Justin McMillan’s M-Motorsport came into the Australian Grand Prix weekend as the Australian GT Championship series points leaders, the Interlloy/Wilson Storage supported Gallardo R-EX having claimed top points at the opening round in Adelaide just two weeks prior.
With the series returning to the Grand Prix for the first time in six years, neither McMillan - who made his series debut in 2013 - nor Wood, had competed on the popular 5.303-kilometre street circuit previously, and with just two 20-minute sessions to share ahead of the first of four 25-minute races, it was always going to be a tough weekend..
Ultimately the M-Motorsport team left Albert Park with a string of top ten finishes, one failure to finish after an accident which claimed four Lamborghinis, and a place inside the top four in the championship, so the momentum continued despite the challenges.
“It was a tough weekend in many respects,” Glen Wood admitted on reflection. “Thursday’s two 20-minute sessions gave us very little time to really get a handle on the car, although we were quick. My session was plagued by traffic and - on my one clear lap - a spinning Ferrari, so 12th was the best we could do in qualifying, although I felt we had a top six car.
“We had improved the car since Adelaide, as we really suffered there under brakes and in the slower corners, so that gave us plenty of hope, but starting mid-pack was always going to be a challenge, so too the addition of the compulsory pit stop [CPS] times to the total race time, as opposed to the pit stops.”
Australian GT [AGT] runs a parity system to even out the field. That system sees each team given a CPS time during their mid-race stop as part of a normal AGT round, a penalty which factors in driver experience and their qualifying position. Due to time restraints with the Grand Prix, the series was only allowed a 25-minute window for each race, which didn’t allow for a CPS, therefore organisers had no choice but to add the team parity penalty to the race time, which made for a very confusing weekend for the fans as often the race winner, wasn’t the winner of the race..!
Wood started the first hectic race and swapped positions at the tail of the top ten, before crossing the line tenth, the M-Motorsport Lamborghini credited with position seven after CPS times were applied.
In race two Justin McMillan was scheduled to start on the third row, but like much of the field in the damp conditions, he elected to pit early for slick tyres as the track began to dry, dropping him down the order, a steady run through the pack seeing him credited with 19th position.
Frustratingly for the team, race three was a short lived affair.. Wood takes up the story.
“Tony Quinn and Roger Lago had an incident up front coming out of turn two causing a car park in front of me. I felt I had a little room to get through and was trying to avoid our team-mate John Magro who was bouncing off the wall, as was Tony D’Alberto beside me avoiding Dean Canto bouncing off the other wall, resulting in D’Alberto and I meeting in the middle.
“Sadly the Ferrari, and three of the Lamborghinis came off second best, but luckily we came away with relatively light damage, but enough to force us out of the race.”
Team-owner McMillan was back behind the wheel for the final race, running a careful race from the rear of the field to be ultimately classified eighth to maintain the team’s championship position inside the top four.
“There wasn’t much to gain in the final race from the rear, and the last thing we wanted to do was damage the car, so I picked my moments and just focused on working with the car,” he admitted. “We’ve made some good solid steps forward this weekend, and I’m happy with my performance on my debut at Albert Park.”
“Our focus now in on the next round of the championship at Barbagallo in Perth,” Wood added. “The car improved a lot over the weekend, but we didn’t get much chance to show it in all the Safety Car affected races, and our race three drama. I’ve driven Barbagallo before, and I think it will really suit the R-EX with its mix of medium-high speed corners. We’ll go away and do a bit more development on brakes and I think we’ll see some improvement there too, although there’s less stop-start in WA than either Adelaide or the Grand Prix, so that won’t be as vital.”
Round three of the championship is scheduled for Perth’s Barbagallo circuit in Western Australia, the series first ever visit to the West in early May (6-8) ahead of round four and the opening round of the Australian Endurance Championship at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit three weeks later (27-29 May).
