Kiwi speedster Daniel Gaunt has capitalised on an eventful opening Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia race at Phillip Island to claim a long-awaited first victory of the season.
After qualifying sixth, Gaunt quickly shot to the lead by taking advantage of a spectacular three-car start-line incident.
Surprise pole-sitter Nick Foster experienced a slow start, with Alex Davison and Craig Baird quickly approaching from the second row. Davison was then caught between the Porsches of Foster and Friday pace-setter Baird, with tyre-to-tyre contact with Foster sending Davison airborne.
The impact ended Davison’s race with suspension and steering damage, while Foster and Baird both executed a pit stop to change tyres during the following safety car period – called to recover Davison’s stricken car.
To add to the action, Jeff Bobik and Paul Kelly made contact at the opening corner sending both drivers wide and ending Kelly’s Race 1 campaign.
The race-start drama allowed Gaunt to snare the lead before the safety car period, with the New Zealander continuing at the front once the race resumed while Steven Richards, Tom Tweedie, Max Twigg and Matt Kingsley filled the remaining top five positions.
As the race progressed Foster and Baird continued to move through the field and were challenging several of the front-running drivers in the latter stages of the race when rain began to fall on the Victorian circuit.
Kingsley’s spin on Lap 11 from third position helped the duo move up the order, while on the final lap Foster was in a battle for third with Team BRM stable-mate Tom Tweedie.
With only a few corners until the chequered flag Foster and Tweedie made contact, sending Tweedie into the gravel trap. Foster received a 20-point penalty for the incident and dropped to fifth in the race, allowing Baird to claim third place.
Team Kiwi Racing 16-year-old sensation Andre Heimgartner finished in a season-best fourth place ahead of Foster and leading Elite Class trio Max Twigg, James Koundouris and Shane Smollen.
Twigg held a substantial Elite Class lead for the majority of the race, however a late spin allowed Koundouris and Smollen to catch, but not pass, the class points leader by the finish.
“It was a great start for me and I was in fourth under the safety car which was a huge surprise,” said Twigg.
“When the rain came I had an ‘off’ at one of the corners. Koundouris and Smollen then caught me pretty quickly and I thought they might let me have it, but they didn’t and we all finished within a couple of tenths at the finish line.”
Tony Bates and Kingsley finished ninth and 10th, followed by team-mates Michael Loccisano – a season-best result – and 12th placed Marc Cini.
Following Gaunt’s impressive performance, which included a new lap record, the race winner was pleased with his change of fortune at Phillip Island.
“It wasn’t pretty but we’ll take it. We’ve had our fair share of bad luck this year so you’ve got to take the good luck when it comes your way,” said Gaunt.
“I really hope this is a rebirth to the season. We’re in the heart of the championship now so we’ve got to do the best we can at this point in the season and try to get back into title contention.”
The win moves Gaunt into third in the championship standings behind Baird and Davison, passing Jonny Reid, who fail to make the Race 1 start after experiencing radiator issues on the warm up lap.
Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia returns to the track on Sunday for Race 2 and Race 3 of the Phillip Island round.
Sunday May 20, 2012
11:05pm – 11:30pm Race 2
2:40pm – 3:05pm Race 3
Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia – Race 3 (as live)
Time: 3:00pm (AEST), 2:30pm (ACST), 1:00pm (AWST)
Date: Sunday May 20, 2012
Channel: Seven (Sydney, Brisbane), 7mate (Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth)
Note: Broadcast time in delayed from race.