Reigning Intercontinental GT Challenge Bronze Drivers’ Champion Kenny Habul continued his winning streak at the Australian Grand Prix after a 20-year hiatus since his first laps of the circuit in an open-wheeler, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver storming from pole position to lead home Scott Taylor Motorsport team-mate Max Twigg and race three winner Peter Hackett to claim a second AMG 1-2-3 for the event.
For fellow front-row starter and race one winner Fraser Ross, the McLaren driver suffered a brake system failure on the grid, the car unable to move after stopping inside his P2 grid box ahead of the start, a technical issue forcing the front brakes to lock solid, the field then forced to circulate behind the Safety Car as the 720S was recovered from the main straight.
Behind the three AMG’s a horde of Audis battled, with local teenager Ryan How ultimately claiming his fourth consecutive Trophy Series victory, whilst Shane Barwood claimed his second Trofeo Challenge win of the event to close in on points leader Nick Karnaros, and in GT4, Ryan Simpson sealed his GT-debut with a second win to take the points lead in the McLaren 570S GT4.
With Ross stranded on the grid for the start of the race, the field circulated behind the Safety Car as the recovery crews picked the 720S up on a tilt tray to return it to pit lane. Once let loose though the battle at the front very quickly became a fight between the three Mercedes-AMG drivers, with Habul leading Twigg and very quickly Peter Hackett who had started sixth as a result of his race two oil drama, the race three winner through on Geoff Emery and Ryan How.
Behind the leaders Scott Taylor and John Morriss picked up on their race three battle, whilst from the rear of field after his race three retirement, Nick Kelly was quickly through the field to be inside the top ten by lap four, but well down on Trophy Series sensation Ryan How.
How had the only glitch of his impressive weekend to drop a position to Tony Bates on lap three, the #125 generation one Audi caught between gears, How forced to slow and address the situation, allowing the duelling Porsches of Taylor and Morriss to close in.
Lee Partridge was also storming through the field as a result of his race three retirement, the ‘Aussie Driver Search’ Audi inside the top ten by lap three and monstering Dale Paterson in the Camaro GT3. Paterson was lamenting a lack of grip having been forced to use well worn rubber for the final race.
Further back Shane Barwood and Nick Karnaros were having a terrific fight for the lead of Trofeo Challenge, whilst in GT4 Ryan Simpson was able to comfortably hold his rivals at bay on the way to a second win and a good haul of championship points.
Up front Kenny Habul was putting in an impressive display, the US-based Australian ultimately crossing the line almost eight seconds clear of Twigg who was able to hold Hackett at bay across the closing laps.
Geoff Emery held on for fourth, the reigning champion lamenting a lack of drive off the corners despite being able to stay within sight of the AMGs. Emery’s long-time rival Tony Bates was fifth in his best run of the weekend with Ryan How holding out Lee Partridge for sixth, despite the latter throwing everything at the 17-year old on the final lap.
Nick Kelly made it an Audi 4-5-6-7-8 with Tony Quinn recovering from his race three setback to be ninth at the flag ahead of the Porsches of John Morriss and Scott Taylor, and Dale Paterson in the Camaro.
Shane Barwood grabbed his second win in Trofeo Challenge to close down Nick Karnaros’ points lead, with David Greig third, the latter shadowing Karnaros across the closing laps.
Richard Gartner was next ahead of Trophy Series rival Joseph Ensabella with Ryan Simpson getting the better of the battle with Justin McMillan in GT4 to claim his second win of the round and extend his championship points lead on debut.
Jim Manolios took the gorgeous new Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo EVO to fourth in Trofeo Challenge and fourth in points, whilst Mark Griffith was able to use the V6 power of the Ginetta G55 to hold out Justin McMillan for second in GT4, McMillan third.
Victor Zagame claimed fourth in GT4, whilst David Crampton was all smiles after completing his first race at the Grand Prix after electrical issues in race two to claim fifth in Class.