Keep up to date with the M-Motorsport/Interlloy race team by visiting; www.facebook.com/MMotorsportGT3
2016 CAMS Australian GT Championship
Rnd#2 - Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne (17-20 March)
Qualifying (Combined, 2x 20-minutes) - 17 March
1. Mies/Emery (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:54.9059
2. Webb/Denyer (McLaren 650S GT3) - 1:55.6953
3. Baird/Taylor (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:56.0252
4. Canto/Taplin (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3) - 1:56.0750
5. Marshall/Koundouris (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:56.1138
12. McMillan/Wood (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Gallardo R-EX GT3) - 1:57.1890
Race#1 (25-mins) - 17 March
1. Craig Baird (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 11-laps
2. Christopher Mies (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. Marcus Marshall (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
4. George Miedecke (Aston Martin Vantage GT3)
5. Andrea Montermini (Ferrari 488 GT3)
7. Glen Wood (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
Race#2 (25-mins) - 18 March
1. Nathan Morcom (McLaren 650S GT3) - 11-laps
2. Benny Simonsen (Ferrari 488 GT3)
3. Klark Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Elliot Barbour (McLaren 650S GT3)
5. Grant Denyer (McLaren 650S GT3)
19. Justin McMillan (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Gallardo R-EX GT3)
Race#3 (25-mins) - 19 March
1. Matt Solomon (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 6-laps
2. Steve McLaughlan (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. Klark Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Greg Taylor (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
5. George Miedecke (Aston Martin Vantage GT3)
DNF. Glen Wood (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
Race#4 (25-mins) - 20 March
1. James Koundouris (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
2. Geoff Emery (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. Tony Walls (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Tim Miles (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
5. Aaron Tebb (Porsche 997 GT3-R)
8. Justin McMillan (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Gallardo R-EX GT3)
2016 Australian GT Championship (points after two rounds of six)
1. James Koundouris/Marcus Marshall (225-points), 2. Klark Quinn (206), 3. Nathan Morcom (197), 4. Justin McMillan/Glen Wood (184), 5. Chris Mies/Geoff Emery (182), 6. Roger Lago (177), 7. Matt Solomon (169),
8. Tony Walls (163), 9. Antunes/Barbour (133), 10. Jonathon Webb/Grant Denyer (131)
Heading into the opening round of the 2016 CAMS Australian GT Championship, Melbourne’s M-Motorsport were full of anticipation for what would be their fourth consecutive start on the challenging street circuit, but whilst hopeful of a strong result, few in the team honestly felt they would be holding the #1 trophy at the conclusion of the final race on Sunday morning..
“To be honest, I thought we would get there at some point this year, but perhaps not at the first round, and not with a brand new car,” Justin McMillan’s new driving partner Glen Wood admitted with surprise.
Just four weeks prior the team were lamenting the loss of their outgoing Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3 after it was involved in a big accident during final practice for the Bathurst 12-Hour, the car undergoing a chassis change ahead of the Clipsal round where it would be campaigned by John Magro and fellow Queenslander Hayden Cooper.
At the same time the team’s new state-of-the-art Reiter Engineering built Gallardo R-EX (Extenso) arrived with enough time to add a new Interlloy/Wilson Storage livery, conduct a systems check at Winton Motor Raceway, and load the car for the trip across to Adelaide.
“From the get-go we had a lot to learn,” team-owner Justin McMillan admitted. “The car was new, it was different to the FL2 we campaigned last year and we had just one solitary 20-minute practice session to dial ourselves in ahead of qualifying.”
Taking a cautious approach to the two 20-minute qualifying sessions, the pair completed the two sessions to claim a 13th placed start for the opening race..
“That wasn’t ideal, but we agreed pre-race that our strategy would be to stay out of trouble and focus on points,” McMillan explained.
McMillan started the gorgeous black and orange Interlloy/Wilson Security Lamborghini and made a strong start to move up two positions, keeping ahead of former co-driver Steven Richards in the new BMW for the opening lap and a half before conceding the position to ensure he followed the pre-race plan.
