First Win for New McLaren GT3 in Australia
The new McLaren 720S GT3 claimed its maiden global victory in the first of four Australian GT Championship races at Albert Park last weekend.
Fraser Ross caught and overtook the Scott Taylor Motorsport-prepared Mercedes-AMG GT3s of Kenny Habul and pole-sitter Max Twigg to earn the win for Team59 Racing in the 25-minute contest on the Thursday of the Australian Grand Prix.
STM SunEnergy1 Racing’s Habul bounced back to win races 2 and 4 while Peter Hackett claimed race 3 honors in the Eggelston Motorsport Mercedes.
Habul led the entire second race after taking the lead from Ross into the first corner, with the Intercontinental GT Challenge Bronze class champion fending off the non-points scoring Mclaren’s advances in the closing stages.
Habul’s other victory was a more straightforward run to the flag from pole, which was helped by Ross’ pre-race retirement after a brake system failure hit the 720S GT3 on the grid.
The SunEnergy 1 driver was clear to take an eight-second victory from Twigg, who was chased to the line by Hackett.
In race 3, Hackett notched up his first Australian GT triumph with a late pass on Twigg as the pair sought to get around a back-marker.
Despite losing that win, Twigg still took a sweep of four podiums to leave Melbourne with the championship lead heading into the second round at Barbagallo in May.
AAI, Craft-Bamboo Share Out China GT Wins
Team AAI and Craft-Bamboo Racing each took a victory in the China GT Championship season-opening weekend at Sepang International Circuit.
Nick Yelloly scored his first win as a BMW factory driver by holding off Jazeman Jaafar in the No. 77 Craft-Bamboo Mercedes-AMG GT3 in a thrilling late-race duel.
Alessio Picariello, driving the sister Craft-Bamboo Mercedes, seized the lead from Yelloly’s co-driver Junsan Chen at the start but his advantage was wiped out by a safety car period.
As Picariello’s driving partner Jeffrey Lee faded to fifth in the second stint, Yelloly and Jaafar fought for the win with the Craft-Bamboo driver hounding the back of the AAI-entered BMW M6 GT3.
Yelloly was able to hold on, with the victory confirmed when Jaafar picked up a puncture on the final lap.
In race 2, Picariello and Lee took the spoils after another final-stages duel, this time involving the Porsche 911 GT3 R of Chris van der Drift.
Yelloly worked his way up from sixth to first in the opening exchanges but the BMW driver’s lead was neutralized by a safety car period.
Picariello then caught and passed Chen after the driver swaps to take the lead before another safety car intervention, which brought Van der Drift’s Team JRM Porsche into range.
Picariello stood his ground in the Mercedes to claim a 0.6-second margin of victory over Van der Drift, while Chen and Yelloly finished third in their BMW
***Newly-signed Audi factory driver Mattia Drudi will join Florian Spengler in one of EFP Car Collection by TECE’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos in the ADAC GT Masters. The second car will be driven by Elia Erhart and Pierre Kaffer as they did last season (pictured).
***Maxi Goetz and Indy Dontje will return to Mann-Filter Team HTP, driving one of its Mercedes-AMG GT3s in GT Masters. The team’s other car is set to be shared by the previously-announced pairing of Fabian Vettel and Philip Ellis.
***Absolute Racing has added a third Porsche 911 GT3 R to its 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia program for drivers Alexandre Imperatori and Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak. It’s in addition to two more Porsches and a pair of Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos.
***Tianshi Racing Team has entered an Audi for Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia with David Chen and Andre Couto driving, while Anstone Racing will enter a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Xu Wei and Naoki Yokomizo.
***Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin will return to International GT Open with a Ferrari 488 GT3 entered by Spirit of Race.
***Fran Rueda will drive for Teo Martin Motorsport for the third consecutive season, alongside Andres Saravia. Rueda was recently added to the McLaren Young Professional Program.
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report