Stoupas claims maiden GT-1 round win at Wakefield Park
Stoupas claims maiden GT-1 round win at Wakefield Park
20 August, 2018
Always a tough circuit mid-year with the unpredictable winter weather, Wakefield Park provided a fantastic challenge for the 15-car field – the biggest of the season to date – for the third round of the GT-1 Australia series where two first-time winners claimed victory, whilst a title challenger – who himself has so far missed a race win – emerged as the round winner.
After qualifying at the top of the timesheets in both challenging sessions in damp conditions, Audi’s Matt Stoupas claimed pole position for the opening race, but despite finishing no better than third in race one and fourth in race two, the KFC-supported driver was crowned the round winner over points leader Jake Camilleri and category founder Rod Salmon thanks to the points system which rewards the top qualifiers.For Camilleri, the result helped him maintain his impressive points lead despite losing his primary ride, the brilliant green MARC II Mustang having been sold on, forcing the MARC cars star back to the generation I Mazda 3 he had put to good use over past seasons, the Queenslander ultimately emerging second for the round.Across the field there were a number of impressive performances, not the least Rio Nugara’s charge from rear-of-field to win the opening race, whilst John Goodacre led a trio of MARC cars across the line in race two to claim his maiden win of the year and a good haul of points.Race 1 (50-minutes)Off pole position Matt Stoupas led the field into turn one with Camilleri monstering him up the hill the first time around with Rod Salmon locked in behind the Marc Cars Mazda.After an overnight engine change post-qualifying, John Goodacre’s opening race came to an early end after contact with Jamie Arratoon on the exit of turn two, spinning the Gap Solutions Marc Cars Focus to the infield and retirement with a broken driveline.By lap three Camilleri was through on Stoupas on the run into the final corner, the points leader keen to get clear of Salmon who was all over his tail. Behind them Geoff Taunton was holding down a comfortable fourth, but he was coming under increasing pressure from a charging Rio Nugara who had started towards the rear of the field after a calculated qualifying session, the Audi driver keen to make use of his much lower compulsory pit stop penalty.Further back, Steve McLaughlan’s brother Paul was making his racing return after 25 years in the #75 Jamec-Pem Audi, the two brothers splitting the driving duties as the team-boss recuperates after surgery earlier in the year, the Audi rookie doing a magnificent job on debut to be holding out the twin red Aranik Racing Ferrari 458 Challenge cars of Jamie Arratoon and John Nikolovski, and Porsche Challenge points leader Rick Mensa.Ultimately Arratoon was able to work his way past, before Nikolovski made contact with McLaughlan at turn eight whilst trying to squeeze his way through – McLaughlan sadly beaching the #75 Audi on the high inside kerb whilst trying to recover forcing a Code 60 yellow flag period around that part of the circuit. That forced the field to hold station and circulate at 60kph until the Audi was recovered.Sadly as that was going on Geoff Taunton’s Marc Focus came to a stop on the run to turn six and also need recovery, and whilst McLaughlan was able to carry on, Taunton unfortunately was forced to retire after just 16 laps.With the clock clicking on to 20-minutes, the compulsory pit stop window opened, prompting a number of drivers to run down pit lane for their allocated stops, race leader Camilleri, Stoupas and Salmon included, the points leader stopped for an agonising 90-seconds due to his past championship successes allowing his rivals an early break ahead of the resumption of the race.By the close of the pit stops Rio Nugara led the field by an impressive 13-seconds, thanks in part to his much shorter pit stop time, with GT-1 debutante Geoff Morgan in second but with Rod Salmon closing in. Rick Mensa had moved into second in the Porsche Challenge class with John Nikolovski leading Ferrari Challenge, whilst pole-sitter Matt Stoupas was back to sixth and Camilleri eighth, but both were charging forward.With a bit over ten minutes to go, Nugara held a six second lead from Salmon with multiple Porsche Cup Australia champion Geoff Morgan third but under attack from Stoupas and Camilleri, both of whom were on a charge towards the podium.Within sight of the flag Salmon had closed down Nugara’s lead and was just a couple of car lengths behind as he dived deep under brakes at turn eight, sadly running too deep and into the outfield, losing valuable ground to Stoupas and Camilleri behind and now 16-seconds down on Nugara who comfortably led to the flag.Behind him Salmon held on for second despite his off-track excursion, the result a great return to form after his recent Sydney Motorsport Park accident, whilst Matt Stoupas weathered the Camilleri storm to make it an Audi 1-2-3.Geoff Morgan crossed the line fifth for the Porsche Challenge win over sixth-placed Rick Mensa, whilst Jamie Arratoon converted his strong qualifying pace to the win in Ferrari Challenge over eighth-placed Scott Hookey.Gary Higgon was home ninth in the second of the KFC Audis, a good recovery from a tough qualifying session, with Jason Busk tenth ahead of John Nikolovski and Peter Boylan in the second of the Type 991 Cup Cars, whilst Paul McLaughlan crossed the line thirteenth on his GT debut.