Solomon claims victory for Mercedes AMG at Grand Prix

Mar 21, 2016 // Features, Media Coverage, News, Photos, Race reports, Results / tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Solomon claims victory for Mercedes AMG at Grand Prix
Matt Solomon Racing - Australian GT
Rnd#2 - Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne (17-20 March, 2016)

He may have been a late inclusion into the Australian GT Championship’s opening round on the streets of Adelaide just two weeks ago, but Hong Kong’s Matt Solomon well and truly cemented his position in the series at the Melbourne Grand Prix, claiming his second victory for Mercedes-AMG in five starts for the marque, adding to the new Mercedes-AMG GT3s first ever official podium in South Australia.

It was a manic weekend for the former European F3 star, Solomon given just two 20-minute qualifying sessions to reaclimmatise himself with the car and get a feel for the Albert Park street circuit ahead of the opening race, his international experience though coming to the fore with the second fastest qualifying time in session two, and ultimately a seventh placed qualifying position.

From there little troubled the 20-year old Eggleston Motorsport driver, who showed he had the pace to run with some of Australia’s most experienced GT competitors, although the Australian GT rules did make things a little more challenging.

“Overall, an unbelievable weekend,” Solomon admitted with his trademark smile. “We felt going in that it could be a good weekend for us, although with just two 20-minute sessions before the opening race I was still getting used to the car and to the circuit so we only qualified seventh which I felt we could have improved on.

“Unfortunately during the opening race I got hung out wide off the start and that dropped me down the order, so could only manage 11th.

“Race two was a real experience because the weather was changing almost by the minute so I made the call on the warmup lap to come in for slicks [tyres] after starting on wets, because it looked like things were starting to clear.

“It proved to be the right move, but the rain started to fall again towards the end of the race after I’d made up a mountain of positions but there wasn’t enough time to do anything about it so I crossed the line tenth.”

Whilst running amongst the lead group throughout the weekend, Solomon also had to consider the driver parity system that Australian GT use to balance out the variations in driver experience and pace.

The series runs a parity penalty system which equates to the skill of the driver (professional or amateur) and their qualifying position. In a normal event, this additional time penalty is applied during the driver change at the mid-race compulsory pit stop [CPS]. With the tight schedule at the AGP, each race was less than 25-minutes, which meant there was no time for a CPS, therefore the ‘penalty’ time would be added to the driver’s overall race time. That works well in the event of a clean race, but with the high probability of a Safety Car intervention, the penalty can be severe!

“In race three I got a good start from the sixth row and was right up behind category owner Tony Quinn when he made contact with Roger Lago in front of him. I had to jump on the brakes hard to avoid the ensuing carnage. I saw race one winner Craig Baird sail past me with the bonnet up on his AMG GT3 and I got tapped in the left rear which actually damaged the rim but I was able to keep going and kept up the pace.

“As a result of the incident the race came under the control of the Safety Car but restarted for one lap, and after working to get some heat in the tyres before the restart I charged and passed Tony Quinn and caught the back of John Martin before the line but ran out of time to make any further gains, finishing ninth.

“On countback with the CPS system I was classified the winner, an amazing moment and the first ever win for Eggleston Motorsport in Australian GT, and just the second official victory for the new Mercedes AMG GT3 after Baird’s win on Thursday.

“It was a real team win, and everyone deserved it after all the hard work that went in over the last couple of weeks, although I have to admit it felt a little bit weird having won on paper after crossing the line ninth, but that’s the Australian GT regulations, it was the same for everyone.

“That gave us pole position for Grand Prix race day! I woke up, the sun was shining, the air temperature was around 14-15 degrees which was perfect and I was ready!

“I just really tried to focus and spoke to some of the AMG team on the phone about the best procedure for a start with traction control settings etc and as a result got a pretty amazing start.

