GWR Australia’s GT World Challenge Australia drivers believe a productive test day at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit will stand them in good stead for the opening round of the championship at the iconic Victorian venue next weekend.
The team will field two cars in the championship: the RAM Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3 will be shared by Michael Sheargold and Garth Walden in the Am Class, while Brett Hobson will drive a Nissan GTR solo in the Trophy Class.
Sheargold and Walden recently finished fourth outright in the Super GT 4 Hour at Sydney Motorsport Park, despite struggling with a handling imbalance throughout the event. Walden said the subsequent Phillip Island test enabled them to tune the car setup.
“At Phillip Island, our priority was to solve some of the handling issues we had at SMP, and we definitely made some steps in the right direction,” Walden said.
“By the end of the day, Mike and I both felt much more comfortable in the car.”
“I hadn’t driven at Phillip Island before and it’s an impressive place – even after driving around it on a simulator, it doesn’t prepare you for the sheer speed you carry through corners like turn one and the Hayshed,” Sheargold added.
“It took me a couple of sessions to gain the confidence to go flat through some of the fast corners, but by the end of the day I was feeling quite confident. Overall, I felt I got up to speed more quickly than other new tracks I’ve visited.
“As with most of the GT rounds this year, the goal will be to have fun and learn as much as possible.”
Last year, Brett Hobson was one of the stars of the GT Championship, punching above his weight in the older Nissan to score an outright race win at Tailem Bend and second place finish at Bathurst against drivers in more up-to-date machinery.
For 2022, Hobson has updated to a later-model Nissan which will be familiar to many Bathurst 12 Hour fans – it’s the car in which Katsumasa Chiyo, Rick Kelly and Florian Strauss finished second in 2016, Chiyo chasing after Shane Van Gisbergen’s McLaren in the race’s final stint. The car also ran in the 2017 race, finishing eighth in the hands of Strauss, Todd Kelly and Jann Mardenborough.
While similar in specification to Hobson’s previous Nissan, he said there are still some differences in how it drives.
“The new car has more mechanical grip, but at the test day we were experiencing a lot of understeer through the high-speed corners, which we gradually dialled out during the day,” Hobson said.
“There are a few other subtle changes – the seating position, steering wheel and dash configuration are all different, so I’m glad I had the test day to adapt to the car.
“Last year, I don’t think we necessarily had the outright speed of others but we achieved some great results thanks to Garth and the team coming up with brilliant strategies. This year, the goal will be to combine the smart strategy calls with a bit more pace, which will hopefully allow us to run at the front of the Trophy Class and score some more strong outright results,” Hobson concluded. The opening GT World Challenge Australia round will be held at Phillip Island as part of the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships race meeting on 18-20 March.