Trass Family Motorsport, New Zealand’s Ferrari racing team, was propelled into the Australian GT record books at Townsville this weekend with lead driver Jono Lester scoring his third consecutive pole position in the category.
The feat places Lester, 25, alongside Greg Crick and the late Allan Simonsen as only the third driver to score three-in-a-row in the series, in arguably its most competitive season to date.
Lester’s lap time of 1:12.1179 also reset the outright Townsville track record, eclipsing the former record by 2/10ths of a second.
In a season where the all-Kiwi Ferrari team have yet to score a race win, their unbeaten qualifying record has been something of a talking point and the pairing of Lester and 23-year old co-driver Graeme Smyth have no intention of letting up the pressure.
With Australian GT’s CPS compulsory pit stop system in force for both of Townsville’s 60-minute races, Lester intended to capitalise on the clear air and pulled a significant lead on the field in the opening stanza of race one.
An untimely safety car intervention compressed the field soon after, and with their lead vanishing Smyth was left with a mammoth job ahead of him after TFM’s stationary pit stop of two minutes and nine seconds.
Smyth pulled off some daring passes in his comeback drive to seventh, netting valuable points as the #27 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 galloped through the 34-car field.
Starting from seventh in race two, Smyth quickly elevated himself to the top five and looked strong in the early laps, when a sudden puncture put TFM a lap down on the field with an unscheduled pit stop for repairs.
Smyth and then Lester battled their way back from the rear of field to 11th place at the finish, with ‘damage control’ the only real positive the team could take from another disappointing stroke of luck.
The next round of the Australian GT Championship supports the V8 Supercars at Sydney Motorsport Park on August 22-23.
The immediate focus for TFM now shifts to the final round of the North Island Endurance Series at Pukekohe, where they will campaign Ferrari F430 GT3 and Challenge cars both the One Hour and Three Hour races, led once again by Jono Lester and Graeme Smyth and the return of second generation driver, Richard Oxton.
JONO LESTER / Driver – TFM Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 #27
I’m proud and humbled to take a place alongside a driver such as Allan [Simonsen] with the trio of pole positions, which is an equal credit to the TFM team and our crew for giving me such a weapon of a Ferrari to do the job. We now aim for number four and hopefully many more, as there are valuable points up for grabs along with each pole. We were effected by circumstances beyond our control once again in the races but Graeme and I are a pairing that won’t be denied a win for long, and until then we can only continue to roll the dice and do the very best we can.
GRAEME SMYTH / Driver – TFM Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 #27
The results didn’t show how much pace we really had at Townsville. The car was perfect and as a team we didn’t put a foot wrong, but circumstances outside our control meant we didn’t get the results we deserved. One small consolation is the valuable points we gained by persevering through our troubled races.
GERALD TRASS / Team Principal – Trass Family Motorsport
Despite a record-equaling third pole position by our lead driver, Jono Lester, TFM was dogged by bad luck during the Townsville races. This time it was a safety car and a flat tyre, which prevented us from finishing on the podium. The team will keep working hard and with a bit of luck will achieve the results that the team deserves.