Nathan Morcom (right) celebrates his third overall placing in the second round. [MPix photo]
DPO’s Australian GT Championship campaign is off to a promising start, with Nathan Morcom lying fourth in the pointscore after two rounds.
Nathan brought the DPO-CSR-Rondo McLaren 650S GT3 home sixth in the opening round at the Adelaide Parklands circuit, followed by a third at Melbourne’s Albert Park a fortnight later.
The Adelaide round didn’t start well when a tyre puncture sidelined the British supercar in the first few minutes of the first practice session. That cost Nathan points in the first qualifying session while he fine-tuned the car on his debut appearance at the 3.2km street circuit.
In the second qualifying session Nathan gave a glimpse of his potential by setting the fourth fastest lap of the 26-car field. His upward trend continued with a stunning second place in the first of three 38-minute races, and he looked set to record his maiden AGTC race win in the second race when he was rammed from behind by reigning champion Christopher Mies as they raced toward the hairpin Turn 9.
The resulting spin dropped Nathan to the tail of the field with less than half the race remaining, but he recovered to finish midfield.
With starting positions determined by the finishing order in the preceding race, Nathan tore through the field to be third halfway through the final heat, only for a driving error to drop him 12 positions. Another strong recovery drive brought him ninth placing and a spot in the top half-dozen for the round.
Nathan and the DPO-Rondo-CSR McLaren 650S GT3 in full flight at the opening round. [MPix photo]
Albert Park’s second round was chaotic, not only because of changeable weather but also thanks to the one-off format for the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix meeting. The four 25-minute races were too short for handicap time penalties to be imposed during the usual mid-race compulsory pit stops, forcing the organisers to add the penalties post-race.
With no practice session to learn the new circuit, Nathan did well to clock a midfield lap time in the first qualifying session. But again he shone in the second session with the sixth fastest lap for the 5.4km public road circuit.
A cautious strategy in the first race yielded a 12th place finish, which became 10th after the time penalties were applied.
Smart strategy by Nathan’s Tekno Team paid off in the second race. A drying track sent several leading contenders into the pits to swap their treaded wet weather tyres to smooth dry weather ones, moving Nathan closer to the front of the field for the trolling start.
He made his way up to second place by the third lap, and shadowed Benny Simonsen’s Ferrari 488 across the Finish line. There was no need to risk overtaking Simonsen, because the Ferrari was subject to a greater handicap penalty that put Nathan into first place on corrected time!
It was Nathan’s turn to suffer a similar fate in the third race. A multi-car crash a few corners after the start lap left only enough time for one racing lap, and while he finished third on the road his previous race win incurred a time penalty that dropped him back to sixth.
It was even worse in the final race, which finished with the field cruising behind the Safety Car line astern following a crash on lap seven. That put the leaders back to midfield positions after the handicap penalties were applied. Nathan went from third to 15th in the published results, but his second place and win in the first two races gave him third overall for the round and fourth in the championship!
The DPO-Rondo-CSR McLaren leads the GT field at Albert Park. [MPix photo]
“It’s been good so far,” Nathan said, summing up the first rounds. “The car is fast and consistent, and I’ve worked with my Tekno race engineer before in other series so he has a good understanding of how I like the car set up.
“It was a shame to be turned around while I was in the lead at Adelaide, and the Safety Car spoiled the third and fourth races at Albert Park, but these things happen in racing.”
Nathan added that the GT Championship’s Pro-Am handicap system makes it harder for the top drivers with professional rankings to beat the amateurs.
“The latest GT cars have traction control and ABS, which make them easier to drive than the old cars. I just go as fast as I can, and we’ll see how the series pans out.”
DPO Director Barry Morcom is confident that Nathan can improve his GT Championship position as the 2016 series progresses.
“He’s fourth in the points even with a few hiccups that mostly weren’t his fault,” he said. “The other frontrunners are probably a bit surprised that we’re up with them in our first year in the series, but we have the driver, the car and the team to take it up to them.
“If we score high placings at every round, we have as good a chance of winning the title as anyone.”
The next round of the Australian GT Championship is at Barbagallo Raceway in Western Australia on May 6-8.
=1. James Koundouris & Marcus Marshall – 225 points
3. Klark Quinn – 206 points
4. Nathan Morcom – 197 points