Heading into the final event of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli on Australian shores, the Audi Sport customer racing Australia teams have everything to play for with four cars locked in battle over the rights to be classified 2015 champions.
With just 11-points between them, Sydney’s Nathan Antunes, and Germany’s Christopher Mies are looking to both cement their positions in the outright championship against a fleet of hard-charging contenders, and also emerge after the Sandown weekend as the points leaders. Both have shared that position at various stages throughout the season, and whilst they hold a comfortable 82-point advantage over third placed Grant Denyer, the focus in both camps is likely to be on their team-mate.
“I’m not sure Sandown is Audi’s ideal circuit with two long drag strips as straights, but we’ll be in the mix somewhere,” reigning Australian GT Trophy Class champion, and Antunes’ car owner Rod Salmon admitted. “I know both Nathan and Chris are focused on points, but the aim for both of them will be to beat the other in each race to ensure they have the advantage going into the final round in New Zealand in November.”
Currently the wins fall in Antunes’ favour, the brilliant blue Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 ultra having taken the chequered flag three times to Mies two wins, although Mies holds the record with qualifying, having qualified P2 in every round so far this year.
They aren’t the only Audi drivers locked in mortal combat for the rights to become the 2015 Australian Champions, the Trophy Class battle also sees an intense fight between team-mates Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer, and their rival Mark Griffith.
Griffith holds a strong advantage over the #38 team, having contested a number of events over the years at Sandown, whilst the experienced Barton Mawer will add a significant boost to Taylor’s chances of keeping his 31-point buffer over Griffith heading to the final round at Highlands.
“Sandown has always been a challenge in the past in the poor suffering GT4 Ginetta on those long straights, so I’m really looking forward to the performance of the V10 Audi, it’s going to be a completely different experience,” dual Australian GT Sports champion Griffith acknowledged.
Whilst battling for valuable championship points, the two Audi teams will also be keeping a close eye on third-placed Theo Koundouris – himself a round winner in season 2015 – who is just nine points behind round three winner Griffith in the standings.
“Consistency and reliability, two great strengths of the R8, will be what we’ll need this weekend,” Griffith admitted. “We may be down a little on outright power against the Porsche, but I think across the rest of the lap we should have the advantage.”
With Ryan Millier back in the #74 Jamec-Pem Racing Audi R8 ultra after his incredible debut victory for the team in Sydney, Christopher Mies has a more than capable co-driver who knows that he will be under a lot of pressure this weekend.
“Just like Sydney, my job is to support Chris and do everything I can to help him win the championship,” Millier admitted. “It comes with some pressure, but I know Sandown a lot better than Sydney, having done a lot of miles around there over the years, so the aim is to keep my nose clean, punch out the lap-times the team set for me, and hope that puts us in a position to be battling for the win once Chris is in the car.”
Jamec-Pem Racing’s team-boss Steve McLaughlan will be looking to consolidate a position in the top ten in the Championship class after a consistent season that has included some solid runs at the front of the field, whilst in Trophy Class, Victorian Rob Smith will return for his second event in Australian GT looking to build on his strong run at race two in Sydney after suffering a gearbox selection issue during the opening lap of race one.
Opening practice for the final Australian round of the Championship will kick off on Friday morning at 9:35am, ahead of two qualifying sessions, before race one at 4:55pm on Saturday (12 September) and race two on Sunday at 9:05am (13 September), all sessions will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 5.