TCR Series race two turned it on for the big crowd at Sydney Motorsport Park.
THE 2019 Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour delivered sweet redemption for Beric Lynton and Tim Leahey, the BMW M3 duo powering to a record-breaking victory after being denied within sight of the flag last year.
Revenge for the pair came in dominant fashion, leading every lap en-route to a victory margin of more than one lap - though the margin belied a tense strategic battle that unfolded throughout the duration with close rivals Sherrin Racing.
Lynton, a two-time Production Car Champion, and the vastly experienced Leahey became the first combination to win from pole position as they set a new Bathurst 6 Hour race record distance of 131 laps (814 kilometres).
The race was the fastest in six-hour history and was only interrupted by three Safety Car periods throughout, the least in race history.
2018 winners Grant and Iain Sherrin finished second, the third time in four years the team has finished on the Bathurst 6 Hour podium.
A heroic charge to the line saw the Matt Holt / Nathan Callaghan / Chris Lillis HSV GTS finish third outright, only climbing to the final step on the podium in the final 10 laps as they hunted down and passed the BMW of Class B winners David and Geoff Russell. It marks the first time a V8-powered car has finished on the six-hour podium.
After being denied last year, the winning duo were relieved to finally break their six-hour hoodoo.
“Last year with 20 to go we all know what happened,” Leahey said.
“Today was a good day. We led from start to finish. From the start we had the extra pit stop, which we weren’t all that happy about, but we got away with it.
“It all worked out. The car was great. We didn’t have any mechanical issues like last year. We’ll take it and that will make my girls happy that I wasn’t there for the Easter egg hunt this morning!”
Lynton said he was thrilled to finally stand on the top step of the podium.
“Last year we built a car that we thought could win the race. In it’s first ever race it was so close so we had to come back and give it one more crack. We’ve ticked the box – it’s great.
“Even with two BoP penalties the team did a great job and it went our way. I’m really happy.”
The Sherrin Racing team’s remarkable record at Mount Panorama saw them secure second; an additional pit stop and a lack of yellow ensuring their strategy didn’t quite work again this year.
“It seems like the whole weekend has been a tough weekend for us,” Iain Sherrin said.
“Though the race, we kind of went a bit conservative with the stops and threw four tyres at it just to see what was happening, only to have the Safety Car to come out on my out lap and that basically put us a lap down straight away.
“Credit to the team and the car, I’m realty proud of the boys. We stuck at it and pulled the second place finish.
“You still want to be on the podium, it’s three out of four podiums for us at this event which is a credit to our team.”
The brave performance from the Cachet Homes HSV saw Nathan Callaghan hunt down David Russell in the closing stages: much to the elation of the privateer team.
“When I came out of the pits and saw the BMW coming up the hill – It’s nice to be able to push rather than try and stop the car breaking,” Callaghan said.
“It was fun I was happy that I could make up some ground. It was so hard racing through the traffic but I’m stoked.
“I always wanted to do this with the guys, build a car and do it on our terms and get on the Bathurst podium, and we’ve done it,” added Holt.
The combination also won the A2 class (Extreme Performance – Normally Aspirated).
Second went to the Garage 1 BMW M3 driven by Anthony Gilbertson and Andrew Mill, who finished eighth outright. Third was the Graeme Muir / Jamie Hodgson Commodore.
The father and son combination of David and Geoff Russell dominated class B, despite their car slowing in the closing stages and slipping back from a potential outright podium finish.
Scott Gore and Keith Bensley (BMW 135i) finished second in class, five laps behind but still ninth outright.
A dramatic end to the race saw the Class C lead change hands in the final six minutes, thanks to a thrilling drive by Jake Camilleri.
He gave the N-Gen Racing Hyundai team a Bathurst victory on debut as he hunted down and passed Jake Williams’ BMW within sight of the flag.
Camilleri shared the car with Alfie and Charlie Senese, while a disappointed Williams led for much of the day with co-driver Rodney Stait. Third was the second N-Gen Hyundai in a strong debut for the team.
A giant-killing performance saw Aaron Cameron, Kyle Gurton and Cooper Murray win Class D, by finishing an outstanding 13th outright in their Toyota 86.
