Sandown penalty dampens another record setting weekend for TFM
Australian GT, Round Five, Sandown
Trass Family Motorsport, New Zealand's Ferrari racing team, bounced back from a trying Sydney round to score a rare double-pole position at round five of the 2015 Australian GT Championship at Melbourne's Sandown circuit.
Jono Lester kicked off the weekend by topping practice in the #27 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, with Graeme Smyth following suit in brilliant fashion; a last lap charge in qualifying one launching the young Kiwi to the top of the charts on a 1:09.8 ahead of far more experienced opposition.
With Smyth's efforts placing TFM on provisional pole, Lester followed up in qualifying two with a 1:08.9 second lap to narrowly outgun the sister Ferrari of Tony D'Alberto for his fourth pole position in five rounds; a new Australian GT record.
Carrying the maximum pit stop CPS penalty into race one - a stationary time of two minutes nine seconds - there was no choice but for the TFM crew to attack; and attack they did with a second place finish, a little over seven seconds off the race-winning Ferrari of D'Alberto and Grant Denyer.
The joy of TFM's highest placed finish of the season was short lived, however, when Lester was judged to have been over a boundary line when the car came in for its pit stop.
TFM were handed a 26-second penalty, dropping them to 8th place where they would start for Sunday's race, once again carrying the maximum CPS time on account of their finishing position being due to a penalty.
Looking to make amends in the second 60 minute race, Lester charged from the fourth row up to second place in the opening laps, with the Denyer Ferrari a few seconds up the road.
Chasing after the lead, Lester re-set the Australian GT lap record no less than five times with a best effort of 1:08.56 before overhauling Denyer for the lead after a close battle for the middle portion of the stint.
Smyth endured the eternity of the 129 second pit stop and rejoined within striking distance of the lead bunch, but traffic proved tricky in the latter stages of the race and the TFM car had to settle for a fifth place finish when the chequered flag flew.
Despite their penalty, TFM finished fourth overall for the round and remain a chance for an overall podium in the Australian GT Championship as the series takes a short break before its final round at the Highlands 101 on November 13-15.
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JONO LESTER / Driver - TFM Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 #27
This was the best performance of our team to date, and it's disappointing that we don't have the points haul to reflect it. Nevertheless Graeme and I gave it our all as always and I think we proved the force that the TFM team is in this championship. We do need to iron out a few cracks, myself included, but I am confident we are in for a real shot at the Highlands 101 and we would like nothing more than to win in our own back yard to cap off this rollercoaster season of racing.
GRAEME SMYTH / Driver - TFM Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 #27
All in all Sandown was another good weekend. The car was the quickest on track and to take pole in both qualifying sessions was a real confidence boost. Moving forward I'm really excited for Highlands knowing that our car is performing the best it ever has.
GERALD TRASS / Team Principal - Trass Family Motorsport
Just as in earlier rounds, TFM proved to be the fastest team at Sandown, with pole position and a new lap record. Jono and Graeme impressed on the track in some very exciting and close racing. However, we were let down by not performing our driver changeover correctly. It was cruel to see such a minor infringement have such a major outcome on the weekend. We now look to make amends at the final AGT round in Highlands.
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Trass Family Motorsport is supported in its 2015 Australian GT campaign by key partners including Cumulo9, The Tool Co, CRC Industries, Vortex Racewear, iSign It, Pixelsaurus and Broderick Printing & Design.