Hong Kong’s Matt Solomon was a late inclusion into the opening round of the 2016 Australian GT Championship, securing a ride in the new Mercedes AMG GT3 just a week out from the event, and the former European F3 regular proved to be the perfect recruit, handing the German marque their first official podium finish on his series debut.

V8s2016-Event1-00278 copy“I’m absolutely rapt for the team, for Geelong Sales Company and of course for AMG to be so competitive and to give Mercedes AMG their first podium with what is an absolutely incredible car,” Solomon admitted post-race. “I didn’t have any real expectation going into the event, I hadn’t tested the car, the deal only went together just a week out and of course I’d never driven at Clipsal before. Of course I knew all about it, and have been a part of AMG Customer Racing in the past, so I was a little prepared, but wow, what a fantastic car.”

Thursday began with just one solitary 20-minute practice session ahead of qualifying, so the bulk of Matt’s rivals who knew the circuit, certainly had an advantage. Despite that He was able to learn fast which resulted in a P10 grid position.

Matt’s strategy for for the first race was to stay out of trouble. “For the first race I just focussed on keeping out of trouble, and managed that without any drama, but got swamped at one point giving some racing room and finished 11th.”

“In race two I started to push a little more aggressively and was up to seventh and going for sixth but got turned around and had to wait for the entire field to clear before I could get going again, ultimately dropping to 21st at the flag. That was tough, but we had good speed, so I knew we’d be okay for the final race despite starting down the back.

V8s2016-Event1-00234 copy“Off the line in race three I just pushed every lap and started to make my way forward. Safety Cars helped but they also took away valuable laps as I started to close in on the leaders. With a couple of laps to go I caught the lead pack and that held me up a little bit as they were fighting for position and there was no clean move to get through. In the end I had to push as time was running out and made a move on Scott Taylor into turn six which I thought I’d nailed, but visibility in the modern GT3 cars is so limited sometimes that it’s hard to see every little move and he hadn’t seen me so moved across.”

“We touched, but it hardly marked my car although sadly spun him around, but it didn’t affect the overall result, I crossed the line third for what turned out to be Mercedes AMGs first official podium with the new car, something I’m honoured to have had the opportunity to achieve.”

The result was a huge credit to the Eggleston Motorsport team – Ben [Eggleston], Rachael [Wagg], Peter [Hackett] and the crew – doing an amazing job to get the car prepped and ready for the weekend considering the time they had to turn it around ahead of this first race.

The second round of the CAMS Australian GT Championship will be held on the Albert Park Grand Prix circuit as part of the opening round of the 2016 Formula 1 season from 17-20 March.

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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
  6. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Company Mercedes AMG GT3) – 1:21.6853

Race#1 (40-laps) – 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 (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
  6. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Company Mercedes AMG GT3)

Race#2 (40-laps) – 5 March

  1. Marshall/Koundouris (Audi R8 LMS GT3) – 21-laps
  2. Roger Lago (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
  3. Wood/McMillan (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
  4. Klark Quinn/Tony Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
  5. Greg Taylor (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
  6. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Company Mercedes AMG GT3)

Race#3 (40-laps) – 6 March

  1. Tony Walls (McLaren 650S GT3)
  2. McMillan/Wood (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
  3. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Company Mercedes AMG GT3)
  4. Canto/Taplin (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3)
  5. Martin/Tebb (Porsche 997 GT3-R)
Ben Potter
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