Local hero Jake Camilleri has well and truly stamped his authority on the maiden season of the new GT-1 Australia concept after claiming back-to-back wins at the Morgan Park circuit during the second round of the season, the Marc II Mustang pilot using his extensive local knowledge to lap the entire field in race two to claim his third win from four starts leading to an impressive points lead heading to Wakefield Park and the mid-point of the season.
The smiles up and down pit lane (Rio Nugara included despite a gearbox issue in practice) on Friday evening gave strength to organisers belief that the demanding ‘little’ Morgan Park circuit would present the drivers with a real challenge, with there having been almost seven years since a strong GT field had previously competed on the 3.0-kilometre layout, and without exception, all were enjoying the experience.
The first order of the weekend though was to set about the demolition of Matt Kingsley’s eight year old lap record, and Camilleri along with Audi drivers Rod Salmon and Matt Stoupas made pretty short work of that early in the weekend, in the end, Camilleri lowered the mark to a 1:12.285 in qualifying, slashing an incredible five plus seconds off the old mark.
He wasn’t alone though, the top eight cars all going under the old 1:17.1642 benchmark, with Salmon and Stoupas providing fans with the potential of a strong battle at the front of the field across the two 50-minute races, having gotten to within arm’s length of Camilleri’s best.
Off the start for race one, Camilleri held the inside run into the turn one right-hander with a horde of Audi’s in pursuit, all with lights ablaze – Salmon leading Stoupas, Nugara and a trio of Marc I cars battling Rick Mensa’s Porsche Cup car. Behind them the three Ferrari 458 Challenge cars were enjoying their maiden outing with GT-1, the trio running nose-to-tail for much of the opening stanza of the race.
For Rio Nugura, his weekend came to a halt earlier than he’d have hoped, the Queenslander still on a high from a recent win in his EAT Furniture R8, but a persistent technical issue sadly saw his retirement after just 19-laps, having shadowed the leaders across the early laps.
That allowed a trio of Marc cars to jump onto the tail of Camilleri, Salmon and Stoupas, led by Geoff Taunton in the faster Marc I Focus fitted with the 5.2-litre Coyote engine from the Marc II cars, his advantage clear over the 5.0-litre V8 powered Goodacre, Hargraves – and fellow GT-1 recruit Jason Busk.
Up front the pace of the leaders was so quick, that they’d started lapping the trio of Ferraris after just 13-laps, with Camilleri out to a 20-second lead ahead of the compulsory stops where he’d be stationary for a lengthy 80-seconds, as opposed to many of the drivers behind him who would effectively stop in their pit bay and carry on.. He had a big job ahead.
Ultimately Camilleri and Salmon hit pit lane towards the end of the pit window, with Salmon stopping five seconds shorter than his title rival, although he was unable to effect the crossover during the stop, the big green Mustang emerging again at the front, with John Goodacre initially second before both Salmon and Stoupas forged past to fill the podium.
Despite his comfortable lead, Camilleri continued to charge, eventually crossing the line well clear of Salmon, whilst Stoupas came to within a couple of laps of also being taken by the Mustang. John Goodacre held on for fourth – albeit a lap down – from Jason Busk, Adam Hargraves and Geoff Taunton – who carried a lengthier stop penalty because of his more powerful engine.
Jamie Arratoon took the top honours in the Ferrari Challenge battle from John Nikolovski and Scott Hookey, with Rick Mensa splitting the Maranello machines after an early spin whilst looking to break into the top five.
Sunday’s second race in the early afternoon was held immediately after rain showers, a number of teams contemplating adopting the new control Pirelli wet (to go with the control Pirelli slicks adopted from the Morgan Park round) with the weather threatening, although they were lucky that apart from a brief shower, the heavy rain didn’t return until the final laps had been completed.
Camilleri once again led Salmon and Stoupas into turn one, whilst behind them Jason Busk and Geoff Taunton started strongly, whilst Rick Mensa managed to get the better of the Ferraris with Scott Hookey also taking advantage on the run into turn one to displace John Nikolovski.
Taunton was a man on a mission in the opening laps, working his way past Busk, Hargraves and Goodacre in subsequent laps to be next in line behind Camilleri, Salmon and Stoupas, with Salmon looking every bit the challenger, doggedly locking onto the tail of the Mustang and not willing to let go.
Seven laps in the leading duo were up on Stoupas by almost 20-seconds, the KFC Audi holding a similar advantage over Taunton.
By the close of the compulsory pit stops though, Camilleri had once more broken free, whilst Salmon was struggling to keep up after a drama with the front of the car, a premature pit-stop revealing a broken toe-link bolt in the right front. That ultimately allowed Stoupas through to second after hunting down Taunton and Mensa after the stops.
Sadly for Jason Busk and Adam Hargraves, they made contact on the run down to turn four whilst battling for position, and whilst contact looked to have claimed just Hargraves’ right front headlight, the ultimate result was his early retirement and a visit to pit-lane for Busk who returned, but well down the order.
Up front though, despite intermittent light rain and a very comfortable buffer, Jake Camilleri continued to charge, at times into the 1:12s as he opened up a lead that would ultimately see him lap the entire field, taking second-placed Stoupas just three minutes from home.
Geoff Taunton completed the podium after a strong close to his maiden run in GT-1, with John Goodacre again fourth, from a recovering Rick Mensa, Jamie Aratoon, John Nikolovski, Scott Hookey and Jason Busk, whilst the Melbourne Performance Centre team were able to get Salmon out over the closing laps to record a tenth placed finish for valuable championship points.
Camilleri now enjoys a comfortable 134-point lead over Matt Stoupas in the championship fight heading to the third round of the season at Wakefield Park in mid-August.
GT-1 Australia Points – Outright
- Jake Camilleri 586
- Matt Stoupas 452)
- John Goodacre 368
- Rod Salmon 342
- Adam Hargraves 262
- Clint Harvey 250
- Rio Nugara 238
- Rick Mensa 228
- Steve McLaughlan 214
- Geoff Taunton 198
- Jason Busk 146
- Jamie Arratoon 134
- John Nikolovski 122
- Scott Hookey 104
GT-1 Australia – MARC 1 Cars Pointscore
- John Goodacre 572
- Adam Hargraves 450
- Jason Busk 250
GT-1 Australia – Porsche Challenge Pointscore
- Rick Mensa 500
GT-1 Australia – Ferrari Challenge Pointscore
- Jamie Arratoon 293
- John Nikolovski 265
- Scott Hookey 234
GT-1 Australia – Invitational Sports Cars Pointscore
- Geoff Taunton 300