SMP podium for Salmon and Antunes in race one

Rod Salmon came into the fourth round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli all fired up for his ‘home’ round, victory at Sydney Motorsport Park [SMP] three weeks ago during a state series round was still fresh, and with a new co-driver alongside for the round, the expectations were high.

“Signing on Nathan Antunes to drive alongside me created plenty of friction amongst my peers pre-event,” Salmon grinned. “There were a few people that weren’t happy, but it was well within the rules.”

The concern by some of the other teams in the series was the lack of driver seeding for Antunes, who despite having previous international open-wheel experience, wasn’t considered a ‘seeded’ driver for SMP as he was not a current championship ranked competitor, nor a professional driver, and therefore would not incur a driver parity penalty during the team’s compulsory pit stop [CPS], unlike Jack Le Brocq, John Bowe, Klark Quinn and Steven Richards.

Salmon’s choice came at the expense of long-time team favourite James Winslow who shared the Audi R8 with him at Phillip Island.

“James incurred a nine second penalty because of his ranking as a championship winning driver, so we’ve saved time, and have a driver that is just as capable at SMP,” Salmon explained.

The ploy paid off too, with Antunes quickly up to speed in practice, before missing pole position on debut - falling just five one hundredths of a second short of Phillip Island round winner Jack Le Brocq.

“There was more in the car but the team told me to conserve the tyres, so we came in early,” Antunes confirmed post-session.

Behind them, new Melbourne Performance Centre Audi  recruits Dean Koutsoumidis and Andrew McInnes qualified on the inside of the fourth row, with McInnes breaking into his target 1:30 zone.

“At the same state series event that Rod entered, Dean bought the Equity-One car up for a run, and actually won one of the three races,” McInnes confirmed, “so he’d had plenty of miles in the car around here, so it was my turn to qualify and I’m pretty happy with the result.”

Off the front row for the start of race one, Rod held his ground into turn one, but quickly fell into the clutches of Tony Quinn on the run through turn one and two. “I wasn’t giving up too easily,” Rod admitted afterwards, “so he banged guards with me to get a bit of room.”

From there he settled into a rhythm as the faster drivers worked their way to the front, the MPC/ Audi dropping back to fifth and under attack from McInnes.

“I could see Andrew coming, and wasn’t about to let him through, so I concentrated on punching out consistent laps, and was able to get clear ahead of the compulsory pit stop.”

After handing over to Antunes, the #6 Audi came alive as the relatively unknown SMP specialist set off after the pack. Rejoining in 12th place, Antunes inherited positions as teams in front of him conducted their compulsory stops, but he was also gaining on the leaders at an incredible rate to be sixth within six laps. From there he caught and passed Roger Lago, Tony Quinn and ultimately Peter Edwards on the final lap to claim a podium finish for the team.

“That was fantastic to watch,” Rod Salmon admitted post-race. “Nathan drove brilliantly. It will be interesting to see how he goes tomorrow given that he will start the race right behind Le Brocq.”

Sixth across the line was Dean Koutsoumidis who had carried on with McInnes’ opening stint pace to hold the Trophy Class and Challenge class front-runners at bay to consolidate again their championship position.

During the opening leg of Sunday’s second one-hour race, Antunes knew that to provide car-owner Salmon with a podium result for the weekend that he had to match the pace of Le Brocq off the start, and if possible, take him for the lead.

“Ric [Kemp - car #6 engineer] told me I had a target time to meet, and that if I had a safe chance of a move on the Mercedes, to take it,” Antunes confirmed.

“That thing [Mercedes] is so fast in a straight line, that my best chances were at turn nine [hairpin], so I had to get a great run around Corporate Hill.”

The race for the lead over the opening stanza of the race was fantastic, with Le Brocq unable to break clear from Antunes nor championship points leader Klark Quinn.

Watching the orange World Bar Audi navigate Corporate Hill was a delight, the R8 at times in a four-wheel drift as it continued to push the Mercedes.

At the 15-minute mark he’d carried enough momentum into the hairpin that he took a shot at the lead, diving down the inside deep under brakes knowing that he had plenty of run-off on the exit if he couldn’t pull it up.

“I had to have a go, but he was able to dive back down the inside and power away again.”

As the CPS window opened though Le Brocq peeled off leaving Antunes clear at the front for the next 13-laps to extend his lead before pitting to hand over to Salmon.

The strategy had paid off, Salmon rejoining in second place, almost 20-seconds clear of Klark Quinn. All he had to do was maintain the consistency he’d shown in race one, and the podium was all but assured.

“I don’t know what happened in the end,” he admitted post-race after crossing the line in sixth place. “The car was fantastic all weekend - in fact during practice I was comfortably into the 32s and 33s, same as in race one, but not today. Look I’m disappointed myself, but overall what a great weekend, the team ran the car perfectly, Nathan was a revelation, we had our best result of the season and we showed we’re capable of winning races. I can’t wait until Queensland..”