“There was no point in getting involved in scraps early in the weekend, so I followed the plan and gave the car to Glen as soon as the compulsory-pit-stop [CPS] window opened.”
From there Wood charged, moving the car from 19th to fifth at the flag, in the process circulating faster than many of his rivals, only a mighty tussle at the front of the field across the final laps slowing his forward progress from a result which may have seen them emerge on the podium.
“That’s a great result from where we were in qualifying, and a lot of it is credit to the crew,” Wood admitted. “The car is just a jet in a straight line, but we’re struggling a little under brakes, so we can catch people with ease, but they can hold us out under brakes which is frustrating. After that last Safety Car I was in the perfect position to move further forward, but the front group started to battle between themselves and that meant the moves would be risky, so I opted to stick with the plan and go for the points.”
A wise decision, and a decision which paid off handsomely in race two, with Wood moving through to fourth before the CPS, McMillan rejoining in third before a last lap burst by race one winner Roger Lago in the second of the R-EX Gallardo’s dropped him to fourth at the flag, but that was soon to change.
“Justin drove the wheels off the car in the closing stages to keep some of the top drivers in the country behind him,” Wood explained. “We were fourth across the line, but post race they penalised the #1 car which finished second, so we’ve been moved onto the podium which is a brilliant result this early in the season..”
But more was still to come..
A strong opening stint in the final race saw McMillan hold on to a top six position early, circulating faster than he’d ever been around the Adelaide Parklands Circuit in the past.
By virtue of their lengthy CPS time-penalty for a third placed finish in race two, the #48 M-Motorsport Lamborghini was stationary in pit lane for 80-seconds, one of the longest stops in the field, Wood rejoining in 18th position ahead of an epic charge through the field over the following laps.
Within five laps he was back to position four but a long way back on the leaders. He made short work of the deficit to close on the battle between Tony Walls in the McLaren and the #222 Mercedes AMG of Scott Taylor for second, the two proving difficult to get around, Wood in the end making a big lunge down the inside of the Mercedes at turn four to set off in pursuit of Walls.
With a lap to go the battle between the young Victorian and Walls in the McLaren became the battle for the lead after race leader Lago made an error under brakes at turn four and shot down the escape road, damaging his car as he flick-turned it around the right way.
Again the M-Motorsport team were in a position to attack for the lead, but with valuable championship points on the line, Wood elected to hold station, crossing the line buried under the rear wing of the McLaren. Post race his decision was rewarded with the news that the team had claimed overall victory for the round, and the championship points lead heading to the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne in two weeks time.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told me, it’s a fantastic result,” Wood admitted afterwards. “Justin drove brilliantly and the crew were fantastic, everyone just gelled as a team. In the end we were amongst the fastest cars in a straight line, I think overall we claimed one of the top four or five lap times for the weekend, and we were smart in what battles we fought and which ones we avoided - that was part of the key. Ultimately three results in the top five suggests we were also fast and consistent, and as a result, we’re leading the championship!”
“I’m rapt,” McMillan added. “It’s like a dream come true. Glen drove brilliantly and we followed exactly the plan we set at the start of the weekend - focus on improving the car, and on staying out of trouble.”
“We learnt a lot about the new car, but what gives me great hope is the speed it carries in a straight line and through high speed corners, which is what the next few rounds are all about, so it’s up to us now to keep the momentum going and hopefully we’ll be there at the end of the season. I really think it’s the year of the Lamborghini,” Wood said.
With hardly a scratch on the Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini, the team’s focus turns to ‘home’ and the forthcoming Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, just ten minutes drive from the team’s Melbourne base for the second round of the championship - four scheduled 25-minute races across all four days of the event.
