After a challenging start to the 2018 season which delivered a podium result for the M-Motorsport KTM GT4 team at the Bathurst 12 Hour and a race win for team principal Justin McMillan at the Australian Grand Prix, the popular Victorian crew have delivered a 1-3 finish in the opening round of the CAMS Australian Endurance Championship at the all-new The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia.
An update to the balance-of-performance criteria for the mighty 2-litre turbo-charged powered KTM, saw both M-Motorsport X-Bows right in the GT4 fight across a weekend that saw some of the most challenging conditions ever experienced by the four-man team, but ultimately when the weather cleared, no-one could stop McMillan and team-mate Glen Wood from a storming victory, and the championship points lead for McMillan.
Practice on the new 7.7-kilometre venue was a challenge in itself, intense weather with winds of up to 100kph followed by driving rain saw the circuit – and the assembled field of supercars – coated in dust and mud, something which ultimately forced the cancellation of Saturday’s opening leg of the proposed three hour race, and a change to the shorter 4.95-kilometre national circuit.
Despite visibility that saw drivers struggling to determine where the track started and finished, the two M-Motorsport KTMs were immediately on the pace, Glen Wood and Trent Harrison putting the two X-Bow GT4s towards the top of the timesheets, with Wood in particular coming quickly to terms with the demanding 35-turn layout in the wet to be fastest by more than eight seconds over the next GT4 car in the field.
Come Saturday morning’s two qualifying sessions Wood was again the pace-setter, although this time he was defending his place at the top of the table from team-mate Trent Harrison, Wood ultimately fastest with a best of 3:21.8559, Harrison second 3:24.4464, the pair comfortably clear of their rivals.
In the second session, the #48 Interlloy KTM was again the pace-setter, Justin McMillan holding out his rivals, including former open-wheel star and Touring Car legend, Andrew Miedecke in a thumping V8 Aston Martin.
Ultimately Wood and McMillan would start from pole position, with the #50 Vantage Freight/QUBE Logistics entry of Harrison and David Crampton fourth, although very quickly the two were caught in a battle for position with the Ginetta and the Aston Martin which went all the way down to the first pit stop, the two Audi-powered KTMs forced to pit much earlier than their rivals with their smaller fuel tanks (nine laps shorter than the Aston). At the second stop McMillan and Crampton handed over to their younger team-mates, with the #48 car leading and Crampton third.
From there the battle started with Wood and Harrison mere tenths apart on lap times, lap after lap, the two drivers in the end separated by just four one hundredths of a second on their best laps around the shorter National circuit to claim the top and bottom steps of the podium, Wood admitting across his final stint that he was pushing hard because he thought he was battling Harrison for track position..
Ultimately it was victory to the #48 Interlloy team, with Justin McMillan using his second win of the year to move into the GT4 championship points lead, but just six points clear of title rival Jeremy Gray in the Aston Martin. Glen Wood moves into third in the title race, with team-mates Crampton and Harrison holding down fifth.
What the driver’s had to say;
“I’m pretty happy with that. At the AGP it was clear the BoP was wrong for the KTM and the issue wasn’t contained to Australia, it was a global thing, so it was adjusted and clearly we had a better weapon this weekend. It’s such a comfortable car to drive, even though it is a lot more physical, but you can find pace pretty quickly. For me, that might be semi-retirement too, so to go out with a win was important. The car will still run, but perhaps with another driver whilst I focus more on business, but looks like we might be a three-car operation at Sandown.”
“I can’t thank Justin and the team enough for putting the package together so well. We were quick straight out of the truck, and I had a blast battling against the GT3 cars in the wet, that was fun. The circuit is incredible, such great flow, it was pity we couldn’t do the full length circuit in the main race because all the additional corners really suit the X-Bow.”
“After Bathurst this was just the tonic I needed. Trent was fantastic, he and the team taught me a lot. I was probably a bit too hesitant in traffic to start with and that was a challenge, especially in the conditions, but as the weekend wore on I got more and more comfortable in the car, and to make the podium was almost as good as a win. Can’t wait till Sandown!”
“All in all we had a great weekend, the cars were faultless and fast. Dave did a great job and improved massively over the weekend, between the two of us we can be a real force to challenge for the championship! Although a lap down myself and Glen had a bit of battle on track for most of our stint, Glen was under the impression he was in a race with me when in actual fact he was lapping me!”