For the Australian GT regulars who were treated to a record crowd across the four days of the Australian Grand Prix event, the focus now turns to Barbagallo Raceway in Western Australia for round two of the season with a pair of races under lights at the recently resurfaced facility that last hosted AGT in 2017.
That event, scheduled for competition on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (2-4 May) will see three 40-minute races all of which are scheduled for LIVE coverage on Fox Sports Australia (Foxtel Channel 506).
What the drivers had to say;
75. Kenny Habul (SunEnergy1, Mercedes-AMG GT3)
“I love this place, it’s fun, it’s a beautiful track – it’s always exciting for us to race with F1. Thanks to Scott Taylor Motorsport and thanks to AMG, I love this, I’m having so much fun. I drove well – there’s a little bit more in it, but I took it easy to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes or get a puncture – the track was a little bit dirty. I’m excited to come back for Surfers Paradise where I grew up, and I raced that track a lot when I was younger in Formula Ford and Formula 3 and I’m doing Sandown because it was the first ever track I raced on when I was a kid.”
8. Max Twigg (WM Waste, Mercedes-AMG GT3)
“Winning in Melbourne is everything, that’s what you race for. I like to think we had two race wins. We went all the way to the last lap against a McLaren that wasn’t homologated, then we were thwarted by a lapped car on the last lap whilst leading race three. I think we had speed, which was good and in the last lap I just had to finish well, stay out of trouble and that’s what we did. It probably wasn’t the most exciting race but it got the job done and I’ve got the champagne and the trophy to prove it!”
63. Peter Hackett (Eggleston Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG GT3)
“What a cross-section of a weekend where we started seventh after a bit of contact on the opening lap of qualifying to recover and have a really good race one, a great result for me which justified some of our decisions with the race car. Race two had the oil cooler issue which affected my vision, then yesterday we won the race which was fantastic so today was about consolidating. It was a shame we didn’t get to race with a rolling start because I think in the first couple of corners with the traffic we would have been strong, but third on the road today and second outright for the weekend is great considering where we were after one lap of qualifying and it bodes well for the championship.”
1. Geoff Emery (Valvoline, Audi R8 LMS GT3)
“The Mercedes was strong here, we’re strong at other tracks, you take the good with the bad – at the end of the day it’s the last round that counts. Every session is a test session for us at the moment with the new aero package, obviously they’re doing the new BoP testing this weekend, but till that makes any change to the car, we’re just working on the balance to make it work with the package we have. It’s a solid start to the championship and we’ve bagged some great points to be equal third with Habul and importantly we finished every race, that’s how you put a championship together.”
125. Ryan How (Bayswater/Hallam Truck Centre, Audi R8 LMS GT3) [TROPHY]
“To be honest we didn’t expect to get that result, we just came to experience a new track and wherever we finished we’d be happy. I didn’t think we’d have the pace we did, but we had really good straight line speed. It was interesting to see where the newer specification cars had an advantage over me, watching how they can turn in and get on the gas early whilst I have to wait for the car to turn and rotate, so that was a good experience as well.”
74. Ryan Simpson (59Racing McLaren 570S GT4) [GT4]
“I only raced here once before, ten years ago in a Formula Ford, so it was good to get back to Albert Park and drive a pretty cool car like the McLaren. The car is quick, but it’s a GT4 car racing against GT3 cars as well, so that was a bit interesting, but all in all, it was a lot of fun. It didn’t take me long to get my head around it and I think we extracted the best from the car.”
