Story by Vince Johnson
Photos by Vince Johnson unless otherwise noted.
The traditional Aussie V8 Supercar duel between Holden and Ford gets underway each season after the summer break around the streets of the South Australian capital. This year, however, there were two new makes on the grid intent on sharing the spoils. Nissan Motorsport fielded four Altimas powered by the same V8 that took victory in the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship, while Erebus Motorsport had a pair of Mercedes-Benz E63AMGs ready to take on the home-grown favourites.
In the afternoon practice, the fastest three were once again the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3s of Craig Baird and Christian Klien, and Klark Quinn’s Porsche GTR-3. Qualifying started later the same day. Klien set a new lap record to edge out his team-mate Baird with Quinn on row 2. The Lago and McMillan Lamborghinis turned the tables on Taplin’s 458, while Jordan Ormsby’s efforts in his Porsche 997 GT3 Cup S took 7th on the grid from Weeks. At the rear of the 22-car grid was Klark Quinn’s father Tony, forced to miss qualifying after an altercation with the wall during practice in his Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
The first race, a one-hour affair, wasn’t scheduled until late on Saturday afternoon, giving the teams some well-earned breathing time. Australian GT regulations specify a compulsory pit stop mid-race, with a handicap system taking into consideration professional and amateur driver status and qualifying position. At the start Baird gained traction over Klien who, by the end of the first lap, was down to third behind Quinn’s Porsche. Lago held on to fourth from Taplin but McMillan was having brake issues, eventually withdrawing the Lamborghini LP60 after six laps.
Unlike last year’s race, there were no rain clouds anywhere to be seen all weekend. Instead it was the Ginetta GT4 of Mark Griffith that affected the track’s grip, emptying its sump after an engine explosion at Senna Chicane (turns 1-2). Baird took advantage of the safety car, as did Lago, finishing in that order after a further safety car period, with Quinn taking the third step on the podium. Taplin brought the 458 Italia home ahead of Klien, from Weeks’ Lamborghini.
In race 2 on Sunday morning Weeks was unfortunate to run into the tyre barrier on turn four while dicing with Tony Quinn’s Aston Martin. Unable to restart the car he sat out the remaining seven laps. Baird continued his winning ways from the day before. Klien took a half-second off the lap record trying to close the gap to second-placed Quinn’s Porsche, but slowed noticeably on the final lap with fuel pickup difficulties. Lago just failed to get by before the flag, with Taplin right behind him. McMillan brought the other Lamborghini home behind Tony Quinn’s Aston Martin.
While not in the hunt for outright honours, the other Ferrari entry, Brenton Griguol’s 360 Challenge was arguably the best sounding of the Italians. After an earlier scare when a melting coolant overflow hose had been extinguished, the engine bay was back to its pristine best for the races. Barreling down Pit Straight between the concrete walls, its higher-octave howl could be heard long after it had disappeared up Wakefield Street into the right and left confines of East Terrace.
As expected, the experienced Holden and Ford teams collected most points in the V8 races. Nissan made it home in 11th place on Saturday. Now if Fiat could just be convinced to follow their example and build a Quattroporte to the Aussie V8 race specs, who knows?