Tony Bates has added another outright race victory to his 2018 tally, driving his KFC/Moveitnet/C-Tech Laser/B&B/Local Roadways Audi R8 to a sensational win in Race 2, Round 3 of the Australian GT Championship at Sandown this morning.
After running with the lead pack at the start, Bates made his pit stop on lap 15 and emerged in second place, taking the lead a lap later. From there, he set his fastest laps of the weekend, and ultimately took victory by over five seconds.
“The crew came on the radio and told me I needed to improve my lap times, in order to stay ahead of my Pro-ranked rivals,” Bates said.
“I was able to do a few 1:10 laps, which were faster than I went in qualifying.”
The first-place finish means Bates has now achieved race wins at Sandown in three different national categories: Commodore Cup, Carrera Cup and GT Championship.
Following his superb Race 2 performance, Bates was confident of sealing an overall podium with another strong showing in Race 3, but a niggling electrical gremlin compromised his hopes from the very start of the race.
“As soon as I exited the pits for the formation lap, I knew straight away there was something wrong – the paddle-shift system was malfunctioning, and I could only downshift intermittently,” Bates said.
“I was stuck in fifth and sixth gears for a lot of the race, and it was costing me massive amounts of time because I had no acceleration out of the slower corners.
“We tried changing the steering wheel during the pit stop, but unfortunately it didn’t rectify the problem; after that, it was a case of damage limitation.”
Bates finished the race 16th outright and 12th in the Championship Class, and said it capped off a bittersweet weekend.
“Overall, I can’t be too disappointed because I still picked up a race win, and any time you can win a race outright in a category as competitive as the GT Championship, it’s been a good weekend,” Bates said.
“The Melbourne Performance Centre crew did a good job – the car was very stable and comfortable in race trim, and the Race 3 issue was a glitch that was out of everyone’s control.”
Bates will be back in endurance mode for the next round of the Australian GT Championship – the Phillip Island 101 on 2-3 June.
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