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) – 10-laps
2. 8. Max Twigg – WM Waste, Mercedes-AMG GT3 (CHAMP) +7.8676
3. 63. Peter Hackett – Eggleston Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG GT3 (CHAMP) +8.5700
4. 1. Geoff Emery – Valvoline, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (CHAMP) +16.1809
5. 24. Tony Bates – KFC/Ctech Laser/Moveitnet/B&B, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (CHAMP) +21.5346
6. 125. Ryan How – BTE Bulk Transport/REN Racing, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (TROPHY) +22.5867
7. 28. Lee Partridge – Aussie Driver Search, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (CHAMP) +22.8752
8. 99. Nick Kelly – Industrie, Audi R8 LMS GT3 (TROPHY) +42.8686
9. 7. Tony Quinn – Local Legends Snacks, Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (CHAMP) +49.4082
10. 34. John Morriss – Motorsport Leasing, Porsche Type 997 GT3 R (TROPHY) +50.7754
11. 222. Scott Taylor – Scott Taylor Motorsport, Porsche Type 997 GT3 R (TROPHY) +53.7748
12. 71. Dale Paterson – DPM Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro GT3 (TROPHY) +1:13.1600
13. 21. Shane Barwood – Melbourne Orthopaedic, Porsche 991 GT3 Cup (TROFEO) +1:39.3362
14. 25. Nick Karnaros – Earth Electrical Contractors, Porsche 991 GT3 Cup (TROFEO) +1:45.3471
15. 87. David Greig – Daikin Air Conditioning, Porsche 991 GT3 Cup (TROFEO) +1:46.7786
16. 69. Richard Gartner – Safe-T-Stop, Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX (TROPHY) +1:48.0442
17. 64. Joseph Ensabella – Aaron Laboratories, Type 997 GT3 Cup Car (TROPHY) +1:49.3923
18. 74. Ryan Simpson – 59Racing, McLaren 570S GT4 (GT4) +1:49.4414
19. 29. Jim Manolios – Haemokinesis Huracan Super Trofeo EVO (TROFEO) +1:57.2769
20. 55. Mark Griffith – Griffith Corporation, Ginetta G55 GT4 (GT4) – 9-laps
21. 48. Justin McMillan – M-Motorsport, KTM X-Bow GT4 (GT4)
22. 16. Victor Zagame – MPD Steak Kitchen, Audi R8 LMS GT4 (GT4)
23. 50. David Crampton – Vantage Freight, KTM X-Bow GT4 (GT4)
DNS. 59. Fraser Ross – 59Racing/hsy/Opti-Coat, McLaren 720S GT3 (IVT) – 0-laps
Championship points (after round one of seven)
1. Max Twigg (199-points), 2. Peter Hackett (178), 3. Kenny Habul (157), 4. Geoff Emery (157), 5. Tony Bates (133), 6. Lee Partridge (102), 7. Tony Quinn (95)
1. Ryan How (217-points), 2. John Morriss (183), 3. Nick Kelly (137), 4. Dale Paterson (135), 5. Scott Taylor (116), 6. Richard Gartner (107), 7. Joseph Ensabella (93)
1. Nick Karnaros (206-points), 2. Shane Barwood (187), 3. David Greig (167), 4. Jim Manolios (159), 5. Luke/Chris Seidler (17)
1. Ryan Simpson (206-points), 2. Justin McMillan/Glen Wood (196), 3. Mark Griffith (141), 4. Victor Zagame (141), 5. David Crampton/Trent Harrison (114)
Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit:
Location: Albert Park, Melbourne, Victoria
Circuit length: 5.303-kilometres
Corners: 16 (6-left hand, 10-right hand)
Circuit first opened: 1996
Australian GT [race] lap record: 1:54.7311 (Craig Baird (Mercedes-AMG), Race#1, 2018)
Australian GT [qualifying] lap record: 1:54.4975 (Kelvin van der Linde (Audi), Q1, 2017)
2019 CAMS Australian GT Championship
Rnd#1 – 14-17 March, Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne, Victoria [SPRINT]
Rnd#2 – 2-4 May, Barbagallo Raceway, Western Australia [SPRINT]
Rnd#3 – 7-9 June, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Victoria [ENDURANCE]
Rnd#4 – 12-14 July, The Bend Motorsport Park, South Australia [ENDURANCE]
Rnd#5 – 20-22 September, Sandown Raceway, Melbourne, Victoria [ENDURANCE]
Rnd#6 – 25-27 October, Gold Coast, Queensland [SPRINT]
Rnd#7 – 8-10 November, Sandown Raceway, Melbourne, Victoria [SPRINT]
Pirelli AGT SuperSprint – 28-29 November, Mount Panorama, Bathurst