The #75 Valvoline Jamec Pem Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Tim Miles and Jaxon Evans have taken victory in a thrilling Australian Endurance Championship, Sydney Motorsport Park 501.
The team played the long game on strategy and fuel, extending Miles’ stint all the way to lap 59.
Miles brought the car in to the pits in a solid position, setting Evans up for a strong finish.
A great final stint from the young Kiwi, saw him fight his way to the front and fend off a fiery John Martin in the closing stages of the race taking victory for Jamec Pem Racing.
The win sees Miles and Evans stretch their championship lead after their second win in their series, the first being at the opening round at Phillip Island back in May.
“It was the whole thing that counted for us,” said Miles.
“We had a very disciplined strategy which we stuck to, pitted in a reasonable positon, and then Jaxon took over and was able to chase the guys ahead of us down and get the win which is fantastic.”
“It certainly wasn’t a relaxed finish to the race,” said Evans.
“We were hanging on for tyre life and John Martin in second was pushing hard. A good relief when we crossed the line and can’t ask for much more.”
The race got off to a dramatic start when pole sitter Liam Talbot and second place Geoff Emery made slight contact at turn one sending the later pirouetting into the grass.
Emery would get going again, but fell to the back of the field as a consequence of the incident.
The safety car was deployed on lap three when Scott Taylor had a nasty crash on the exit of turn one, absolutely destroying the front end of his STM Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Taylor – who was defending from Dylan O’Keefe in the KFC Audi – ran wide and onto the grass on the exit of the first corner. This unsettled the car, and sent him hurtling into the concrete barrier with extensive damage to the car.
Taylor managed to climb out of the #222 STM Mercedes on his own and was transported to the medical centre for precautionary checks.
A few teams rolled the dice on strategy under the safety car – the first of those being the Zagame Motorsport Lamborghini followed in by the Griffith Mercedes and the #74 Jamec Pem Audi – all replacing their starting AM drivers with their PRO’s.
Once the race went back to green, Kelvin van der Linde – who had taken over from Emery in the #74 Audi – showed a staggering performance, craving through the field from 14th to first in a matter of just 10 laps.
At the same time, the remaining AM drivers were on fuel save mode trying to make it to that critical lap – number 59 – where they could knock of their minimum driver time, and hand it over to their respected PRO’s, and make it to the flag without needing a splash of fuel.
While all of this was going on, van der Linde decided to clear off out front. He did so, to the tune of 30s by the time factory Mercedes driver, Dominik Baumann had taken over second place in the Griffith AMG on lap 29.
Talbot continued to flight on in the Mega Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R, and was passed on lap 37, by Cameron McConville in the Zagame Lamborghini, just as fifth placed O’Keefe kicked off the first full round of pitstops.
Talbot, O’Keefe and Miles were the only ones to stretch their first stint to the critical lap number, 59 diving into the pits on the dot.
Unfortunately for James Bergmuller and the SRM crew that run the BMW M6 GT3, they came up a few corners short – the #100 BMW grinding to halt, not even a drop of fuel left in the tank.
With the car stopped on track, the safety car was triggered once again and van der Linde lost his exponential 30s lead over McConville.
The race went back to green on lap 64 and van der Linde cleared off again – the factory Audi driver pulled a 10s gap to the Zagame Lamborghini until McConville came in a few laps later to hand the car over to Adrian Deitz.
The cards fell the wrong way for the #74 again – as van der Linde pitted to hand the car over to Emery for the run to the flag – the LED pitstop timing device failed on the car, Emery loosing critical time as the Jamec Pem crew managed to get it working again.
Even with the lost time in the pits, Emery was able to get back into the lead just four laps later.
At the same time, Evans behind the wheel of the #75 Audi was setting the track alight, lapping extremely quickly as he made his way through the field.
The final stanza became a three horse race as the last 40 laps closed in.
On lap 109 – Evans sat on the tail of his team-mate, Emery – making light work of an initial 32s deficit to the #74.
