An emotional Peter Hackett and Dominic Storey were crowed CAMS Australian Endurance Champions after finishing sixth at the Highlands 501, the final round of the 2017 season.
Their day was action-packed, leading the race before late drama threatened their Championship hopes in a nail-biting finale to the season.
For Hackett, the title marks the culmination of more than a decade’s toil, having come within touching distance of an Australian GT title on multiple occasions only to have it slip out of his grasp.
“That’s pretty special; Australian Formula 3, Formula Holden, or Formula 4000 as it was, and now Australian GT, that’s got a nice ring to it,” said an emotional Hackett.
“I didn’t see that coming,” he added of the roller-coaster race which saw race leader Storey limp the Autex Eggleston Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the pits with six laps to go.
Needing only to finish to be crowned champions, it made for an agonising few moments which threatened to rob Hackett of the title once more.
“When it comes through the pits that Dom has a loose wheel, and that was a really good assessment, your focus just goes from ‘we’re going to win the race’ to ‘let’s survive’.
“You’re never complacent because it’s never real, but you go from a position of relative comfort to complete survival.
“Watching the team instinctively react, as champion teams do, was inspiring.”
Hackett had handed the car to Storey from the lead, after extending a more than 20-second advantage at the head of proceedings in the opening stint of the race.
Storey then held on out front despite a number of safety cars eradicating his lead, until a camber bolt threatened to end his race just six laps from the flag.
“At that moment I thought it was all over,” recounted Storey.
“The boys did what they could; the issue wasn’t fixed but it made the car safe enough to get the car back around and finish the race under its own power.
“It’s actually my first car championship,” he added.
“I always wanted to do one thing, and that was win a championship; I’ve now won the Australian Endurance Championship.
“I’m so rapt, I can’t thank everyone enough – there’s so many people I want to thank, including my family, but mainly my sponsors and Eggleston Motorsport.
“They’ve stuck by Pete and I for the last two years.
“We knew it was possible but there were a couple of things along the way that we thought weren’t going to allow us to win the championship.
“So, we came to New Zealand and we were like ‘we’re going to win both those races’. We nearly did, but we got the championship.
“I actually don’t know how I feel, I’m quite emotional about it at the moment!”
Hackett and Storey started their 2017 campaign in strong form, finishing second after racing back from a lap down following a mid-race downpour in the Phillip Island 500 in May.
A tough weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park 500 saw the duo bank valuable points, before going on to win the Laser Plumbing & Electrical Hampton Downs 500 two weekends ago.
Heading into the Highlands 501 they trailed the Valvoline Jamec Pem Racing Audi of Tim Miles and Jaxon Evans by 76-points, clawing back six points during the two qualifying sessions on Saturday.
After the Audi struck trouble late in the race, Storey and Hackett needed only to finish, surviving the nerve-wracking final laps to end the day sixth, sealing their maiden CAMS Australian Endurance Championship.
Australian Endurance Championship Points Standings
|Kelvin van der Linde||188||0||188||.||0|
|Shane van Gisbergen||9||0||0||0||9|