After setting the pace during the opening round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli at Melbourne’s Sandown Park, the M-Motorsport/Interlloy team of Justin McMillan and Steve Richards were looking forward to round two at the team’s ‘home’ circuit of Phillip Island, believing they would be one of the outright contenders for the 101-lap endurance race.
Opening practice only cemented that view after Richards topped the opening wet practice session early, ultimately falling to fifth after pitting early to assess data.
Dual Victorian State Series champion Justin McMillan proved too that he was no slouch in the slippery conditions, although the team did elect to send the Interlloy Gallardo FL2 GT3 out on slick tyres to give McMillan some laps on a surface he was likely to encounter during the big race on Sunday.
“To be honest it was tricky out there, but there will be races where conditions like that become prevalent, so it was ideal to go out and turn laps and gain some experience with how a car with this much power and torque handles the wet..
“The boys added another degree of difficulty too by sending me out on slicks.. now THAT was an eye-opener.
“Overall both Richo and I are pretty happy. Today wasn’t about going after a time, because Saturday is predicted to be dry, so there was no sense unduly risking the car to set a time that didn’t mean anything. Right now laps are important, regardless of the conditions, but we don’t need to be setting the world on fire until qualifying tomorrow..!”
In the end the gorgeous #48 Lamborghini was classified 11th ahead of qualifying where Richards elevated the car to sixth.
“All good,” he smiled post-session. “That’s where we wanted to be, we have a 23 second advantage over the points leader in each of our compulsory pit stops [CPS] by virtue of not going after pole, and in an endurance race, that will play right into our hands.”
Richards was tasked with starting the car and he began strongly, carefully picking his way through the field to be second early, turning laps in the 29s to hold position around 15-seconds back from race leader Richard Muscat in the Mercedes.
On lap 20 though the race was brought under Safety Car conditions after a big accident at turn five eliminated Lamborghini rival Roger Lago, Dean Koutsoumidis and Keith Kassulke.
Muscat immediately dived into pit-lane, Richards following him through to hand over to McMillan.
On lap times that put the Lamborghini in the effective lead of the race, with the Mercedes in P2, however some teams elected to play the strategy game and stay out behind the Safety Car. McMillan held his position on the restart until a problem started to eventuate with the right front tyre, forcing him to pit again ten laps later with a deflating tyre.
The M-Motorsport team effected their second stop at their CPS time and rejoined, McMillan now tenth, but a sequence of consistent laps moved him back up the order again to fourth before he was once again forced to return to pit lane with the same problem.
Sadly for the popular Lamborghini drivers, they weren’t finished with pit stops, returning once more for a new right front before ultimately claiming 12th place, four laps down on the race leaders.
“Something has failed in the right front of the car which has forced increased load on that corner,” McMillan lamented post-race. “For sure we’re disappointed, but on the positive side I’m happy with my pace. The car is straight, we had no other issues and proved we could run with the leaders, so it’s only a matter of time before the pendulum swings our way and it’s us on the podium with the big trophy.”
Richards too was reflective having seen situations like this occur a number of times throughout his career. “Mechanical failures happen, that’s just the nature of motorsport. We’re not 100% sure yet what caused the issue, but we’ll uncover it and it will probably never happen again.
“It was a tough weekend in the changeable conditions, but there were a lot of positives, the biggest one for me being Justin’s pace in all conditions. He was consistent lap after lap and didn’t have a single moment when all around him other cars were spearing off the circuit, so I’d say disappointment, but lots of forward momentum for the remainder of the season.”
The M-Motorsport team now has a six week wait until their first event of 2014 on the V8 Supercar program, with three 40-minute races scheduled for the Townsville street circuit over July 4-6. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rnd#2 - 2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Phillip Island - Qualifying (24 May)
1. 75. Warren Luff (GTT - JAMEC-PEM Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:38.8403
2. 36. Richard Muscat (GT - Erebus Motorsport SLS AMG GT3) - 1:38.9930
3. 7. Garth Tander (GT - VIP Petfoods Aston Martin Vantage GT3) - 1:38.3899
4. 6. Nathan Antunes (GTT - Skwirk.com.au Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:40.0263
5. 88. John Bowe (GT - Il Bello Rosso Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) - 1:40.3297
6. 48. Steve Richards (GT - Interlloy Gallardo FL2 GT3) - 1:40.9035
7. 71. James Winslow (GTT - Equity-One Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:42.0598
8. 1. Craig Baird (GT - Darrell Lea McLaren MP4-12C) - 1:42.0733
9. 77. Daniel Gaunt (GTT - JJA Lamborghini Gallardo LP520) - 1:42.1070
10. 51. Ben Porter (GT - IMAK Int. Porsche 997 GT3-R) - 1:42.4328
Phillip Island - 101 Race (24 May)
1. 7. Tony Quinn/Garth Tander (GT - Aston Martin Vantage GT3) - 82-laps
2. 36. Richard Muscat/Jack Le Brocq (GT - SLS AMG GT3)
3. 88. Peter Edwards/John Bowe (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