After making a strong start, Dean Koutsoumidis settled into seventh place during the opening laps of the second race, before being relegated to eighth ahead of the pit-stops by Steven Richards and Justin McMillan in the Lamborghini who had started rear of field.

By the time he came into pit lane, Dean was classified fifth, a 65-second CPS saw Andrew rejoin in eighth place, losing a lap to the hard charging Mercedes of Le Brocq in the process, in the end the Equity-One R8 held onto the position to be classified eighth.

“We had a great weekend in the end,” Dean admitted afterwards. “Our first weekend with MPC worked perfectly, we enjoyed being a part of the team and they went out of their way to make us feel welcome, which was much appreciated.

“Our pace was pretty consistent, which was the key, but we’re off the outright pace of the leaders, so it was very much a race against the lock for us, but we’re rapt and really looking forward to Queensland Raceway.”

For the Melbourne Performance Centre team their attention turns to Queensland Raceway where the penultimate round of the championship will get underway in just under three weeks time (August 2-4), although ahead of that, both Salmon and Koutsoumidis will compete in the Victorian State Series Championship at Sandown Motor Raceway this weekend (July 20-21).

Rnd#4 2013 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli

Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW - Qualifying (13 July)

01. 36. Jack Le Brocq - Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:27.4848

02. 6. Nathan Antunes - Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra [CHAMP] - 1:27.5421

03. 88. John Bowe - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:28.1007

04. 7. Tony Quinn - Aston Martin Vantage GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:28.4030

05. 1. Klark Quinn - Porsche GT3-R [CHAMP] - 1:28.6388

07. 71. Andrew McInnes - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [CHAMP] - 1:30.3953

Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW - Race 1 (13 July)

01. 36. Jack Le Brocq - Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 [CHAMP] - 39-laps

02. 1. Klark Quinn - Porsche GT3-R [CHAMP]

03. 6. Rod Salmon/Nathan Antunes - Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra [CHAMP]

04. 88. Peter Edwards/John Bowe- Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 [CHAMP]

05. 7. Tony Quinn - Aston Martin Vantage GT3 [CHAMP]

06. 71. Koutsoumidis/McInnes - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [CHAMP]

Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW - Race 2 (14 July)

01. 36. Jack Le Brocq - Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 [CHAMP] - 39-laps

02. 1. Klark Quinn - Porsche GT3-R [CHAMP]

03. 88. Peter Edwards/John Bowe- Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 [CHAMP]

04. 7. Tony Quinn - Aston Martin Vantage GT3 [CHAMP]

05. 23. Roger Lago - Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 GT3 [CHAMP]

06. 6. Rod Salmon/Nathan Antunes - Audi R8 LMS GT3 ultra [CHAMP]
08. 71. Koutsoumidis/McInnes - Audi R8 LMS GT3 [CHAMP]

2013 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli

Championship points (after four rounds of six)

1. Klark Quinn (284 points), 2. Jack Le Brocq (220), 3. Tony Quinn (202), 4. Edwards/Bowe (190), 5. Roger Lago (164), 6. Koutsoumidis/McInnes (154), 7. Craig Baird (133), 8. Justin McMillan (129), 9. Rod Salmon (128), 10. Jim Manolios (70), 11. Christian Klien (70), 12. Nathan Antunes (63), 13. Andrew Taplin (59), 14. Van Gisbergen/Kingsley (54), 15. Simonsen/Salo (50), 16. Steven Richards (46), 17. James Winslow (42), 18. Murphy/Capelli (37), 19. Middleton/O’Young (30), 20. Ross Lilley (28), 21. Slade/Holdsworth/Hackett (26), 22. Mok Weng Sun/Griffin (25), 23. Lowndes/Luff (21), 24. Roloff/Schneider/Jaeger (19), 25. Russell/Kox (16)

Keep track of round four of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli via the AGT website - and via Facebook; AustralianGT

The fourth round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli will be televised on SBS Speedweek on Sunday, August 4 from 2:00pm AEST (check local guides for confirmation).
Melbourne Performance Centre is proudly supported by, One World Bar, The Audi Race Experience, PH Motorsport Trailers - supplier of the new Audi Sports Customer racing transporter, BluFi Wireless Australia, Questek Australia and Top Gun Restorations.

The Audi Race Experience

Get behind the wheel yourself to discover a new level of excitement with the Audi Driving Experience. Refine your technique, develop more skilled control at higher speeds and pursue the ultimate in performance.
From advanced programs, right through to the Audi race experience, there is a program to suit every kind of driver.

The Audi Driving Experience makes use of a range of Audi’s vehicles, from sports road cars right through to their Bathurst winning race vehicles. From Audi’s advanced driving courses, you can move through to the Audi sportscar experience and finally, the Audi race experience where you can slip behind the wheel of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 racecar that holds the mantel of Australian GT and Bathurst 12-Hour Champion.

To find out more, call Melbourne Performance Centre today.

Melbourne Performance Centre

521 Mountain Highway,
Bayswater VIC 3153

Phone: 03 9738 2294
, Fax: 03 9738 2296