April 18th, 2017 (Bathurst, NSW, Australia) – Easter weekend in Bathurst carries significant history when it comes to the races at Mount Panorama. The GRR Racing team made their international debut by joining forces with the Pedders Racing team out of Bendigo, Australia. Australian Owner/Driver Grant Phillips and American SCCA Road Racing Champion Michele Abbate piloted the Pedders Racing MTA Toyota 86 through the demanding six hours on the mountain.
The race began with a rolling start of a historical high of 65 cars over 8 classes and 150+ drivers. Phillips took the wheel for the green flag in spot 55 overall, and was able to gain 7th in class out of the 13 Class D production cars with his fastest lap time of the stint being a 2:45.1. At the hour and a half mark, Phillips made his way to the pit to do a driver swap and refueling. The students of MTA carried out a successful pit stop without any infractions and Abbate made her way on track to lay down her first ever international race laps.
Still settling into the right hand driver Toyota 86, Abbate became more and more confident with each lap. Her stint consisted of feild traffic from the faster classes as well as more Safety Car calls. By the end of her stint, the Pedders Racing team was in 6th place and Abbate made massive improvements of over 5 seconds with her best time of a 2:45.2; just one tenth off of Phillip’s best.
Abbate shared in the pits, “Wow, what fun this is! An amazing track and so many great cars and drivers for production racing. I am feeling much more confident in myself and I am finding my way around the track at a much quicker pace now. Pedders Racing and the MTA students have really given us a phenomenal car and I truly feel we’re in a great position right now”. The entire team cheers on Phillips as he carries out his 2nd and final stint. With track conditions being ideal, and a highly competitive race with the overall leaders, Phillips was able to lay down some very impressive laps with significant improvements. Rounding out a 2:41.8 the team was ready to make the final driver change to put Abbate in the seat for the final stint.
On Phillips’ final lap before pitting, he entered Forrest Elbow and there was contact on the outside by the #1 Ford Focus driven by Chaz Mostert, ultimately squeezing Phillips into the wall, creating major suspension damage to the both sides of the Pedders Racing Toyota 86. Only a few turns from the pit but significant straightaway distance, Phillips did his best to limp the car to the pits safely, driving off track and out of the way.
The MTA crew hit the deck hard and the team came together with amazing commroddery to repair the 86. Abbate helped evaluate the damage and sourced new suspension components while the crew removed the necessary components to make the repairs. With damage to both front control arms, a broken front right coilover, and broken endlinks the team was able to get the car back on the ground and back on track with Abbate behind the wheel in just under 1 hour.
Abbate drove cautiously as she felt out the repaired front end, but was extremely pleased with the job the team carried out. “Truthfully, the car handled quite well despite the misaligned steering wheel. As I came onto mountain’s straight I tested the alignment and the car was in fact rolling straight. A fantastic effort and result from the team”, Abbate explains. Rounding out the final minutes of the 6 hours of the race, Abbate crossed the finish line with her fastest time of the stint with a waving checkered flag, completing 86 laps and finishing 8th out of 13th in Class D.
“This was such a bucket list experience and I can’t speak any higher about the Pedders Racing Team, their program, and the MTA students that make it happen. I have not seen a motorsports program that runs like the Pedders Team runs theirs, and, frankly they do a damn good job! Many thanks to Pedders, their sponsors, and my sponsors who have helped this all come together, I hope to make a return to the mountain!” Abbate shares.
The GRR Racing team heads to Buttonwillow in 2 weeks time for the SCCA US Majors Tour and Super Tour event on April 28-30th. Be sure to catch more highlights and footage from the Hi Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour on their website: www.Bathurst6Hour.com.au and facebook. A 2 hour highlight will premiere on SBS television next week. Thank you to all our sponsors for your support.