After a tough opening day on his Australia GT debut at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, US-based Kenny Habul bounced back in fine form to claim a lights to flag victory in race two after getting the jump on pole-sitter Fraser Ross off the start on the run to turn one.
From there Habul held his ground despite mounting pressure from the McLaren driver to claim his maiden GT win in Australia from Ross and fellow Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver Max Twigg.
Ryan How again stunned the established stars in the Trophy Series to claim his second win of the event, whilst Shane Barwood grabbed the win in Trofeo Challenge and Ryan Simpson his maiden victory in GT4 in the 59Racing McLaren 570S GT4.
It was Habul who got the best of the start to lead Ross down to the braking point for turn one, the SunEnergy1 AMG driver able to close the door as they turned into the apex of the corner.
Behind them Tony Bates got a blinding start to split the two parallel lines of cars as he crossed the line, officials deeming afterwards that he’d been perhaps a bit too eager, penalising the Victorian five seconds on his overall race time.
Behind Habul and Ross, race one top point-scorer Max Twigg grabbed third from Peter Hackett and Geoff Emery who was already under fire from Audi team-mate Ryan How.
A great battle then ensued between Bates, Tony Quinn and Lee Partridge, the latter keen to make amends for his tough opening race start which saw him drop back to 19th after contact into turn one. The trio raced hard but gave each other plenty of racing room, before Partridge was able to break clear of both to be fastest car on track across the closing laps to drop into seventh place by race finish having put on a brilliant driving display in the process.
Sadly for Tony Quinn an off at turn one on lap nine saw the ‘Local Legends’ Aston Martin spin on the exit, the car running back into the path of the unfortunate Nick Kelly who himself was forced into a spin, the resultant damage to Quinn’s car breaking a control arm in the left front suspension forcing his retirement, Kelly though only suffering superficial damage allowing him to continue circulating.
Up front Habul was able to hold Ross at bay, the McLaren driver unable to get close enough to make an attack although the gap was rarely more than a second and a half across the entire 11-lap journey, neither driver giving an inch.
Max Twigg held on for third, whilst Peter Hackett suffered from an unusual affliction across the closing laps.. visibility! The #63 Eggleston Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 had picked up some debris off the circuit which had damaged an oil cooler, creating a mist of oil that covered the front of Hackett’s car and ultimately his windscreen. He retained partial visibility, but had to drop his pace which was enough to open the door for both Geoff Emery and Ryan How to forge their way past on the final lap.
Tony Bates crossed the line behind Audi team-mate Lee Partridge, lamenting an issue with the car which although improved significantly over race one, still had the local driver further down the order than he’d been hoping, and well off the pace he’d shown at Adelaide two weeks earlier in the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup season-opener.
Geoff Emery’s consistency gave the two-time champion more valuable championship points, the reigning title holder finding more than a second over his opening race pace to card points for third, placing him second to Twigg for the event at the midpoint of the round.
John Morriss crossed the line second in the Trophy Series classification, well clear of Scott Taylor who was comfortably third after Nick Kelly’s tag, the Audi driver recovering for fourth in class ahead of Dale Paterson’s thundering Camaro.
Shane Barwood held on for 13th and victory in the Trofeo Challenge category ahead of Nick Karnaros and David Greig, whilst Ryan Simpson made good on the pace he’d shown in race one to claim his maiden victory in GT4 with 15th outright.
Jim Manolios just missed a return to the Trofeo Challenge podium having found even more time in the new Huracan Super Trofeo EVO, whilst Mark Griffith backed up his race one GT4 podium with second ahead of M-Motorsport’s Justin McMillan and Victor Zagame.
Sadly for Chris Seidler, he was unable to make a start in the #22 Porsche 991 Cup Car, the team forced to retire the car after damage sustained in the opening race with Luke Seidler’s contact with the barriers at the exit of turn nine, whilst Richard Gartner had an off at turn 12 spinning hard into the inside wall in the #69 Lamborghini whilst holding down 13th outright, the team working hard to have the bright yellow Gallardo repaired ahead of race three.
Unfortunately for last year’s GT4 runners-up, David Crampton was forced to retire the #50 KTM with an ongoing electrical issue similar to that which had plagued co-driver Trent Harrison during qualifying, Crampton left with no other option but to pit after just six laps.
