Finally, after much anticipation, we were heading to the first race weekend at the new "Tailem Bend" motorsport park in South Australia for the first Shannon's round of the year featuring the Australian GT Endurance championship and the opening round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge.
In AGT we were welcoming back our 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup driver Duvashen Padayachee who was joining Fraser Ross and MR "Super Coach" Luffy who was driving with Tony Walls in the Objective McLaren.
In GT3 Cup Challenge we are welcoming the 2017 Toyota 86 champion Jimmy Vernon who is our Pro in this year's championship. In the Pro-Am category we are rapt to welcome back championship contender Brett Boulton and former MR GT3CC and AGT driver Michael Hovey.
After combining the best time from each driver, the boys qualified 7th in the 19 car field.
Fraser started and had a typically solid first couple of laps then settled into a rhythm in his first stint, before pitting for fuel and tyres around the 20 lap mark.
He pitted again on lap 42 for a load of fuel and tyres to hand over to Duvashen. Like Fraser, Duvashen did a cracking job in both of his stints. He ran the car till lap 58 before stopping for tyres and a small fuel load to make it through to the end of the race.
It was great to see Luffy suit up again to support Tony in 'Bruce' the Objective McLaren. Their combined qualifying times gave them a starting position of 10th.
Wallsy started and ran through to lap 15 before pitting for fuel and tyres. Wallsy executed his plan perfectly by being consistently quick and staying out of trouble. He pitted again on lap 46 for another set of tyres and tank of fuel and handed over to Luffy.
Our resident works driver Warren Luff was able to lap quicker than SVG in a similar 650S McLaren to bring home a solid 7th place finish.
Qualifying was essentially a one-lap dash on a wet track and as a result, Jimmy qualified a disappointed 8th.
Race 1 was the first round of the Jim Richards Enduro championship. Jimmy had a great first few laps eventually picking his way through to third. He had an off trying to pass another competitor for second and dropped back to 6th. He then recovered to have a great dice with fellow young gun Vidau, before making another small mistake dropping to sixth behind Angelo. He closed the gap but was unable to get by on the final lap.
Jimmy started race 2 from grid 6, had a good start settling into 5th place. He was putting pressure on the 4th place car when the safety car was called for an incident and it stayed on track for the remainder of the race to produce an anti-climactic finish.
In race 3 he started 5th and made two great passes to finish a well-deserved 3rd.
Brett had a ripper lap in the rain and qualified an amazing 4th outright and first in Pro-Am. He was having a great race until being hit from behind and turned around by an ambitious youngster. This led to some frustration and he ended up making contact with another driver in an attempt to make up for lost time. Although he finished 4th in Pro-Am he was issued a time penalty after the race and was classified 5th.
Brett started race 2 from grid 11 and made his way through the traffic up to 2nd place in Pro-Am. He made a great pass on Loccisano who unfortunately lost control exiting the corner triggering an accident which brought out the safety car which stayed on track until the race finish.
In race 3 Brett started 17th and drove like a demon slicing his way through to 3rd in Pro-Am. If not for a couple of penalties he would comfortably be in the top 2 of the Pro-Am championship.
After a few years away from the race track, this was Hoves first race weekend for quite a few sleeps. He qualified an impressive 10th outright and 3rd in Pro-Am.
Hoves started race 1 from 10th and despite a sneaky spin on the first lap, he had a great race, including some sociable dicing with teammate Brett Boulton, finishing a mighty 3rd in Pro-Am.
He started race 2 from grid 9. Hoves had a good start but was too conservative at turn one and dropped a few spots. He recovered well and finished 4th in class.
In the final race of the weekend, Hoves started from 13th and was a bit too polite on the opening laps dropping a couple of places but put his head down and passed 4 cars to finish an awesome 5th in Pro-Am in a field with 12 Pro-Am drivers.
Although none of our drivers made it to the podium at Tailem Bend, we are still very proud of the effort put in by our crew – and of course our drivers.
In the Australian GT championship we are unfortunately paying the price for the change in ownership and general politics within McLaren GT in the UK, who have not been focused on development of the 650S over the last couple of years while our competitors, namely the Mercedes and Audis have been refined by the manufacturers every new season and it shows!
In the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge,, all of our drivers had top 3 finishes in either Pro or Pro-Am which is quite an achievement in itself. Sadly we didn't quite get enough top 3's to get one of them onto the podium, but that is just a matter of time.
Jimmy has settled into the team extremely well and will definitely be a championship contender, Brett has carried huge speed across from 2017 and is also a championship contender in the Pro-Am category, just as soon as the young fellas stop hitting him from behind! Hoves has exceeded our expectations on his return to the cockpit and should also be hanging on to a big trophy at the end the season.
Now it's a quick trip back to the workshop to unload from Tailem Bend and load-up the Carrera Cup cars for Phillip Island next weekend. No rest for the wicked...