Audi rivals head to NZ for Australian GT title showdown
Audi rivals head to NZ for Australian GT title showdown
Audi Sport Customer Racing Australia
Rnd#6 2015 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, NZ (13-15 November, 2015)
After 10-dramatic races, the 2015 Australian GT Championship has come down to the wire, with Audi rivals Christopher Mies and Nathan Antunes locked in a titanic battle for the crown heading to New Zealand this weekend for the final event of the season.
The two Audi stars have been the standouts in season 2015, sharing six wins from ten starts, the German factory driver and the emerging Australian star battling over the top of the championship points table since the opening round in Adelaide.
Reigning Nurburgring 24-Hour champion Mies holds a 65-point lead over his rival heading to Highlands for the season finale, after Antunes suffered a difficult weekend last time out in Melbourne, however the Australian comes to New Zealand as a podium finisher in the testing Highlands 101 event.
Whilst much of the focus will be centred on the battle between the two Audi stars for the outright Championship trophy, there is also a battle royale brewing in Trophy Class.
12-months ago Rod Salmon and Audi Sport customer racing rival Dean Koutsoumidis battled over Trophy Class honours at Highlands with Antunes assisting car-owner Salmon to the title before the pair went on to claim second in the hotly contested 101.
This year there are two more Audi teams embroiled in the battle for championship immortality – former Australian GT Sports champion Mark Griffith, and 2015 Australian GT rookies Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer.
The Taylor/Mawer combination currently sit on top of the points after three wins in season 2015, with Griffith 62 points further back, although the Audi rivals will have to keep a close eye on two-time 2015 winner, Porsche’s Theo Koundouris, who sits just 25 points shy of the title lead with 110-points still on offer.
Peter Fitzgerald makes a welcome return to Australian GT [AGT] for the final round, the EVA Racing/Evolve Technik driver will contest the two 60-minute AGT races alone, before being joined by 2013 Highlands 101 winner Fabian Coulthard for the three-hour endurance race on Sunday afternoon.
The Victorian driver has been out of the championship since mid-season after a number of unlucky incidents where he became the hapless victim, but the veteran returns to Highlands, the scene of his AGT debut in 2014.
12-months ago he claimed a pair of top ten finishes in the two 40-minute AGT races before claiming an impressive fourth in the 101 alongside Michael Almond so he admits to being a big fan of the 4.1-kilometre 14-turn Highlands layout, but whilst Fitzgerald will be fast, all eyes will be on the battle for the championship between Mies and Antunes..
“Look, I had a tough time at Sandown and that’s made life a little more challenging going into Highlands, but I’m pretty relaxed about the whole thing,” Antunes admitted.
“I’m just going to enjoy myself – whenever I’ve taken that approach in the past, I’ve had a good weekend. My sponsor Beechwood Homes are sending a number of people over, my brother and some of my family will be there for the experience, so I’m just going to go out and do my best.
“I’m racing against arguably the most experienced Audi R8 driver in the world – that guy [Mies] seems to spend his whole life in an R8.. It’s going to be a tough weekend, but I’m up for it. I had a great result there last year with Rod [Salmon], so I’ll just go out and do what I can, have a great time, and whatever happens, happens..!”
Antunes will contest the two 60-minute races that settle the Australian GT title alone, before car-owner Salmon will join him for the 101, the reigning Trophy Class champion having finished the event in second place each year since the event was first run in 2013, last time out with Antunes alongside.
Whilst Antunes will drive the two AGT races alone, Mies will once more be joined by Ryan Millier who took over driving duties from Mies original partner Greg Crick mid-season, after the former AGT champion announced his retirement from driving. Since then the Jamec-Pem Racing pair have claimed two wins (Sydney and Sandown), a third and a fourth to put Mies back on top of the points standings.
Keep an eye on the lead Jamec-Pem Racing Audi too this weekend. Like his star recruit Mies and Audi team-mates Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer, Steve McLaughlan has been doing plenty of miles in his 2016 Audi R8 LMS GT3 which recently arrived in Australia ahead of the 2016 Bathurst 12-Hour.
McLaughlan has continued to improve throughout the season, and his test pace has been impressive, as has his recent form in AGT. Typically he will be a top ten contender in the two 60-minute AGT races, but joined by another Audi factory favourite, and former Nurburgring 24-Hour champion – Christopher Haase – for the Highlands 101, he will be a podium contender.
Like Championship Class points leader Christopher Mies, Trophy Class points leaders Greg Taylor and Barton Mawer have been doing plenty of miles in an Audi in recent weeks, the duo conducting some intensive testing miles at Phillip Island with their new 2016 Audi R8 LMS GT3s..
“Fantastic car,” Mawer admitted. “The level of detail that Audi put into these cars is incredible, and they’ve clearly thought about the practicalities of GT racing. I really enjoyed my laps in the car and was very close to Chris’ times, and given his role in developing the car, I’m pretty happy with that. My only concern now is getting my head back into the final round of AGT in our 2011 car!
“Greg did a few miles in the new car too, so is race ready, but neither of us have competed on Highlands before. Our aim for the weekend is simple, finish on the podium and keep out of trouble. You won’t see any heroics from us, we’ll leave that for the 101 on Sunday when we can forget about the championship battle and just go out and have some fun!”
Whilst his rivals have never been to Highlands before, Mark Griffith is an ‘old hand’ at the Cromwell venue having run strongly there in the past. He’s also experienced an R8 there too having made his Audi debut in the Highlands 101 12-months ago, proving competitive straight out of the box in the Rod Salmon Trophy Class car – a situation which led to him joining the Audi Sport customer racing Australia team for AGT this season.
“I love Highlands, it’s a fantastic circuit” the Queenslander admitted. “I’m looking forward to the weekend and will be on full attack mode. I’ve driven the car enough now to work out where we can be strong and I’ll just keep pushing. It’s a tough circuit with a lot of entries, so it will be no cake-walk, but I’ll give it my best shot!”
Griffith will be joined once more by Daniel Gaunt for the Highlands 101, the duo having shared the Hog’s Breath Audi earlier in the season at the Phillip Island 101, running at the front of the field before a string of late race tyre failures.
The opening 40-minute practice session for the final round of the Australian GT Championship will kick off on Friday morning at 10:45am, ahead of two qualifying sessions in the afternoon, before race one at 10:55am on Saturday (14 November) and race two on at 2:00pm. Teams will then regroup and return to Highlands for qualifying and the 101-lap endurance race on Sunday (15 November).
Audi Sport customer racing Australia;

