Contact denies Trofeo Motorsport of Bathurst podium return
Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour
1-3 February, 2019
After two top ten finishes and a Pro-Am podium across the last two years of the gruelling once-around-the-clock marathon on arguably the world’s toughest circuit, Trofeo Motorsport went into the 2019 Bathurst 12 Hour intent upon a podium return and were right on target before contact towards the end of the third hour ultimately put paid to their plans.
Qualifying - much like 2018 - was an all-in sprint with drivers giving their all as they fought for a start towards the front of the 38-car field. Trofeo’s Dean Canto was again charged with qualifying, the former Supercar winner setting the 23rd fastest time in the hectic 30-minute final session [the same starting position the team had in 2018 on their way to eighth outright], just four places behind multiple Bathurst 1000 champion Jamie Whincup - the pace was intense!
Having laid the foundations for Trofeo’s past successes at Bathurst, Canto was again installed for the 5:45am start, using his experience to work his way through the challenging early morning light, handing the car to team-owner Jim Manolios from inside the top ten during the opening pit stop cycles.
Frustratingly for the teams, the opening stanza occurred without the expected Safety Car interventions, but no sooner had Manolios taken the wheel of the #29 Haemokinesis/Trofeo Estate Huracan, than the first of what became three Safety Car periods brought the field back into line, regaining the Trofeo team valuable ground on their rivals.
Sadly though, despite the best efforts of Manolios and the team, it all came to an abrupt halt on lap 69, just a couple of laps before he had completed his full 100-minute stint, after contact with the #777 Mercedes-AMG of Yasser Shahin into the final corner, contact which incurred the Mercedes a drive-through penalty as a result.
“We were having issues with the mirrors - no driver’s side after damage and the passenger’s side was looking down, so rearward visibility wasn’t great so I was relying on the rear facing camera to see what was coming,” Manolios explained afterwards. “As I turned into Murray’s corner I could see the #777 approaching in the rear vision camera and saw him angling to come down the inside, but as I turned in I saw a flash of colour move to the right, so I thought he’d changed direction. Without the side mirror giving me a clear indication I thought I’d hold my line because I honestly didn’t know where he was and didn’t want to run him off the circuit, but next thing I knew he was into my drivers door and turned me around.”
Manolios was able to stop the car from going into the gravel trap on the outside of the circuit and rejoin, showing little sign of damage, but on pitting two laps later the team noticed drops of oil under the car and immediately pulled the Lamborghini into the garage.
“The contact was mostly superficial, but it’s damaged an oil cooler so we need to replace it,” Manolios explained.
The team lost 14-laps in pit-lane before Ivan Capelli was able to continue, the former F1-star able to push and work his way forward with no immediate signs of drama.
Capelli completed his double stint and handed the car to new Trofeo recruit Ben Porter who was able to punch out a number of quick laps to have the car moving forward again, albeit slowly being 14-laps down.
Ultimately though, an engine issues sidelined the team on lap 178, Porter noticing a change of engine note and a drop in power as he charged up the hill, however he was able to drive back to the garage where it was confirmed they’d have to retire the car.
For the Trofeo Motorsport team, focus now turns to the 2019 Australian GT Championship where the team hopes to be able to field the new EVO upgrade package for the Huracan, a package which includes a new engine and revised aero, time being the ultimate arbiter of whether the changes can be made, however a spare engine and limited damage from Bathurst will ensure that the #29 Trofeo machine will be on the grid in Melbourne.
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