Emery triumphs in Australian GT wild west thriller

Geoff Emery has won Race 3, and with it Round 2 of the CAMS Australian GT Championship, at Barbagallo after a dramatic finale to the weekend.

The Valvoline Audi driver moved into the lead almost within sight of the flag after young gun Ryan How dramatically crashed out while leading.

With seconds left in the 40-minute encounter a mechanical failure left How powerless to stop his car at the final corner, the BTE Bulk Transport Equipment Audi nosing into the tyre barrier.

It left for a devastated How to climb from his car at the end of a weekend in which he’d starred.

The 17-year-old broke through for a sensational maiden Australian GT victory in Race 1, and was again in the thick of the action as he battled with Peter Major for the lead in Race 3.

However, it would unravel for both protagonists in the final stages of the race in dramatic fashion.

Though he set a blistering pace in the opening stint, Major was unable to extend the gap he needed to hold top spot during the pit stop sequence.

Instead, How emerged from the lane in the lead with a small but telling advantage over local favourite Major.

Having demonstrated his car’s blistering pace earlier in the weekend, Major set off in pursuit of his young challenger, setting a new lap record in the process.

The pair then engaged in a thrilling thrust and parry battle for multiple laps, with Major calling on his experience of the Barbagallo circuit and How’s performance defying his youth.

Their enthralling tussle ended abruptly when a toe-link failed on the Totally 4×4 Wheels entry, leaving Major to pull the Lamborghini R-EX off the road.

It left How in a comfortable position out front, and on course for a second career win, before his own mechanical drama saw his race end in the gravel at the final turn on the penultimate lap.

Emery then completed the final lap to take his first win of the year by 3.7 seconds and banked 207 valuable points for the weekend in the process.

The two-time champ headed 2018 Australian Endurance Champion Max Twigg (WM Waste Mercedes-AMG GT3) at the flag, with Mark Griffith (Nineteen Corporation Mercedes-AMG GT3) taking a hard fought podium in third.

The Trophy Class win went to Dale Paterson (Dale Paterson Motorsport), a result which also handed him victory for the round, over Richard Gartner in the Safe-T-Stop Lamborghini after an entertaining early battle between the pair.

How’s late-race heartbreak saw him finish third in class for the weekend.

Earlier, Major took a commanding win in Race 2, dominating the race after the pit stop sequence to win by more than 10 seconds.

The Western Australian quickly climbed to second in the opening laps before clearing early leader Emery during the pit cycle.

He then narrowly beat How to the apex of Turn 1 as the Race 1 winner rejoined following his stop.

A wild moment for How out of the final turn, his first mistake of the weekend, allowed Emery to pounce and claim second, How trailing his more experienced stablemate to the flag.

It was Major’s second win at his home circuit, and the first repeat winner at the venue in Australian GT history.

The weekend’s other class results saw Nick Karnaros (Earth Electrical Contractors) take out Trofeo Challenge from Jim Manolios (Haemokenisis/Trofeo Estate), while the dynamic duo of Justin McMillan and Glen Wood (M Motorsport) led David Crampton (Vantage Freight/M Motorsport) in an all-KTM GT4 affair.

In championship terms, Twigg continues to head the Australian GT Championship on 372 points over Emery in second (364) with Hackett (341) in third.

Dale Paterson has moved to second in the Trophy Class competition on 334 points, which How continues to lead on 371. Richard Gartner holds down third on 273 points.

In Trofeo Challenge, Nick Karnaros’ perfect weekend sees him extend his points advantage over Jim Manolios, while McMillan and Wood have edged away from Crampton following their foray into Western Australia.

The CAMS Australian GT Championship now switches into endurance mode with the first Australian Endurance Championship race of the season the next race on June 7-8.

Geoff Emery

“I drove the wheels off the car this weekend to get where we were, so I’m rapt to get a result.

“We didn’t have a strong weekend at the GP, that was not a strong track for our car, but I’m hoping we’ll continue turning that around at Phillip Island.

“Obviously we turned that around this weekend and hopefully we can continue that momentum through.

“I feel really bad for Ryan. He drove really well this weekend, and in an older car, so I really feel bad about that.

“It’s good points for us, we worked as a team with Ryan all weekend sharing data and things like that, it’s a shame to end up like that.”