“I immediately managed to gap the guys behind on the run into turn one and extended that lead into turns two and three and from there just charged. We’d made a few changes to the car and I really wanted to see how good they were, and focused on punching out qualifying laps. In the end I did a 1:55.7 which was just slightly slower than Craig Baird’s lap record from Thursday so we were all pretty happy about that.

“Sadly the dream wasn’t to eventuate as just a couple of laps from home a Safety Car was called for an incident on track and that’s the way it finished, I managed to lead from start to finish and as a result stood on the top step of the podium at a Grand Prix and sprayed the Mumm champagne.. something I’m still in shock about. It was surreal, from the national anthem to the iconic champagne spraying song, it was a dream come true.

“Winning on Grand Prix day in the city I was born was all pretty special.

“I can’t thank the Eggleston team enough for the work they put into the car, we just kept working on it from day one and improved the car every session.

“Sadly as a result of the CPS rules and the Safety Car we were ultimately classified 22nd, but I think we proved everything we set out to prove today on track. To have set the fastest lap for the second race and by almost a second was a huge tribute to the team again, and all the effort that has gone into this program over the last couple of weeks.

“I have to say a massive thanks to everyone that’s put this together, from Geelong Sales Company, to Lifestyle Logistics, Klosit and Maximal Concepts it has really been a team effort.”

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2016 CAMS Australian GT Championship
Rnd#2 - Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne (17-20 March)

Qualifying#1 (20-minutes) - 17 March
1. Mies/Emery (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:54.9059
2. Webb/Denyer (McLaren 650S GT3) - 1:55.6953
3. Baird/Taylor (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:56.0252
4. Canto/Taplin (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3) - 1:56.0750
5. Marshall/Koundouris (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:56.1138
7. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Co. Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:56.7648

Qualifying#2 (20-minutes) - 17 March
1. Simonsen/Montermini (Ferrari 488 GT3) - 1:56.8768
2. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Co. Mercedes AMG GT3) - 1:57.1049
3. Klark Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3) - 1:57.3749
4. Roger Lago (Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX GT3) - 1:57.4390
5. Mies/Emery (Audi R8 LMS GT3) - 1:57.7762

Race#1 (25-mins) - 17 March
1. Craig Baird (Mercedes AMG GT3) - 11-laps
2. Christopher Mies (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. Marcus Marshall (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
4. George Miedecke (Aston Martin Vantage GT3)
5. Andrea Montermini (Ferrari 488 GT3)
10. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Co. Mercedes AMG GT3)

Race#2 (25-mins) - 18 March
1. Nathan Morcom (McLaren 650S GT3) - 11-laps
2. Benny Simonsen (Ferrari 488 GT3)
3. Klark Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Elliot Barbour (McLaren 650S GT3)
5. Grant Denyer (McLaren 650S GT3)
11. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Co. Mercedes AMG GT3)

Race#3 (25-mins) - 19 March
1. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Co. Mercedes AMG GT3) - 6-laps
2. Steve McLaughlan (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. Klark Quinn (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Greg Taylor (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
5. George Miedecke (Aston Martin Vantage GT3)

Race#4 (25-mins) - 20 March
1. James Koundouris (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
2. Geoff Emery (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
3. Tony Walls (McLaren 650S GT3)
4. Tim Miles (Audi R8 LMS GT3)
5. Aaron Tebb (Porsche 997 GT3-R)
22. Matt Solomon (Geelong Sales Co. Mercedes AMG GT3)

2016 Australian GT Championship (points after two rounds of six)
1. James Koundouris/Marcus Marshall (223-points), 2. Klark Quinn (205),
3. Nathan Morcom (195), 4. Justin McMillan/Glen Wood (184),
5. Chris Mies/Geoff Emery (182), 6. Roger Lago (177), 7. Matt Solomon (169)

Keep up to date with further announcements from Matt Solomon Racing across the Clipsal weekend by visiting; www.facebook.com/MattSolomon.Racing

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Matt Solomon Racing is proudly supported by Geelong Sales Company, Maximal Concepts, Lifestyle Logistics and Klosit.

www.mattsolomon.com

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