In Class E, Andrew McMaster, David Worrell and David Noble had looked to defend their class victory, however were denied with a post-race five lap penalty. That handed the victory to the Suzuki Swift Sport of Michael Hopp and Steve Pittman.
30 of the 44 starters finished the race, while 18,045 people attended the three days of the 2019 event.
Earlier in the day the event and major sponsor HI-Tec Oils announced a four-year extension of their major partnership, taking the partnership through the 2023 race.
The Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour will return on the Easter Long weekend next year.
The inaugural TCR event in Australia got away to a great start for Jimmy Vernon as he jumped 3 within the first lap.
Melinda Price will drive for Bendigo Reto in the TCM Championship in 2020.
The team has a brand new Holden HQ currently being built by renowned builder Bendigo Retro and will be powered by the new TCM control engine.
Team principle Jacqui Carroll has had the desire to create stepping stones into the TMC category. “This deal was put together to showcase some of the fantastic female competitors, pitcrew, managers and press within the sport”. “Our goal is to recruit and coach females to then let them go on to bigger things.” Stated Carroll.
The Touring Car Master Series has great TV coverage and offers great opportunities.
“With the first piece of the puzzle now locked in with Melinda, it’s now time to start building the team around her.” Stated Carroll
We also have some fantastic advertising and partner opportunities available for the 2020 Championship.
As a tease, Melinda may be seen in the team’s backup car in 2019 if funding can be sourced.
Team Alfa’s Jimmy Vernon made gains from P2 in the darkness yesterday to finish out qualifying in position 10.
A former Commercial Manager in one of Australia’s leading Supercars teams, David Vervaart has extensive experience in the operation and development of motorsport categories, whilst also enjoying time as a circuit manager, a team manager and a driver manager.
More recently Vervaart has been involved in motorsport retail, in fleet and dealer sales for a major Australian automotive group, whilst also present on the coal-face of the development of some of Asia’s leading sportscar and GT championships.
For Australian GT category owner Jim Manolios, he sees the appointment of Vervaart is an important next step in the development and success of the CAMS-supported championship, a factor which the two parties were keen to reinforce during Vervaart’s first appointment in the role with a visit to CAMS’ Melbourne HQ.
“Looking forward from the foundations that were laid over the last seven years, it was important to take the next step in the development of Australian GT with an experienced hand at the helm,” Manolios admitted.
“CAMS shared my view in that, and were keen to meet and endorse David in the role, as we all look to re-establishing Australian GT as one of the premier categories in Australian motorsport.
“We have some big plans for the coming seasons, but we also need to work more closely with the stakeholders of Australian GT to ensure we achieve the best result that we can moving forward. The motorsport landscape is changing constantly but also becoming very splintered with the growing number of new categories emerging, however GT3 competition worldwide is on a resurgence, and with quite a number of cars already on the ground in Australia, our aim is to get them out of garages and back on track.
“For us, this new appointment signals the start of the next chapter in Australian GT, and we’re very excited about what’s ahead.”
For Vervaart, the challenge of steering Australian GT into that next chapter is an exciting prospect, one in which he believes his past experiences will play a significant role.
“Having been a part of almost every angle you can approach the sport from – I can honestly say I am better prepared than ever to assist with the growth of Australian GT, and excited by the prospect of what’s to come,” Vervaart admitted.
“Having been involved with the SRO organisation over a 20 year span, and having seen the way the category has both evolved and recently re-energised, gives me the comfort of knowing there is nothing wrong with the model, and that GT3 still remains one of the most vibrant and successful categories of motorsport worldwide.
“I have already spoken with some of the stakeholders, and over the coming weeks will make direct contact with all of them to get a better picture of what we need to do to get the championship flourishing again, and I have no doubt that it will do just that over the coming seasons with the right ideas and the right kind of communication.”
Vervaart’s first commitment was to join category owner Jim Manolios at CAMS in Melbourne to endorse his appointment, and to also continue discussions about the future of Australian GT for which more announcements are pending.
He will then take over active duty from March 25, and front his first event at Barbagallo Wanneroo Raceway for the second round of the 2019 season under lights alongside Supercars on May 4-5.