“I knew if I kept going I’d break the old fella,” Nugara quipped afterwards about his battle with Salmon. “We’ve had some bad luck, and did two gearboxes at Morgan Park so to come out and win is fantastic. The format’s really good, it depends on where you qualify, which dictates your pit times, so I look at those rules and use them to my benefit.”“That’s the hardest racing physically I’ve done in a long time,” Salmon admitted post-race. “It’s a tight track. I really had to work to catch Rio. The team told me there was four minutes to go and that I could catch him, but I tried a bit too hard coming down to the fish-hook [turn eight] but clipped the kerb and had to dive for the dirt so I didn’t spin, but that’s life, second’s okay.”Race 2 (50-minutes)Nugara led the field away off the start of race two with Salmon poking the nose down the inside on the run into turn two, whilst behind him Matt Stoupas was able to hold Jake Camilleri out on the run up the hill to turn three, allowing Geoff Morgan to move up a position before the right-hander at the top of the hill.John Goodacre was on an early charge moving from rear-of-field to eighth by the close of the opening lap, the South Australian looking to make up for a frustrating start to his weekend with an engine change after qualifying and a DNF in the opening race.Geoff Morgan’s strong run at the front ended at turn three on lap two under pressure from Camilleri who had taken to flashing his lights to distract him, the Porsche driver losing position to both Camilleri and Rick Mensa, before finding himself under fire from Goodacre.Rod Salmon wasn’t hanging around, taking Nugara on the run into the final turn on lap two, but the advantage was short lived, the One World Super Yacht Charters Audi off at turn three shortly after whilst pushing to extend his lead, handing Nugara back the front running with Stoupas and Camilleri close behind.Geoff Taunton too was on a charge from the rear, working his way past Goodacre for sixth before running wide at the top of the hill allowing Goodacre and Morgan back through for position.Despite drizzling rain Nugara continued to hold out Stoupas and Camilleri, the leading trio up by seven seconds on the recovering Salmon, with Mensa holding out Morgan for sixth as they closed in on the compulsory pit stops.Further back in the battle of the Ferraris, Scott Hookey and Jamie Arratoon were locked in combat towards the tail of the top ten, the pair closing in on Jason Busk ahead of the pit stops.First of the leaders in was Stoupas who was looking to break out of the lead battle and effect a position change during the stops. Nugara was next of the leaders in to effect his 80-second stop whilst Camilleri continued to circulate before stopping late in the pit window, his pace before the stop good enough to see him leap-frog the three Audis.By the close of the stops John Goodacre emerged with a six second lead over Geoff Taunton, with Jason Busk third and John Nikolvski fourth and lead Ferrari. Rick Mensa was top Porsche and fifth ahead of Jamie Arratoon in the second of the 458 Ferraris, ahead of team-mate Scott Hookey then Matt Stoupas, Geoff Morgan and Camilleri in tenth.With 15-minutes to go the racing midfield was outstanding, a tight selection of GT cars mixed in with the MARC Cars keeping everyone on their toes, not the least because of the faster cars working their way forward looking for valuable championship points.Sadly for Jason Busk, his great work to be inside the lead pack came undone with five minutes to go, spinning through turn one and stopping deep inside the gravel trap outside turn two, bringing the field under Code 60 rules as the clock ticked down.On the restart Camilleri closed in on Stoupas, the points leader managing to use lapped traffic to move in and claim the position within sight of the flag, to be third behind John Goodacre and Geoff Taunton, with Rod Salmon across the line fifth after setting the fastest lap of the race once again.Jamie Arratoon was sixth to claim top honours once again in Ferrari Challenge, just ahead of team-mate John Nikolovski with Rick Mensa leading Porsche once again in eighth ahead of race one winner Rio Nugara and Geoff Morgan.Scott Hookey was next ahead of Garry Higgon and Peter Boylan, with Jason Busk last of the runners after his turn two off late in the race which cost the MARC Focus driver two laps.“It was pretty hard starting rear of grid, but we still maintained our earlier pit stop time, so I thought it would be nearly impossible,” Goodacre admitted afterwards. “The car starting overheating before the compulsory pit stop, so we were trying to manage that – because of the engine change we did yesterday. The late Code 60 at the end made it worse because the car got even hotter, up to 125 degrees. We just tried to manage the car and maintain our pace as best we could.“I had a bit of a coming together with one of the Ferraris [in race one] and broke a component on the rear axle – so that put us out at turn two, I didn’t even get a lap in. It was pretty disappointing after the guys spent all night putting the motor in.”Sadly for Steve McLaughlan, his return to the wheel ended almost immediately with a technical issue in the #75 Audi sidelining him before the start.Whilst Stoupas claimed top points and the round win, Jake Camilleri’s second only marginally reduced his points lead at the midpoint of the season, the MARC Cars drive now leading the GT-1 outright points by 120 over Stoupas with Salmon a similar distance back in third.The Series now heads to Sydney Motorsport Park for the penultimate event of the maiden season of GT-1 on October 27-28.Keep up to date with GT-1 Australia via www.gt1australia.com.au and via Facebook; www.facebook.com/GT1australia