Minda Motorsport team took on the challenge in the Bathurst 12 hour as well as contesting the first hour in what was also the first round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli.
During their maiden run with their new Audi R8 LMS GT3 at Melbourne’s Calder Park, the Minda Motorsport team were faced with somewhat of a rebuild after a practice crash by a guest driver. The damage was largely superficial, but required some parts to be flown in from Germany, the car repaired and stickered in time for a pre-Bathurst test at Winton Motor Raceway a fortnight out from the opening round of the season..
“It is different to the Lamborghini,” Andrew McInnes added, “no question, but it’s probably more manageable in the way that you drive it, because you don’t have to be as aggressive to get a time out of it, and across 12 hours, that will be a godsend.”
As it turned out, McInnes was right, but the journey from hour one, to the end of hour 12 was the kind or journey that inspires Hollywood script writers - it was just ‘one of those’ events..
Joined by former sports car competitor Simon Middleton, and reigning 12-Hour Champion Darryl O’Young, the Minda team weren’t expecting to be outright competitors, and whilst their consistent and improving pace across practice and qualifying seemed to back that up, the high levels of attrition and the immense skills of O’Young, had the team running inside the top five by the end of the first hour. The result earned the Minda team fourth points overall for the first round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli which was run within the first 50-minutes of the 12-Hour event.
Whilst the trio of Australian drivers worked through the middle stint, keeping the car within reach of the top ten whilst others around them were struggling to hold position, O’Young was put back into the car for the final run to the flag, just as torrential rain started to pour across the top of the circuit.
“I don’t think anyone wanted to get in the car under those conditions, but I guess if they wanted anyone in the car, it was going to be me,” Darryl joked afterwards.
"We had rain last year, but it wasn’t like today. It was off and on, and sometimes it was really quite hard - it was impossible to predict. Just when you thought you had it worked out, you’d get to the top of the mountain and it was completely flooded.
“The team did a fantastic job, and the drivers - a couple of which hadn’t raced here before - and the team had never run the Audi before. This is a seriously tough race, it’s not easy. We didn’t have the pace to run with the front guys, but we had our own race, to our own strategy and it was key to stay out of trouble, and here we are, a top ten finish!”
“Our objective number one was to finish,” car-owner Koutsoumidis added. “Objective number two was to come home in the top ten, and we couldn’t believe what happened in the last two and a half minutes of the race, but we sympathise with our comrades down at United Motorsport [they retired within sight of the chequered flag], but it played in our favour and we’re very happy.
“I’m really proud of Minda Motorsport considering it’s our very first 12-Hour. We’ve got a big year ahead of us with the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli with the new car, and we’re also thinking about doing Sepang [12-Hour].
“We just had a fantastic weekend,” McInnes agreed. “The experience of working with the team, three other drivers and finishing stints with the car in one piece to just keep it going, is completely different to just going out yourself and racing. You’re thinking about so many more people, and it brings your motor racing to a whole different level.
“The car was great - it was absolutely fantastic. I touched one other car - another Audi - but luckily it didn’t amount to anything. The mountain was amazing, but I was happy to have gotten out before the rain, it was a great experience and I hope we get the opportunity to do it again.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the car,” Simon Middleton – the final member of the team said. “It was hard to get too many laps in before the race started with all the red flags and the four of us all needing to turn laps, but once I got going [in the race] I could settle into a comfortable rhythm and my times were consistently within a second when we weren’t battling traffic.
“The traffic was okay as long as you were committed and assertive, so perhaps my past experience in the event helped me with that.
“Darryl was a fantastic asset to the team too, not just in helping us improve our times, but his immense experience in endurance racing saw him helping the team with strategy and pit stops. We saved an immense amount of time through his help with something as seemingly simple as getting in and out of the car during the stops. All in all, it was a fantastic experience.”
For the Minda Motorsport team, it’s now down to the second round of the Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli in less than three weeks time [28 February – 3 March], where Koutsoumidis and McInnes will line up on the grid at the Clipsal 500.
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