Victory eludes TFM despite Phillip Island 101 domination
Australian GT, Round Two, Townsville
Trass Family Motorsport, New Zealand's Ferrari racing team, scored their second successive Australian GT pole position at the Phillip Island 101 yesterday, and went on to dominate the first three-quarters of the race before a late safety car intervention.
Returning to the championship with a completely rebuilt Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, the TFM team picked up immediately where they left off in Adelaide by showing strong practice pace backed up with an emphatic pole position for driver pairing Jono Lester, 25, and Graeme Smyth, 23.
Lester battled with German Audi Factory driver Christopher Mies, who is fresh from winning the Nurburgring 24 Hour last week, to top the time sheets by 0.15 seconds; the pair a full second clear of Tony D'Alberto (Ferrari) in third place and in a class of their own on the race track.
Smyth impressed with sixth place in qualifying two in the 35-car field to give TFM an aggregate advantage of over 6/10th of a second on the nearest rivals to secure the all-Kiwi team's second successive pole position in the Australian GT Championship.
Lester was nominated to start the 101-lap race, driving away from the field to build a buffer of 42 seconds when he pitted at lap 39 to hand over to Smyth.
A series of well-timed pits stops allowed Smyth to maintain a comfortable lead in the #27 car for the middle portion of the race, with Mies charging up the leaderboard in his Audi R8 in the closing stages followed closely by the McLaren 650S of Garth Tander.
With half an hour remaining only a safety car intervention looked likely to stop TFM from taking its maiden race win, and that's exactly what transpired after the Bowe/Edwards Bentley found the kitty litter and TFM's lead evaporated from over a minute down to just a handful of seconds.
The might of Mies and Tander was too great for Smyth to resist and the Ferrari consolidated third position to the chequered flag, edging out the sister Ferrari of Maranello Motorsport team-mates Tony D'Alberto and Grant Denyer.
However, a flurry of post-race penalties rained down on the Australian GT field and TFM copped a 34-second penalty for Smyth being deemed to have passed under yellow flags, relegating TFM to a final classification of sixth place and wondering 'what could have been'.
The next round of the Australian GT Championship supports the V8 Supercars at the Townsville 400 on July 10-12.
The immediate focus for TFM now shifts to the opening two rounds of the North Island Endurance Series at Taupo and Hampton Downs, where they will campaign Ferrari F430 GT3 and Challenge cars both the One Hour and Endurance Championships, led once again by Jono Lester and Graeme Smyth.
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JONO LESTER / Driver - TFM Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 #27
Days like today are what makes motorsport so addictive, and so cruel. Once again we proved to be the clear pace-setters in Australian GT and I'm proud of our performance - pole was a great result and the efforts of our team and drivers to amass such a lead in the race didn't come without hard work and a great strategy. For it to all come tumbling down with the late safety car and Graeme's penalty was less than ideal but we still picked up a good points haul and go into Townsville with our heads held high.
GRAEME SMYTH / Driver - TFM Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 #27
We proved once again that we have a fast car by scoring pole and leading the majority of the race comfortably. Finishing in 3rd only to receive a time penalty was a hard pill to swallow but that's racing sometimes and I'm looking forward to bouncing back with an even better showing in Townsville to help TFM score its first race win.
GERALD TRASS / Team Principal - Trass Family Motorsport
The Phillip Island 101 race is arguably TFM's best performance to date. Jono Lester came within a whisker of the AGT lap record in securing pole position and Graeme Smyth lead the field for 85% of the race. It was only the intervention of a safety car late in the race that derailed TFM's first win in the series. We now go to Townsville with the quickest car and quickest team and hope to build upon results from the first two rounds.
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Trass Family Motorsport is supported in its 2015 Australian GT campaign by key partners including Cumulo9, Continental Car Services: Official Ferrari Dealer, The Tool Co, CRC, Vortex Racewear, iSign It, Pixelsaurus and Broderick Printing & Design.