After claiming a season high of five wins in 2014, many expected former Australian GT Trophy Class champion Dean Koutsoumidis to be a certainty to line up for the season-opener in Adelaide earlier this year, however the popular Audi driver had made other plans for the new season, preferring to make ‘guest’ appearances during the year, the first of which is the Phillip Island 101-lap enduro later this month.
“I’m pursuing a few different things this year, details of which I’ll reveal soon,” Koutsoumidis explained. “That said, I was always open to offers to be a part of the Phillip Island and Highlands endurance races, and was given a fantastic opportunity to step into the #2 AFES Engineering/Evolve Technik Audi R8 LMS ultra of Peter Fitzgerald for the Phillip Island event later this month.
“Fitzy and I have been mates for years, but we became team-mates for the first time late last year as part of the Audi Sport customer racing Australia operation. I’ve raced against him at various stages over the years and always admired his professionalism and speed as a driver, so it will be nice to join him and his fantastic family oriented crew at Phillip Island as we go after the ‘big guns’ in the 101.”
“I’m looking forward to having Dean onboard,” Fitzgerald admitted. “He’s one of the nicest guys in Australian motorsport, and he’s actually pretty handy behind the wheel. . “My recent partner, Mike Almond, is tied up that weekend with his Carrera Cup duties, and I didn’t want to distract his championship efforts, so Dean was a logical choice having had plenty of experience in the Audi.
“I think we have a pretty good chance for a top five finish in the 101, although that could go either way depending on what the weather does, but having been third overall prior to that big opening corner accident at Clipsal’s opening round, we know we have some good pace, so I think we might surprise a few people.”
After a quite detailed rebuild by Fitzgerald Racing Services with help from Lacey Panels and Audi Sport customer racing Australia thanks to the Clipsal incident, the #2 Audi was showing no signs of weakness during a recent test at Phillip Island, in fact Fitzgerald admitted he’d bettered his personal best time by more than a second.
“Being in the Audi has given me a new lease on life,” he laughed. “I’m in better shape than I have been in recent years, and the Audi has really inspired me to be competitive again. It’s a lot different to the Porsche’s I’ve traditionally driven in the past, it’s less physical to drive but requires a little more finesse.
“The aero is still the biggest thing for me at the moment, trusting that it will hold at places like the Hayshed at Phillip Island and turn one, but I’m getting there and it’s that confidence that will give me the extra time I’m looking for.”
“For me it’s all about time back behind the wheel,” Koutsoumidis added. “My extra speed will come from technique, not car setup, and that’s just miles, but we’ll be alright come the 101. I was quick there last year before being unceremoniously forced off the circuit by an errant Lamborghini, so I know I can be quick again this year, it’s going to be a great event and I’m really looking forward to being a part of Fitzy’s team.”
Round#2 Australian GT Championship presented by Pirelli
Phillip Island 101 – 22-23 May, 2015
Friday, 22 May
Practice#1 – 9:55am (20-minutes)
Practice#2 – 11:35am (20-minutes)
Practice#3 – 1:50pm (25-minutes)
Saturday, 23 May
Qualifying#1 – 9:55am (15-minutes)
Qualifying#2 – 11:20am (15-minutes)
Race (101-laps) – 2:00pm