The 4th round of the Australian GT Championships at Phillip Island on the weekend provided a solid first round hit out for Morgan Haber the new BMW M6 GT3.
The round consisted of 2 x 1hr races on Saturday, which was part of the Sprint Series and on Sunday the first round of the Endurance Championship started with a 101 lap race.
BMW Motorsport factory driver, Bruno Spengler, was flown in to co-drive with Haber and assist the team with the set up of the car. Like all new race cars that have had limited on-track shakedown time, teething issues need to be found and resolved. Bruno, a BMW Motorsport DTM driver, has previously driven the new M6 GT3 in a 12 hour and a 24 hour endurance race, thereby clocking up plenty of track time in BMW’s new generation GT car.
Spengler was the first to hit the track on Friday for the first practice session on a cold Phillip Island track. The French-Canadian quickly came to grips with the unfamiliar track and at the end of the 20 minute session had topped the timesheets ahead of the Audi and Porche.
The team started to experience issues with the gearbox, which ended up affecting their results in the Sprint Series. Knowing they had work ahead of them, the team called upon the assistance of the BMW Motorsport Engineer who worked tirelessly into the night to try and overcome the technical hitch ready for the first round of the Endurance Series on Sunday.
“We’ve missed the first 3 rounds of the Sprint Series, so we know we’re out of contention for the Championship, but this weekend we were focused on the Endurance Series as it was the first of four rounds, so it was important to come away with some points”, commented Haber.
“The conditions were perfect for these cars, it was cold and dry on Sunday, so we knew there was going to be some quick times for qualifying.
“With any new race car there are always going to be teething issues and we experienced that on Saturday, but the boys worked hard to get the issue fixed in time for Sunday, but you really don’t know if it’s fully fixed until you hit the track in race conditions”.
Haber was in the car for the first qualifying session and was leading the time sheet until the last few laps when the defending Champions in the Audi clocked a staggering 1:26:67 followed by the new generation Mercedes AMG GT3 putting Morgan into 3rd place.
Spengler hit the track for the 2nd qualifying session against our V8 Supercar guns Van Gisbergen and Tander. The times from the session were considerably quicker than the first session as the track warmed up and the top 3 cars all dropped into the 1:26 bracket. Bruno finished the session in 7th place, but was good enough to put the number 90 BMW M6 into 2nd on the grid for the start of the race.
Bruno started the race and off the rolling start, held position and dropped in behind the number 37 car of Van Gisbergen. After an early pit stop by the leading car, Spengler was sitting in the lead ahead of an untimely tyre puncture, which brought the factory driver into the pits earlier than anticipated. The number 90 car was consistently putting in solid and consistent fast laps, but the entire field started to experience tyre punctures indicating their was an issue on track. Once Haber took the wheel, he too experienced 2 more tyre punctures, which pushed the team further down the field with seemingly an impossible job ahead to finished inside the top 10.
As many as 16 cars each experienced tyre punctures, bringing them in for costly pit stops. Evening the field somewhat, Spengler took to the wheel for the final stint in the 101 lap race and managed to make up a number of laps, crossing the finish line in 13th position.
“We knew we had the car to win the race on Sunday, but these things happen in racing and it wasn’t limited to our car, nearly half the field all experienced tyre failures.
“When Bruno got out of the car at the end he mentioned that there was an unbelievable amount of debris on the track and it really hurt us and potentially cost us a podium finish. But the car is amazing, we know there is still more in it so we’ll keep working on it before we head to Townsville in July”, said Morgan.
The next round of the Australian GT Championships is held at the Townsville 400 on the 8th – 10th July. Prior to that, Haber Racing intend on bringing the new BMW M6 GT3 to Mackay for a stop over.
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