Tony Bates and Daniel Gaunt have claimed a sensational outright victory in a drama-filled Phillip Island 101 endurance race today, emerging on top after a drama-filled marathon that lasted more than four-and-a-half hours, and was twice interrupted by red flags.
Due to the lengthy delays, the race ran to just 78 of the scheduled 101 laps, of which the KFC/Moveitnet/C-Tech Laser/B&B/Local Roadways Audi R8 led for just 10 – but they were the 10 that counted.
Bates started the race, running inside the top five throughout the opening stint and enjoying some close battles with several more highly-ranked drivers.
“I had a good dice with a couple of the Pro drivers in the opening laps,” Bates said.
“I was able to hold them at bay while setting the same times as the cars in front, which was satisfying.
“In the second part of my stint, I found a really good groove and I was one of the fastest cars on the track. I was able to pass a couple of cars, which ensured I was able to hand the car over to Dan with good track position.”
Gaunt took the reins of the Audi on lap 51, just after a long red-flag interruption. Another red flag followed shortly afterwards and the car’s final pit stop came on lap 61. By lap 70, the #24 Audi had a decisive lead, which it would hold until the chequered flag.
“Because of the red flags, the overall strategic picture of the race became quite hard to follow, but our race engineer Adam de Borre was simply brilliant – not only did he nail our strategy, but he was keeping a read on everyone else,” Bates said.
“It might have taken a while for Dan to physically take the lead, but after the second round of pit stops, we could see the race was starting to play into our hands.
“Dan’s performance was outstanding – he had the measure of the rest of the field, and pulled away after the last Safety Car restart.”
The big win has propelled Bates into the outright lead of the Australian GT Championship, and the successful Melbourne business owner is understandably elated.
“Before this weekend, the overall championship wasn’t even on my radar, but under the GT points system, an enduro win really catapults you up the leaderboard,” Bates said.
“Dan and I have been trying to win an enduro together for six years, so to finally do it together was a very special moment for both of us.
“This win also breaks my Phillip Island hoodoo – it’s a track that hasn’t been kind to me in the past, but last week’s test definitely helped me find my groove, and I was quick out of the box.
“The Melbourne Performance Centre crew have shown they know how to win this championship, and now we’re in contention we’ll be fighting hard,” Bates concluded.
Round 5 of the Australian GT Championship will be held at Sydney Motorsport Park, 3-4 August.