Keep up to date with the M-Motorsport/Interlloy race team by visiting; www.facebook.com/MMotorsportGT3
2016 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Clipal 500, Adelaide, South Australia (3-6 March)
Qualifying - Combined (40-minutes) - 3 March
1. Christopher Mies (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:20.2039
2. Craig Baird (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:20.6530
3. Nathan Antunes (McLaren 650S GT3) - 1:20.8621
4. Nathan Morcom (McLaren 650S GT3) - 1:21.0813
5. Marcus Marshall (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:21.3064
13. McMillan/Wood (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini R-EX GT3) - 1:22.6065
Race#1 (40-mins) - 4 March
1. Roger Lago (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3) - 24-laps
2. Nathan Morcom (McLaren 650S GT3)
3. Klark Quinn/Tony Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Mark Griffith (Mercedes AMG GT3)
5. McMillan/Wood (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
Race#2 (40-mins) - 5 March
1. Marshall/Koundouris (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 21-laps
2. Roger Lago (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
3. Wood/McMillan (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
4. Klark Quinn/Tony Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
5. Greg Taylor (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
Race#3 (40-mins) - 6 March
1. Tony Walls (McLaren 650S GT3)
2. McMillan/Wood (Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
3. Matt Solomon (Mercedes AMG GT3)
4. Canto/Taplin (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
5. Martin/Tebb (Porsche 997 GT3-R)
2016 Australian GT Championship (points after one round of six)
1. Justin McMillan/Glen Wood (136-points), 2. Roger Lago (132), 3. Tony Walls (110), 4. Klark Quinn/Tony Quinn (104), 5. James Koundouris/Marcus Marshall (99), 6. Nathan Morcom (91), 7. Matt Solomon (69), 8. Mark Griffith (64), 9. Andrew Taplin/Dean Canto (58), 10. Scott Taylor/Craig Baird (58)
Having shown great pace over the last few editions of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour, Melbourne’s M-Motorsport are heading into the 2016 running of the event intent on taking the fight to the top teams as the first major GT3 event of the year gets underway in just over one week’s time.
With two experienced Bathurst V8 Supercar campaigners behind the wheel combined with the two drivers that will lead the team in the Australian GT Championship and the Australian Endurance Championship, team-owner Justin McMillan believes the Interlloy/Wilson Storage Lamborghini has the right mix of experience and speed.
“Over the last couple of years at Bathurst we’ve been right in the mix early, and have actually led the race, so we have that experience to draw on,” he explained.
“Experienced Bathurst campaigners Dale Wood and John McIntyre will anchor the team, whilst Dale’s younger brother Glen and I will back them up.
“Dale always rises to the occasion in the Bathurst 1000 and he was fast when he drove with us ahead of our shortened race in 2014, whilst John has proven fast on the mountain in the past and was strong there last year in the Trass Family Ferrari.
“As for Glen, well he’s been a revelation since joining the team last year where he was quick at Sydney, Sandown and Highlands, and whilst he’s not competed at Bathurst before, he was quick in New Zealand last year despite having no prior event experience, and actually handed me the car in the lead in the AGT final. He’s also got Dale to draw on for experience, and we’ve got a bit of time to dial ourselves in with more than five hours practice.
“I’ve been quicker every time I’ve been there with 2016 my fifth Bathurst event, and I’m happy to say I’ve completed every session I’ve started.
“We’re also going to run our incumbent Gallardo FL2 as opposed to the new Extenso that is on its way from Reiter Engineering right now. Potential delays and issues with running a brand new car with no time to test ahead of the event ultimately made the decision for us.
“We saw last year in the final rounds of AGT that the FL2 was as quick as anything else in the field, and it’s a known product, we’ve been running one for three seasons now.
“After the fire at Highlands which was mostly superficial, the car has had a complete birthday and is almost new and good to go. We’ve tested, and both Glen and I had some pretty serious pace at Phillip Island, so I think it’s going to be an exceptional event for the M-Motorsport/Interlloy team.”