4. 48. Tony DeFelice/Tony D’Alberto (GT - Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
5. 1. Klark Quinn/Craig Baird (GT - McLaren MP4-12C)
6. 69. Theo Koundouris/Sam Power (GTT - Porsche 997 Cup-S) - 80-laps
7. 6. Rod Salmon/Nathan Antunes (GTT - Audi R8 LMS GT3)
8. 77. Jan Jinadasa/Daniel Gaunt (GTT - Lamborghini Gallardo LP520) - 79-laps
9. 51. Andrew MacPherson/Ben Porter (GT - Porsche 997 GT3-R)
10. 47. James Koundouris/Steve Owen (GT - Porsche GT3-R)
11. 73. Michael Hovey/Matt Campbell (GTT - Porsche Type 997 GT3 Cup)
12. 48. Justin McMillan/Steve Richards (GT - Gallardo FL2 GT3) - 78-laps
2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
GT Championship Class points (after round two of six)
1. Richard Muscat (152 points), 2. Peter Edwards/John Bowe (127), 3. Klark Quinn (113), 4. Tony Quinn (95), 5. James Koundouris/Steve Owen (81), 6. Garth Tander (58), 7. Justin McMillan/Steve Richards (57)
2014 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Rnd#1 - 28-30 March, Sandown, Melbourne, Victoria
(2x 60-minute races - The Nationals)
Rnd#2 - 23-25 May, Phillip Island, Victoria
(101-lap race - The Nationals)
Rnd#3 - 4-6 July, Townsville, Queensland
(3x 40-minute races - V8 Supercars)
Rnd#4 - 22-24 August, Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW
(2x 30-minute, 1x 60-minute races - V8 Supercars)
Rnd#5 - 12-14 September, Sandown, Melbourne, Victoria
(3x 40-minute races - V8 Supercars)
Rnd#6 - 7-9 November, Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, NZ
(2x 40-minute races) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- M Motorsport is proudly supported by Interlloy Engineering Steels and Alloys, Australian Post Tensioning, Vibrabody and Freem. About Interlloy
Interlloy Pty Ltd is Australia’s lead supplier of Engineering Steels and Alloys to engineering machine shops both nationally and internationally. Founded in 1987and now employing over one hundred and forty (140) people in five states of Australia, Interlloy has become the major supplier of Special Steels to the General and Heavy Engineering Industries, Toolmaking, Mining, Gas & Oil Fields, Automotive, Manufacturing, Petrochemical, Pump, Power Generation and Transport Industries. For more information, please visit; www.interlloy.com.au www.facebook.com/MMotorsportGT3
Dual Victorian State-Series Production Sports Car champion Justin McMillan took to Mount Panorama Bathurst for the second time this year during the Bathurst Motor Festival over the Easter weekend, the Lamborghini pilot joined once-more for his second stint at ‘the Mountain’ by 2012 race winner Ross Lilley.
Sharing the driving duties in McMillan’s state-title winning Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo - resplendent this time in the colours of Freem Racewear - the duo were consistently within reach of the leaders, but hampered by the additional 300kg the 4WD Gallardo carries over the cars stable-mate, their 2013 Interlloy-supported Gallardo FL2 GT3.
The M-Motorsport/Interlloy Lamborghini was the talk of the Sandown pits on the Friday night of the opening round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli, with both Steven Richards and car-owner Justin McMillan sitting within reach of the pace-setters heading into qualifying.
That discussion only got louder after qualifying with Richards setting a new qualifying lap record to set pole position for the opening 60-minute race later in the day.
For M-Motorsport’s Justin McMillan, the opening round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli at Melbourne’s Sandown Park represents more than just a home race in name. “Okay, it’s in my backyard, but it’s also the one circuit I’ve done more miles around than any other, so I’m really looking forward to kicking off the season with a solid result,” the Interlloy-backed driver admitted.
Twelve months ago dual-Victorian State Series champion Justin McMillan made his ‘main game’ debut at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour, one of the most daunting circuits in the world. By the close of the event he had both impressed his highly-rated team-mate Steven Richards, and run strongly amongst the national GT regulars.
For his second attempt at the notorious Bathurst endurance event, McMillan employed not just a fourth driver, but the last Reiter Engineering-prepared Lamborghini Gallardo FLII built - it arrived just a fortnight before the season opener.
During testing at Phillip Island and Winton the new car performed brilliantly and that translated into pace during opening practice at Bathurst.
12-months ago M-Motorsport’s Justin McMillan stood on the precipice of the biggest drive of his short motorsport career, staring down the barrel of his debut on Mount Panorama behind the wheel of one of the most ferocious GT cars in the world, the 600bhp Lamborghini Gallardo FLII.
Now, just days out from his second start at ‘the mountain’ McMillan admits that the emotions are different this time around - more akin to a kid in a lolly shop..
M-Motorsport’s Justin McMillan had an initiation of fire in his maiden season of Australian GT last year, the two-time Victorian State Series Sports Car champion debuting a new car with a new team, and whilst the season ending report card might not have shown it, there were a number of flashes of brilliance from the Victorian-based businessman during his debut season.
For M-Motorsport’s Justin McMillan, the penultimate round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli provided him another opportunity to tick boxes and continue fast-tracking his experience in the hotly contested national championship.
Having never previously competed at Queensland Raceway, nor in the dark, the Lamborghini pilot was eager to get the weekend under way.