A stunning drive from Tony Bates has seen the Eggleston Motorsport driver storm to his maiden CAMS Australian GT Championship race victory in Adelaide on Friday.
Bates moved to the head of the field in the Moveitnet/AFS Mercedes-AMG GT3 following his compulsory pit stop, holding the advantage to the flag to win from a hard-charging Roger Lago.
He will now start from pole position for Race 2 on Saturday.
“It’s a bit surreal,” Bates beamed after the race. “We only put the deal together in the last day or two. It’s all come together quickly but I’ve really gelled with the team, they’re fantastic.
“It will be nice to get some clear air tomorrow and hold off the charging pros! That’s what I love about this category, it’s a bag of mixed lollies; there’s just so many variables.
“It’s just about driving consistently and hitting your markers; you can’t control what happens in and around you and we got out of it on the right side today, it’s excellent!”
Pole-sitter Kelvin van der Linde had skipped away to an early lead before the safety car was called after four laps when Nathan Antunes lost control of the GT Motorsport Audi R8 LMS.
Having lowered the lap record in the early stages of the race, van der Linde’s lead was eliminated in an instant before the young South African was handed a drive-through penalty for weaving behind the safety car.
It saw the Valvoline Audi R8 LMS trundle down pit lane, dropping down the order and sparking a highly entertaining recovery drive.
Emerging on track behind Steve Richards’ BMW Team SRM M6 GT3, the pair became embroiled in a thrilling battle as van der Linde turned up the heat on the experienced Richards.
The veteran however didn’t put a foot wrong, and kept van der Linde at bay until peeling off to hand the car to co-driver James Bergmuller who piloted the car home to 16th place in his first Australian GT Championship race.
With the field compressed by the safety car, Bates, Lago and Peter Major climbed up the order, the latter showing strong potential on his Australian GT debut.
Indeed, Major went wheel to wheel with Lago into the first chicane as the JBS Australia entry rejoined the race after serving its pit stop.
Lago though resisted the PM Motorsport entry’s attentions, Major falling inline in the third place he held until the finish.
Liam Talbot claimed fourth in the Mega Racing Porsche GT3 R, while in fifth place Tony Walls fended off James Koundouris in the Supabarn Supermarkets Audi R8 LMS.
Walls and Koundouris headed a pack of five cars that also included Mark Griffith (Hog’s Breath Cafe/Griffith Corporation), Fraser Ross (Tekno Autosports) and Steve McLaughlan (Valvoline).
Bates now heads the 2017 CAMS Australian GT Championship points table from Lago with two races to follow across Saturday and Sunday.
The second 40-minute race of the weekend will take place on Saturday at 9:10 a.m. local time, with live coverage in Australia on Fox Sports, channel 506.