Muscat Extends Aust GT Championship Lead at Phillip Island
Richard Muscat extended his lead in the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli at Round 2 at Phillip Island today with a second place podium finish in the endurance race.
The day began with both drivers taking part in qualifying this morning with Jack Le Brocq banking one lap before pitting for a driver change.
With a wet track throughout qualifying, Richard Muscat remained on wet tyres, jumping to the top of the times on his penultimate lap.
With the chequered flag out signalling the end of the session, Muscat was pipped right at the end by Warren Luff, with the #36 SLS AMG GT3 being bumped to P2, but maintaining a front row starting position for the race.
With the combination of Muscat and Le Brocq, the front row starting position meant that the #36 car was held for 34 seconds due to the driver seeding, plus 82 seconds for the front row grid spot, totalling to a 116-second minimum pit stop time.
The 101-lap which was scheduled to begin at 2:05pm was delayed due to track repairs and the race was shortened to 82 laps to meet the 5pm race curfew.
After qualifying 2nd on the front row for the rolling star, Muscat took the lead at the start of the race.
With Muscat driving the first two stints, and Le Brocq taking the wheel for the third stint, the two Erebus Academy drivers held on to the race lead until the third last lap.
Le Brocq fought hard against Garth Tander, who was co-driving Tony Quinn’s Aston Martin, but unfortunately lost the lead.
By holding onto second position, the Muscat and Le Brocq combination were able to extend Muscat’s championship lead.
Erebus Motorsport GT Team Principal, Daniel Klimenko, was happy with the effort the youngsters displayed over the 2-day weekend.
“Wow what a race! The first say 20 laps started off pretty much as expected,” said Klimenko.
“During the middle of the race when the safety car came out, it was probably against everyone’s wishes.
“We fought hard on track to overcome the deficit of the minimum pitstop time.
“After the second pit stop Richard did a superb job after double stinting and we came out with about a 30-second lead, which slowly evaporated when Jack went in because we were trying to keep the car clean and bring it home in one piece.
“Due to the straight line speed of the Aston – when it came to the straight it caught us, and once it got in front of us on the straight, it was hard to make up time on the tight and twisty sections.
“Basically I think we needed more laps to do it.
“Otherwise I was pretty happy with the boys. It was a good team effort, and they played together well.”
Muscat acknowledged that not everything quite went to plan over the course of the day with a dashboard display issue.
“I got off to a good start and took the lead, but maybe I went a bit too hard, because I baked the front right towards the end of the first stint,” said Muscat.
“So after the first pit stop, I was telling myself to look after the front right tyre, so I didn’t push too hard, and that paid dividends towards the end of the stint.
“I was really happy with my pace all race and to be quicker by more than a second to guys like Craig Baird hopefully shows people what Im capable of."
“When Jack hoped in at the second pit stop we had problems with the dash which was really tricky – not knowing what gear you’re in, or whether ABS is on, little things like that.
“It’s a bit dejecting not to come first, but I’m happy to come second."“We extended our championship lead, did a strong job, and brought the car home.“I was half a second quicker than Tander’s best time in the Aston Martin, and a second quicker than Craig Baird in the Mclaren so I’m really happy with my pace.“Hopefully I can show people around the world and in Australia what I can do.Le Brocq summed up the team’s sentiments perfectly saying that while second place was disappointing after running first for most of the day, the main thing was the championship.“It’s good to be here supporting Richard this weekend,” said Le Brocq.
“It’s a shame I couldn’t hold on for the win, but the main thing is that Richard has extended his lead and the car was strong.”
Round 3 of the Australian GT Championship will be held in Townsville in early July.