Competitive GT challenge expected in Sydney

GT RACING will feature heavily at this weekend’s Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Red Rooster Sydney Super Sprint event, with the second round of the CAMS Australian Endurance Championship to be contested on Saturday morning at Sydney Motorsport Park. 

Round 2 of the 2017 season is scheduled for 129 laps of the 3.93km Sydney Motorsport Park circuit, a record-breaking distance of just over 501km.

With Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour entries now open, the event is the first in a series of key 2017 domestic GT enduros that lead towards the 2018 calendar opener at Mount Panorama.

An Australian GT sprint round at Sandown and major events in New Zealand, at Hampton Downs and Highlands Motorsport Park respectively, will be the last major events on the domestic calendar this year before teams prepare for next February’s challenge at Mount Panorama.

Valvoline Jamec Pem racers Tim Miles and Jaxon Evans won the opening round of the championship at Phillip Island in May and return looking for a repeat of their race-winning performance that weekend.

However, the Sydney Motorsport Park layout looks likely to level the playing field, with sections of the circuit suited to every car on the grid.

The long front straight and sweeping turn one will play to the strengths of the Lamborghini R-EX of Roger Lago and David Russell (JBS Australia), while Peter Edwards and Greame Smyth will also be strong in the Maranello Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3.

BMW Team SRM M6 raced by Steve Richards and James Bergmuller and Fraser Ross and Warren Luff in the Total Opticoat backed McLaren 650S GT3 should not be under-estimated while Tony Quinn and A1GP race winner Jonny Reid (Darrell Lea), making his Australian GT debut, will also be aboard a McLaren.

The fleet of Mercedes-AMG GT3s is spearheaded by Peter Hackett and Dominic Storey in the Autex backed Eggleston Motorsport entry.

Strong at Sydney Motorsport Park in 2016, and an extremely competitive opening round at Phillip Island, mark them out as serious contenders heading into the weekend.

Max Twigg and Tony D’Alberto (WM Waste Management) rolled the dice on strategy at the Island, and while it didn’t pay dividends that weekend a test last week confirmed their strong potential in Sydney.

In the sister car are Scott Taylor and Craig Baird (Scott Taylor Motorsport) who return to the wheel of the Mercedes after piloting a Porsche in the opening round.

Clever strategy saw Mark Griffith force the tempo of the racing at Phillip Island, the Hogs Breath Cafe/Griffith Corporation entry racing to a stunning fifth place last time out. Griffith has recruited reigning Blancpain GT Series champion Dominik Baumann for this weekend’s Sydney Motorsport Park event.

Together with Maxi Buhk, Baumann won the 2016 Blancpain GT Series, and currently races for Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport. The Austrian is also a two-time FIA GT3 European Championship winner and is one of the world’s foremost GT racers.

In Audi’s camp, last year’s Australian Endurance Championship winner Grant Denyer makes his racing return after an eight-month sabbatical alongside Greg Taylor in the GT Motorsport entry, while Geoff Emery and Audi factory ace Kelvin van der Linde will also be Audi R8 mounted in the second JAMEC-Pem racing entry.

The impressive Daniel Gaunt welcomes a new co-driver into the Kentucky Fried Chicken Audi R8 LMS, with Porsche Carrera Cup Australia young-gun Dylan O’Keeffe ready for his debut in the Australian Endurance Championship.

A year on from the Lamborghini Huracan’s Australian debut, the field boasts three of the Italian marque’s latest creations.

With 12 months’ worth of experience, Jim Manolios and Ryan Millier return to the circuit where the Trofeo Motorsport crew unveiled the Huracan for the first time looking to put that knowledge to good use. Zagame Autosport will also represent the raging bull with Adrian Deitz and Cam McConville steering the #6 entry.

The final Lamborghini on the grid is that of Andrew Macpherson and Brad Shiels, in the red and silver AMAC Motorsport car.

A solitary Porsche completes the field with Australian GT Championship leader Liam Talbot joined in the Mega Racing outfit by John Martin.

Action gets underway on Friday with practice and two qualifying sessions, the average time across both sessions setting the grid for Saturday’s race.

Get tickets for the Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint event here.

– With Australian GT Media.