Only a few short weeks since the last round of the Australian GT Championship at Barbagallo Raceway, Team TEKNO returned to the track at Phillip Island Circuit for Round 4 of the Australian GT Championship as well as the opening round of the Australian Endurance Championship. The Australian GT Championship was contested over 2 60-minute sprint races on Saturday, while the Australian Endurance Championship took place on Sunday afternoon, with Team TEKNO gaining solid victories on both days and leaving the track leading both Championships.
Race 1 of the Australian GT Championship saw the #61 Beechwood/SLR/Buildmap McLaren 650S GT3 of Elliot Barbour start on the second row of the grid in P4, while Nathan Morcom, who came into the round in second in the Championship standings, was forced to start in P27 after officials found his #60 DPO McLaren 650S GT3 underweight following qualifying on Friday afternoon in which he finished in P10.
Pole-sitter Garth Tander controlled the early laps of the race before suffering a tyre puncture on Lap 10, handing the lead to Nathan Antunes in #61. The pit stop window for Race 1 opened shortly after a safety car period on Lap 15, with Morcom fighting through the field to be in P10 at the time. Unfortunately, the decision for Antunes to pit after the safety car period meant that he would relinquish his lead and left pit lane in P21, where he would finish the race. Once the racing resumed, it was Morcom who quickly charged up to P3, before cleanly passing Yasser Shahin and Tony Walls to eventually cross the chequered flag in P1.
Meanwhile, Grant Denyer and Matthew Kingsley in the #59 McLaren Melbourne McLaren 650S GT3 climbed up to P18 after starting in P28.
Race 2 of the weekend was another strong result for Team TEKNO. Kingsley and Denyer in the #59 McLaren racing cleanly for the whole 60 minutes to be rewarded by finishing in P4, only narrowly missing out on a podium finish, while the #61 McLaren of Antunes and Barbour finished in P24.
Race 1 winner Nathan Morcom in the #60 McLaren started out strong in Race 2, however dropped to P20 following the compulsory pit stops to fight his was back up through the mid-field. He ended up finishing strongly in P10, claiming second outright for the weekend and moving him up to first in the Championship standings after four rounds.
Australian Endurance Championship:
The sole Team TEKNO contender, the #59 McLaren Melbourne McLaren 650S GT3 piloted by Nathan Morcom and Grant Denyer, raced a near faultless 101 laps to gain victory for the inaugural round of the Australian Endurance Championship.
They started on the grid in P8 in a field of 30 on Sunday afternoon after two 20-minute qualifying sessions, with Nathan taking the lead of the race just before their first pit stop.
There was an epidemic of tyre failures throughout the whole race, however Nathan survived and by the halfway point Grant was in control of the race. He led the race throughout his stint before handing it over to Nathan on Lap 72 in prime position with a 28-second lead over second place, a hard-charging Shane van Gisbergen in his McLaren 650S GT3.
“You don’t get any body that fast bearing down on your back bumper,” said Grant in the closing stages of the race.
“Our biggest concern is whether we’re going to tear up a tyre trying to keep this pace that we’re keeping at the front to keep everybody at bay.
“We’ve nearly blown a couple.”
With Nathan marred by lapped traffic in the final stages of the race, van Gisbergen gained over 10 seconds in the last 10 laps to finish less than a car length behind Nathan’s #59 McLaren.
Despite the unending tyre failures, the 101-lap race was completed in absence of the Safety Car.
“What a finish to an epic race,” Nathan remarked.
“There was so much debris out there and everybody was getting flat tyres, so I was conserving my tyres.”
And what did he have to say about the close finish?
“That lead was shrinking.
“I got held with a couple of the lapped cars but I didn’t want to pass them on the wrong spot […] so I was conservative.”
The inaugural round of the Australian Endurance Championship also marked the first win for Denyer.
“Grant did an awesome job and handed it over in a great position,” said Nathan.
“The tyres were awesome and the car was still good and so I just put my head down and went on to the chequered flag.”
“What an epic finish to an epic day,” exclaimed Grant.
“I led, he led, we won; it doesn’t get any better than that!”
“To win a big race like this with a world class field and world class cars; that’s great.”
Team TEKNO leads both the Australian Endurance Championship and the Australian GT Championship following Phillip Island.
Catch Team TEKNO back in action at the Townsville 400 with the Supercars for Round 5 of the Australian GT Championship on 8-10 July.
Australian Endurance Championship Results:
Australian GT Championship Results:
Grant Denyer/Matthew Kingsley
#59 McLaren Melbourne McLaren 650S GT3
Race 1: P18
Race 2: P4
#60 DPO McLaren 650S GT3
Race 1: P1
Race 2: P10
Nathan Antunes/Elliot Barbour
#61 Beechwood/SLR/Buildmap McLaren 650S GT3
Race 1: P21
Race 2: P24