Emery in the #74, appeared to let Evans through at the final corner, with Martin – who had taken over Talbot in the #911 – closing down in the Mega Racing Porsche.
Eventually, Martin caught up to the back of Emery and got past on lap 118 with Evans now 8s up the road.
Evans fought through traffic and protected his lead as Martin rapidly closed in, Evans claiming victory by just 3.2s.
The race came to a close one lap short, with time certainty shorting the distance to 128 laps, breaking an Australian GT race distance record – previously set by Tim Leahey and Allan Simonsen back in 2007.
Emery completed a near perfect weekend for the Jamec Pem squad ending up just 40s off winner Evans – an incredible come back by himself and van der Linde after the first lap shenanigans.
The KFC Audi of Gaunt and O’Keefe finished up in fourth place, as Maranello Motorsports and took out fifth with the Peter Edwards and Graham Smyth Ferrari 488 GT3.
The Eggleston Motorsport, Autex Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Peter Hackett and Dominic Storey ended up off the lead lap in sixth after needing a late race splash for fuel – while the Hogs Breath Cafe, Mark Griffith and Baumann Mercedes took out seventh.
Amidst the grandstand finish – the #5 GT Motorsport Audi of Greg Taylor and Grant Denyer, and the #8 Waste Management Mercedes of Max Twigg and Tony D’Alberto were disqualified for failing to take their second compulsory pit stop inside the mandated pit window – while the Lago Racing Lamborghini RE-X of Roger Lago and David Russell didn’t take the start.
The win means that Evans and Miles stretch their championship standings advantage to 84 points over Talbot and Martin as the Autex Mercedes of Hackett and Storey round out the top three.
The Australian Endurance Championship now heads to Hampton Downs and New Zealand for the final rounds of the series, the last being held at Highlands Motorsport Park.
Results: Sydney Motorsport Park 501
|1||Valvoline||T.Miles/J.Evans||Audi R8 LMS||128||3:32:09.9047|
|2||MEGA Racing||L.Talbot/J.Martin||Porsche 911 GT3-R||128||3:32:13.1089|
|3||Valvoline||G.Emery/K.Linde||Audi R8 LMS||128||3:32:51.6563|
|4||Kentucky Fried Chicken||D.Gaunt/D.O’Keefe||Audi R8 LMS||128||3:33:12.9110|
|5||Maranello Motorsport||P.Edwards/G.Smyth||Ferrari 488 GT3||128||3:33:36.0069|
|6||Eggleston Motorsport||P.Hackett/D.Storey||Mercedes Benz AMG GT||127||3:32:30.4682|
|7||Hogs Breath Cafe / Griffith Co||M.Griffith/D.Baumann||Mercedes Benz AMG GT||127||3:32:52.6172|
|8||Timken / Zagame Autosport||A.Deitz/C.McConville||Lamborghini Huracan||127||3:33:09.2766|
|9||YNA Autosport / McElrea Racing||F.Ross/W.Luff||McLaren 650S GT3||127||3:33:36.3375|
|10||AMAC Motorsport – IMAK-Kwikmit||A.Macpherson/B.Shiels||Lamborghini Huracan||126||3:33:32.3652|
|11||Haemokinesis / Whispering Vine||J.Manolios/R.Millier||Lamborghini Huracan||123||3:32:13.4152|
|12||Darrell Lea||T.Quinn/J.Reid||McLaren 650S GT3||123||3:33:46.0837|
|13||BMW Team SRM||S.Richards/J.Bergmuller||BMW M6 GT3||121||3:32:52.3462|
|DNF||WM Waste||M.Twigg/T.D’Alberto||Mercedes Benz AMG GT||116||3:14:27.9169|
|DNF||GT Motorsport||G.Taylor/G.Denyer||Audi R8 LMS||115||3:14:11.1456|
|DNF||Scott Taylor Motorsport||Scott Taylor (QLD)||Mercedes Benz AMG GT||1||1:41.6811|
Images: Australian GT and Dirk Klynsmith Photography – http://www.dirkklynsmithphotography.com