For the younger Wood, despite his success in a variety of cars over the years, this year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour will be his maiden race on ‘the Mountain’.
“I’ve done plenty of laps on foot with track walks over the years, and a lot of miles on the simulator, but I expect it’s all going to be very different the first time out the gate.
“Fortunately I’ve done quite a few miles in the car now, and am pretty relaxed behind the wheel, so that’s an advantage, it will just come down to logging laps ahead of the race.
“I’m excited but 100% aware of the challenge, and at Bathurst there are so many of them - from managing traffic, to patience, to knowing when to charge and when to conserve, there’s going to be a lot to take in, but I’m fortunate to have Dale’s experience to draw on, and I’m sure John and Justin will have plenty of tips for me too.
“It’s funny too - despite the fact that Dale has plenty of V8 Supercar miles around Bathurst, he’s never actually driven a race lap in the Gallardo, despite having been entered for the 2014 12-Hour and the Highlands 101 last year. On both occasions the car was retired before he got a chance to turn any race miles, so I know he’s pumped about getting behind the wheel and having a real crack at the Mountain in anger.
“I can’t wait to get there, and I can’t thank my supporters enough - especially Wilson Storage - for the chance to not just join the team for Bathurst, but also the complete Australian GT and Australian Endurance Championship events this year in the new Extenso, it’s going to be a season to remember!”
For McIntyre, a return to Bathurst 12-months after making his GT3 debut at the mountain, comes a chance to fulfill the promise he showed in the Trass Family Ferrari, and the experienced Touring Car veteran is looking forward to rejoining the M-Motorsport team.
“Any time you get to drive a GT3 spec car around Bathurst is a highlight of your racing career.” McIntyre admitted. “I am already incredibly excited to go to Bathurst again. My expectations will really only formalise as we go through the weekend because it is such a different environment in regards to the circuit, cars, mix of teams and drivers and the crazy changing conditions like driving in the dark avoiding Kangaroos!
“We do have a very strong driver line-up. Everyone is either experienced at Bathurst or experienced in the #48 Gallardo or a combination of both. Last year I went there with a rookie team with two rookies drivers and after eight hours we were well in contention for a top 10. But we didn’t finish so it was all theoretical. If we can keep the car clean for 11.5 hours we will be in the top 10 and with a genuine chance of a podium in the AM category.” Opening practice for the 2016 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour gets underway at 8:20am on Friday, 5 February, with the first of five practice sessions totaling five and a half hours ahead of qualifying on Saturday afternoon and the main event - the Bathurst 12-Hour -which begins in the early morning light at 5:45am on Sunday, 7 February.
The 2016 event will be broadcast LIVE on Channel 7 and 7mate (check local guides for details).
Keep up to date with the M-Motorsport/Interlloy race team from Bathurst by visiting; www.facebook.com/MMotorsportGT3
2016 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour (5-7 February, 2016)
Schedule: [AEDT]Friday, 5 February
8:20am - Practice #1 (30-minutes)
8:55am - Practice #2 (60-minutes) 12:30pm - Practice #3 (90-minutes) 3:45pm - Practice #4 (90-minutes)
Saturday, 6 February
8:30am - Practice #5 (60-minutes)
12:55pm - Qualifying #1 (60-minutes)
2:05pm - Qualifying #2 (20-minutes)
Sunday, 7 February
5:45am - Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour
The M-Motorsport/Interlloy team of Justin McMillan heads to the final round of the Australian GT Championship in New Zealand looking for a strong result to close out the year, and they’re recruited a V8 Supercar star to give them an edge as they go looking for another podium finish at Highlands Motorsport Park to back up their result in the 2014 Highlands 101.
At that point it was reigning Bathurst 1000 champion Steven Richards who shared driving duties with McMillan, but to close out the 2015 Australian season and put the team right in the mix amongst the leaders in this years Highlands 101, M-Motorsport have recruited their 2014 Bathurst 12-Hour driver, Dale Wood.