Rnd#6 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli

Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, New Zealand (13-14 November, 2015)
2. Peter Fitzgerald (EVA Racing/Evolve Technik Audi R8 LMS ultra) – GT Champ.
6. Nathan Antunes (Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 LMS ultra) – GT Champ.
19. Mark Griffith (Hog’s Breath Café Audi R8 LMS GT3) – GT Trophy
38. Greg Taylor/Barton Mawer (Adina Apartment Hotel Audi R8 LMS GT3) – GT Trophy
74. Christopher Mies/Ryan Millier (Jamec-Pem Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra) – GT Champ.
75. Steve McLaughlan (Jamec-Pem Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra) – GT Champ.
Highlands 101 (14 November, 2015)
2. Fitzgerald/Fabian Coluthard (EVA Racing/Evolve Technik Audi R8 ultra) – GT Champ.
6. Nathan Antunes/Rod Salmon (Skwirk/Beechwood Audi R8 LMS ultra) – GT Champ.
19. Mark Griffith/Dan Gaunt (Hog’s Breath Café Audi R8 LMS GT3) – GT Trophy
38. Greg Taylor/Barton Mawer (Adina Apartment Hotel Audi R8 LMS GT3) – GT Trophy
74. Christopher Mies/Ryan Millier (Jamec-Pem Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra) – GT Champ.
75. Steve McLaughlan/Christopher Haase (Jamec-Pem Audi R8 LMS ultra) – GT Champ.
2015 Australian GT Championship (points after round five of six)
GT Championship Class

1. Christopher Mies (569-points), 2. Nathan Antunes (504), 3. Grant Denyer (467), 4. Klark Quinn (409), 5. Tony Quinn (381), 5. Jono Lester (381), 7. Tony D’Alberto (350), 8. Graeme Smyth (301), 9. Max Twigg/Geoff Emery (300), 9. Greg Crick (300), 11. Ryan Millier (269), 12. Steven McLaughlan (218)
GT Trophy Class
1. Greg Taylor/Barton Mawer (643-points), 2. Theo Koundouris (618), 3. Mark Griffith (581), 4. Simon Ellingham (447), 5. Jan Jinadasa (244)

2015 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli

Rnd#1 – 26 February-1 March, Clipsal 500, Adelaide, SA*
Rnd#2 – 22-24 May, Phillip Island, Victoria**
Rnd#3 – 10-12 July, Townsville, Queensland*
Rnd#4 – 21-23 August, Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW*
Rnd#5 – 11-13 September, Sandown 500, Melbourne, Victoria*
Rnd#6 – 13-15 November, Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, NZ
(* with V8 Supercars, ** with the Shannons Nationals)
2015 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, New Zealand (13-15 November, 2015)
Schedule: [NZDT – GMT +13]
Friday, 13 November
10:45am – Practice #1 (40-minutes)
12:30pm – Practice #2 (40-minutes)
2:25pm – Qualifying #1 (30-minutes)
3:35pm – Qualifying #2 (30-minutes)
Saturday, 14 November
8.55am – Warm-up (30-minutes)
10:55am – Race#1 (60-minutes)
2:00pm – Race#2 (60-minutes)
Sunday, 15 November
10:10am – Highlands 101 Qualifying Driver A (18-minutes)
10:32am – Highlands 101 Qualifying Driver B (18-minutes)
1:20pm – Highlands 101 Race (101-laps)
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For more information on the Audi Sport customer racing Teams, please contact Sean Henshelwood at Signature Series Group [SSG] via