Storied Australian racer Ryan Simpson has confirmed he will join the Australian GT grid in 2020 having taken the helm of an ex-Mark Griffith Mercedes-AMG GT3 for a shot at the coveted sprint series title.
Last year, Simpson teamed with incumbent Bathurst 12 Hour silver class champion Fraser Ross at the 59 Racing outfit in the McLaren 720S GT3.
Finishing the season seventh in the standings and having snared victory at Sandown, Simpson proved to be one of the quickest in the field and will return to the series with an Eggleston Motorsports-prepared AMG GT3; a partnership the 32-year-old believes can lead him to a maiden crown.
“Last year was a real eye-opener with respect to both the GT4 and GT3 McLarens,” Simpson told the official website. “The performance of the car wasn’t such an issue, nor getting used to it, but the way the team operated with support from the factory, and the quality of the competition really stood out, so we were keen to look at how we could campaign our own car at a similar level and what we’d need to do that.
“We saw a lot of the Eggleston team last year, and Peter Hackett’s car. We had some terrific battles with them and it gave me a great perspective to see the car up close.
“Now that we’re clearing the restrictions of Covid-19, the aim is to get a few test days under our belt. This way we have the chance to shake it down and get our heads around the variations with the cars I’m used to, and ensure that we start the championship in a position to fight for race wins.”
Stints in the V8 Touring Car series and national championships in Formula Vee and the Porsche GT3 Cup, Simpson got his first taste of GT4 action at last year’s Australian Grand Prix with 59Racing before making his debut in the Australian GT championship at Phillip Island.
Some stunning qualifying efforts against Supercars regulars Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup gave Simpson the platform to demonstrate his high-level of talent.
The New South Wales driver admitted he look at plenty of options for 2020, including a return to McLaren, before settling on the all-conquering Mercedes AMG GT3.
“We looked at a variety of cars through last season as we started planning for this year,” Simpson added. “It was clear the McLaren, the Audi and the Mercedes-AMG had the runs on the board, but for our business at Parramatta Smash Repairs, the decision was part made due to our relationship with Mercedes-Benz, for whom we are an authorised auto body repairer.
“Having seen a few of them last season I could see why they were so popular, so in the end, we bought the car Mark Griffith had in the country, which had done relatively little work. [It] had enjoyed a refresh post-Bathurst last year and with support from Eggleston’s we’ve given it a birthday and a new lick of paint in preparation for our debut once the season finally gets underway.”
A revised Australian GT Championship calendar is yet to be finalised with rounds from Bathurst and Barbagallo both being postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Main Image: Australian GT Championship