“Stay on the track, out of harm’s way and finish” was the strategy for the Thomson Geer / Shoal / QxBranch Porsche 997 GT3 team, going into round 5 of the Australian GT Championships at the Sandown 500 in Melbourne.
Following the success of the past few race meets, the team went into this round in the top spot of our division; however, team driver Michael O’Donnell was careful to manage expectations given that some of our competitors had 15 years of track history and we had none.
The learning curve was high, with going ‘over the hill’ into the Dandenong road corner, involved the car cresting at 250 km/h, followed by a 200 km/h left turn, a downhill quick right hander, a flight over a kerb then hard braking for a sharp left turn – ‘a frightening high-g rollercoaster ride … minus the safety assurance of having the car on rails’.
Despite the team sticking to the strategy, during qualifying, the car had a big spin off (to avoid ramming another car) which saw it narrowly miss a wall and end up in the kitty litter.
In race 1 our car was rammed and spun, but again (thankfully) missed the wall, and managed to recover to finish 2nd in division. An excellent result!
Sunday’s race 2 was going really well, with the car in 2nd place, when our good luck ran out. Some unhealthy noises in the gearbox, with a mere five laps to go, stopped us dead in our tracks and we were unable to finish the race. However, our closest competitor also failed to finish due to mechanical problems meaning the team heads into the final round of the season in November at Highland in New Zealand in first place on 604 points in the division, with the two other teams still in contention tied on 586 points.
It promises to be an intense three-way battle for the season win. Stay tuned!