June 29, 2023 | General

Mid-season review: Fanatec GT World Challenge

THE three great German marques – Porsche, Audi and Mercedes-AMG – have fought a pitched battle for supremacy across the first half of a totally compelling Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia powered by AWS season so far.

It has been fiercely competitive, at times controversial and always competitive in what has been one of the series’ most competitive years to date.

The strong Audi and Mercedes-AMG campaigns have continued unabated while the resurgence of Porsche as a driving force in domestic GT3 racing has been a highlight.

Here’s how the 2023 season has played out so far..

The season started at Mount Panorama’s Hi-Tec Oils Bathurst 6 Hour and it was there where Liam Talbot and young Austrian co-driver Max Hofer struck first. A solid defence by Talbot in the opening stint from the similar Fuchs-backed Audi of leading Am Class competitor Brad Schumacher set up a lights-to-flag victory.

Talbot and Schumacher shared the front row, which led to an entertaining stint-long battle between the pair as dual-reigning series champ Yasser Shahin made a great start to be third in the EMA Motorsport/The Bend Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3R as he remained in touch during the first stanza.

Schumacher was unable to hold second at the flag as Garnet Patterson overhauled the Am Class leader during the final stint to place second on the team’s debut, while the Bathurst local completed a phenomenal drive to complete the podium.

Fourth in the end was the returning triple-Australian GT champion Geoff Emery partnered by Audi factory driver Christer Joens, while Jamie Whincup charged through the final stint to deliver fifth for Triple Eight Race Engineering alongside Prince Abu Bakar.

Talbot and Hofer then made it two from two when they took the final victory of the opening Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia powered by AWS round at Bathurst.

Talbot finished ahead of Prince Jefri Ibrahim and Broc Feeney in the lead Triple Eight Race Engineering Mercedes-AMG, while Brad Schumacher scored another outright podium in his Am Class Fuchs Audi, also taking the Am class honours for the second race in a row.

Young gun Marcos Flack took a pair of wins aboard his Porsche Cup Car to claim the Trophy Class round overall.

The series headed to the West for Round two supporting the Supercars championship at Wanneroo Raceway.

Race 1 saw Porsche return to the outright winners list for the first time since 2018 as Yasser Shahin and Garnet Patterson held on to take victory for EMA Motorsport in their Porsche 911 GT3R.

A challenging race for Liam Talbot saw him fail to finish, while the final podium spots went to Abu Ibrahim and Jamie Whincup in their Mercedes AMG GT3, and the Audi R8 LMS from Jamec Racing driven by Geoff Emery and Chris Mies, the latter pro drivers involved in a heady battle for second for much of the race.

Brad Schumacher won the Am class while Renee Gracie claimed the Trophy class win on her racing return, both driving Audi R8s.

Race two delivered a return of form to Liam Talbot and Max Hofer, as the pair swept to their third win from four races from pole position.

After Hofer started the race, Talbot stroked the car home to claim an Audi 1-2 with Geoff Emery and Chris Mies second in the Jamec Racing entry, while Prince Jefri Ibrahim and Richie Stanaway delivered Triple Eight Racing their second podium from two races with a strong drive to third.

Brad Schumacher claimed his fourth-straight Am class win aboard his Audi, while Renee Gracie triumphed again in the Trophy Class.

The circus shifted to the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit for Round 3 with the most dramatic race of the season so far opening proceedings.

Initially, it looked as if the EMA Motorsport Porsche of Yasser Shahin and Garnet Patterson had swept to their second victory, holding off young-gun Jayden Ojeda – driving the Harrolds Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 – in a thrilling finish to the one-hour affair.

However, the bright green Porsche was later penalised for not maintaining the correct speed on the Safety Car restart, the five seconds added to their time relegating them to fourth.

That penalty elevated Stephen and Brenton Grove to second – having started 21st – with Geoff Emery and Max Hofer third in their Jamec Racing Audi R8.

The latter duo then took a dominant win in Sunday’s second race, gaining the advantage through the pit stop sequence to emerge from the stops with a commanding lead they’d never lose.

Meanwhile a war was unfolding for second as Shahin and Talbot exchanged paint in their fight between Porsche and Audi.

Though the Porsche crossed the line second, a five second penalty would drop them to third behind the Talbot / Ross Audi R8.

Brad Schumacher claimed the Am class with Renee Gracie on top in Trophy class, while Darren Currie claimed the Invitational category aboard his MARC II Mustang.

With three rounds complete, just 21 points separate the top four positions in the championship: Max Hofer leading the way over Geoff Emery, Liam Talbot and the Shahin / Patterson Porsche duo.

The Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia powered by AWS returns in late July at Sydney Motorsport Park, before heading north to re-join the Shannons SpeedSeries program at Queensland Raceway in August.

Standings – Top 10

  1. Max Hofer (Audi) 115
  2. Geoff Emery (Audi) 103
  3. Liam Talbot (Audi) 101
  4. Yasser Shahin / Garnet Patterson (Porsche) 94
  5. Ross Poulakis (Mercedes-AMG) 73
  6. Jayden Ojeda (Mercedes-AMG) 57
  7. Prince Jefri Ibrahim (Mercedes-AMG) 55
  8. Prince Abu Bakar / Jamie Whincup (Mercedes-AMG) 48
  9. Mike Bailey / Brett Hobson (Mercedes-AMG) 34
  10. Christopher Mies (Audi) 33

AM class

  1. Brad Schumacher (Audi) 143
  2. Matt Stoupas / Paul Stokell (Audi) 105
  3. Mike Sheargold / Garth Walden (Mercedes-AMG) 74

Trophy Class

  1. Renee Gracie (Audi) 100
  2. Marcos Flack (Porsche) 50
  3. Stephen Coe (Ferrari) 36

Results So Far

Round 1 – Mount Panorama, Bathurst

Race 1 Pole: Liam Talbot (Audi)
Race 1 Win: Liam Talbot / Max Hofer (Audi)

Race 2 Pole: Broc Feeney (Mercedes-AMG)
Race 2 Win: Liam Talbot / Max Hofer (Audi)

Round 2 – Wanneroo Raceway, Perth

Race 1 Pole: Geoff Emery (Audi)
Race 1 Win: Yasser Shahin / Garnet Patterson (Porsche)

Race 2 Pole: Max Hofer (Audi)
Race 2 Win: Liam Talbot / Max Hofer (Audi)

Round 3 – Phillip Island, Victoria

Race 1 Pole: Liam Talbot (Audi)
Race 1 Win: Ross Poulakis / Jayden Ojeda (Mercedes-AMG)

Race 2 Pole: Jayden Ojeda (Mercedes-AMG)
Race 2 Win: Geoff Emery / Max Hofer (Audi)