With the event now half-way through the four scheduled races, Max Twigg holds the outright points lead over Geoff Emery and Peter Hackett, but with two races to go and valuable championship points still on the line, you can be sure their rivals will throw everything at it overnight in an effort to change the dynamic come Saturday morning.
What the drivers had to say;
1. Kenny Habul (SunEnergy1, Mercedes-AMG GT3)
“We had good pace [yesterday] and I was just learning from Max [Twigg] , he was weak in a few spots and I thought I’d just wait till the last lap or the second last lap and I’ll have a go, but I didn’t expect to get smashed from behind. Today I just focussed and drove well, 55s in the race, so I was happy. I really focussed on those lights and getting a good start, I really worked hard on warming up the rears so I didn’t have any wheelspin. This place is tricky, it’s really easy to out-brake yourself – it’s so simple just to lock a brake and run wide. To me this place is more mentally challenging than physically so I had to focus on that and not make a mistake.”
8. Max Twigg (WM Waste, Mercedes-AMG GT3)
“I enjoyed it, I had a good start and covered Hackett which was good. I probably didn’t drive as well as I did yesterday, I was a bit eager on a few corners, but I was there for the best part of it, but I think I can do better tomorrow. It was about banking points today because tomorrow I’m off the front row, so that’s my plan – playing safe today.”
Rnd#1, 2019 CAMS Australian GT Championship
Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne (14-17 March)
1. 75. Kenny Habul – SunEnergy1 Racing, Mercedes-AMG GT3 (CHAMP) – 11-laps
2. 59. Fraser Ross – 59Racing/hsy/Opti-Coat, McLaren 720S GT3 (IVT) +0.9727
3. 8. Max Twigg – WM Waste, Mercedes-AMG GT3 (CHAMP) +11.7856
4. 1. Geoff Emery – Valvoline, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (CHAMP) +17.4109
5. 125. Ryan How – BTE Bulk Transport/REN Racing, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (TROPHY) +18.2626
6. 63. Peter Hackett – Eggleston Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG GT3 (CHAMP) +23.9907
7. 28. Lee Partridge – Aussie Driver Search, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (CHAMP) +28.6167
8. 24. Tony Bates – KFC/Ctech Laser/Moveitnet/B&B, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (CHAMP) +37.1537
9. 34. John Morriss – Motorsport Leasing, Porsche Type 997 GT3 R (TROPHY) +49.3210
10. 222. Scott Taylor – Scott Taylor Motorsport, Porsche Type 997 GT3 R (TROPHY) +1:07.1268
11. 99. Nick Kelly – Industrie, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (TROPHY) +1:08.5138
12. 71. Dale Paterson – DPM Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro GT3 (TROPHY) +1:20.2789
13. 21. Shane Barwood – Melbourne Orthopaedic, Porsche 991 GT3 Cup (TROFEO) +1:44.0474
14. 25. Nick Karnaros – Earth Electrical Contractors, Porsche 991 GT3 Cup (TROFEO) +1:46.5448
15. 74. Ryan Simpson – 59Racing, McLaren 570S GT4 (GT4)
16. 87. David Greig – Daikin Air Conditioning, Porsche 991 GT3 Cup (TROFEO) – 10-laps
17. 29. Jim Manolios – Haemokinesis Huracan Super Trofeo EVO (TROFEO)
18. 55. Mark Griffith – Griffith Corporation, Ginetta G55 GT4 (GT4)
19. 48. Justin McMillan – M-Motorsport, KTM X-Bow GT4 (GT4)
20. 16. Victor Zagame – MPD Steak Kitchen, Audi R8 LMS GT4 (GT4)
DNF. 64. Joseph Ensabella – Aaron Laboratories, Type 997 GT3 Cup Car (TROPHY) – 10-laps
DNF. 69. Richard Gartner – Safe-T-Stop, Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX (TROPHY) – 9-laps
DNF. 7. Tony Quinn – Local Legends Snacks, Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (CHAMP) – 8-laps
DNF. 50. David Crampton – Vantage Freight, KTM X-Bow GT4 (GT4) – 6-laps
DNS. 22. Chris Seidler – Seidler Group, Porsche Type 991 GT3 Cup (TROFEO) – 0-laps