew the first Safety Car on Lap 46, and soon a race suspension, having made heavy contact with the embankment off Lukey Heights in Mark Griffith’s #55 Hog’s Breath Ginetta G55.
Car #911 sat eighth and a lap off the pace at the time, but the rest of the field was precluded from taking second compulsory pit stops due to the Safety Car.
After a stoppage of more than half an hour to fix the tyre wall, the race lasted only another three laps until Vince Tesoriero lost control of the #48 M-Motorsport KTM X-Bow at Doohan Corner and slid into a tyre wall.
Seconds later, fellow GT4 competitor Jeremy Gray slid off in the #67 JMG Aston Martin Vantage and clattered into the X-Bow.
That drew a second stoppage to repair the barrier on the outside of Southern Loop, which took nearly 45 minutes, followed by a restart on Lap 58.
By then, it was obvious that the race would not make its scheduled 101-lap distance.
The first restart prompted most into pit lane for their respective second compulsory pit stops, and a similar pattern played out in the laps following the second restart.
Talbot had regained the lead at the end of Lap 58 and handed over to Martin for the run home two laps later.
Car #911 was effectively around a lap clear of the rest, subject to how other final pit stops would play out, but disaster struck two laps later when Martin slid off at Doohan Corner, ripping bodywork from the Porsche and damaging its radiator.
Martin pulled off the circuit at the Turn 4 run-off and a Safety Car was called shortly after for his debris.
At that time, Fouracre led by a lap from Gaunt, Richards, Tony D’Alberto, Jonny Reid, Jaxon Evans, Luke Youlden, Craig Baird, Warren Luff, Garth Tander, and Cameron McConville, while van Gisbergen followed a further three laps down.
However, Fouracre still had another CPS and a drive-through penalty for a restart infringement to come, and Car #24 took over the lead after 70 laps.
Gaunt stretched the lead and eventually took the chequered flag 4.16s clear of Richards after 78 remarkable laps.
Richards’ #100 Team SRM BMW M6 had started second in the hands of Michael Almond and despite dropping some ground in the first CPS cycle they remained thereabouts all afternoon.
AEC Round 1 winners D’Alberto and Max Twigg rounded out the podium in the #8 WM Waste Management Mercedes-AMG GT3, ahead of Reid and Andrew Fawcett in the #10 International Motorsport Audi R8 LMS.
A typically strong-finishing Tander hauled the #1 Jamec Pem Audi R8 LMS which he shared with Geoff Emery to fifth by the chequered flag.
The result was something of a surprise given they had been trapped on the circuit before taking pit stops by each of the first two stoppages.
Emery’s stop to hand over to Tander did not, in fact, count towards their three required stops as he had to do so under Safety Car in order to prevent a breach of maximum driving time.
Evans, whose co-driver Fraser Ross ran as high as second on merit in the middle stint, brought the #59 Total McLaren 650S home in sixth, from Baird/Scott Taylor (#222 Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3).
The #6 Wall Racing Lamborghini Huracan of McConville and Adrian Deitz was spinning off the road on the first lap, at which time its rear end was swiped by Quinn, but they finished eighth.
Luke Youlden had a wild rotation at Doohan Corner on Lap 3 and Yasser Shahin brought the #777 The Bend Mercedes-AMG GT3 in for an unscheduled pit stop due to a suspected tyre vibration while running a genuine third, before the former took the chequered flag in ninth.
Warren Luff and Tony Walls rounded out the top 10 in the #11 Objective McLaren 650S, while last on the lead lap in 11th were Fouracre/Hackett.
Shane van Gisbergen and Duvashen Padayachee finished three laps down in 12th after a bizarre problem on Lap 34.
Padayachee had started last due to an oil drive problem which sidelined the #58 YNA Autosport McLaren 650S from qualifying but drove into the top 10 on merit before emerging second after the first CPS cycle.
However, he and Ash Samadi made side-to-side contact at MG as he attempted to lap the #3 ASR Audi R8 LMS.
The impact physically broke the McLaren’s steering wheel and damaged a toe link on the Audi.
Van Gisbergen hopped into the car two laps down before soon dropping another after McElrea Racing, which prepares the car, borrowed the steering wheel from Quinn’s already retired McLaren.
The sole MARC Car of Adam Hargraves/Daniel Jilesen finished 13th outright with 75 laps amassed, while GT4 honours went to the Strom BMW GT4 entry of Daren Jorgensen/Brett Strom (14th outright).
The Australian GT Championship continues in sprint mode at the Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint on August 3-4, while the AEC will be decided at Hampton Downs on October 13-14.
Update: Car #777 issued post-race penalty for yellow flag infringement.
Race results: Phillip Island 101
|Audi R8 LMS||CH||78||3:27:31.7308|
|2||100||BMW Team SRM||S.Richards
|BMW M6 GT3||CH||78||3:27:35.8932|
|3||8||WM Waste Management||M.Twigg
|4||10||Bute Line Plumbing||A.Fawcett
|Audi R8 LMS||CH||78||3:27:38.3123|
|Audi R8 LMS||CH||78||3:27:38.4694|
|6||59||Total Oil / Opti-Coat||F.Ross
|McLaren 650S GT3||CH||78||3:27:39.9166|
|7||222||Scott Taylor Motorsport||S.Taylor
|McLaren 650S GT3||CH||78||3:27:49.1817|
|10||777||The Bend Motor Sport Park||Y.Shahin
|McLaren 650S GT3||CH||75||3:27:49.3205|
|13||20||LOCAL Search by MARC Cars||A.Hargraves
|MARC Mazda 3 V8||M||75||3:28:47.0328|
|14||13||RHC Jorgensen – Strom by MARC||D.Jorgensen
|BMW M4 GT4||GT4||73||3:27:45.7060|
|15||50||Vantage Freight / M Motorsport||D.Crampton
|Reiter KTM X-Bow||GT4||73||3:27:45.9640|
|Audi R8 LMS||CH||73||3:27:55.8880|
|Porsche 911 GT3-R||CH||61||2:57:21.6997|
|DNF||48||Forum Group / M Motorsport||V.Tesoriero
|Reiter KTM X-Bow||GT4||48||1:51:33.6883|
|DNF||67||JMG / Bilstein||J.Gray
|Aston Martin Vantage||GT4||47||1:51:39.6443|
|DNF||55||Hogs Breath Café / Griffith Co||Rio Nugara||Ginetta G55 GT4||GT4||39||1:10:08.5010|
|DNF||7||Game Over||Tony Quinn||Mclaren 650S GT3||CH||7||25:59.9956|
Standings: Australian GT Championship
|23||Shane van Gisbergen||249|
Standings: Australian Endurance Championship
|14||Shane van Gisbergen||249|
Standings: Australian GT4