Wood is no stranger to the Interlloy Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 GT3, but he will be making his debut at Highlands as a rookie. He will have illustrious company though, including V8 Supercar team-mate Fabian Coulthard and rivals Garth Tander and Shane Van Gisbergen, all of whom are expected to challenge for the three race wins across the weekend.
For McMillan, Highlands gives him an opportunity to step back behind the wheel of the Gallardo after campaigning much of the year in the mighty Reiter Engineering-built Chevrolet Camaro GT3.
“We’ve just concluded a deal with Europe to campaign a new Gallardo R-EX in the 2016 Australian GT sprint series,” McMillan confirmed.
“As a result I wanted to get back into Lamborghini mode and prepare for that, and also the 12-Hour which is where we will debut the car next year.”
“I’m also a lot more comfortable in the Lamborghini at Highlands, and was strong there last year with Richo [Steven Richards] and I think together with Dale, we’re going to be just as quick this year, if not quicker, so there really was no question we’d take the Gallardo.”
Dale won’t be the only driver back in a Gallardo for the New Zealand event, younger brother Glen will join McMillan for the two 60-minute races that round out the 2015 Australian GT Championship before handing the reigns across to the elder of the two siblings for the 3-hour endurance race.
“I drove with Glen at the Sydney AGT round in the Gallardo, and he was quick straight out of the box, very impressive, and didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend,” McMillan admitted. “Like his brother he’s had experience in Supercars and has great race-craft, but he adapted so quickly to the Lambo that we had no hesitation in putting him in the car again at Sandown where he took it to a podium finish.”
Whilst McMillan is keen to achieve another strong result in New Zealand, the big focus for Highlands though is on preparation for the 12-Hour.
“Our new Gallardo R-EX - the Extenso - will arrive in the next few weeks in Melbourne. It will be the last of the breed from Reiter Engineering, and has already proven quick in Europe and in Asia, so we’re expecting big things at Bathurst, but we haven’t all worked together as a team yet, so that will be the focus in New Zealand. The boys will both get laps, and we’ll all be able to interact like we’ll need to at Mount Panorama, so it will be invaluable.
“The mountain is always a challenge, and we’ve had mixed results. We’ve led the race and been on track for at least a podium before little niggling issues have cost us. We also lost out in 2014 after Ross Lilley made a gentlemanly move to let the race leaders through across Skyline which forced him offline and onto oil that had been spilled by an accident which led to a big hit, so just an unfortunate sequence of events.
“That’s Bathurst though, but at least we have that experience now to draw on, and a car which has proven both fast and consistent across long race distances. I’m excited, I think we could be in for an outstanding result next year, especially if Dale is behind the wheel late in the race mixing it with the European stars, they could get quite a surprise!”
For now the focus is on the final round of Australian GT and the Highlands 101, 3-hour endurance race with McMillan and Glen Wood on track this Friday for practice and qualifying ahead of two 60-minute compulsory pit stop races on Saturday, before Dale Wood steps in alongside McMillan for the 101 on Sunday afternoon.
Keep up to date with further announcements from the M-Motorsport/Interlloy race team across the weekend by visiting; www.facebook.com/MMotorsportGT3
2015 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, New Zealand (13-15 November, 2015)
Schedule: [NZDT - GMT +13]Friday, 13 November
10:45am - Practice #1 (40-minutes)
12:30pm - Practice #2 (40-minutes)
2:25pm - Qualifying #1 (30-minutes)
3:35pm - Qualifying #2 (30-minutes)
Saturday, 14 November
8.55am - Warm-up (30-minutes)
10:55am - Race#1 (60-minutes)
2:00pm - Race#2 (60-minutes)
Sunday, 15 November
10:10am - Highlands 101 Qualifying Driver A (18-minutes)
10:32am - Highlands 101 Qualifying Driver B (18-minutes)
1:20pm - Highlands 101 Race (101-laps)