IT'S the story of the underdog who became the leader of the pack - on Sunday morning in Adelaide Bathurst driver Brad Schumacher and his team celebrated being crowned national champions in the GT World Challenge Australia series.
Schumacher and his all-Bathurst crew claimed the honours as the best performed amateur class team for 2023, fulfilling a vow made seven months earlier.
While racing against teams with bigger budgets, greater resources and more experience, across the six rounds of the series Schumacher notched up eight class wins from 12 starts behind the wheel of the Fuchs Audi R8 LMS.
Schumacher took the lead in round one at Bathurst and from there remained on top of the standings, only missing the podium once when having a DNF in Queensland.
The scale of his achievements for 2023, which also included a GT3 amateur qualifying lap record at Mount Panorama of 2:03.8, is something Schumacher is rightly proud of.
"This is called the GT World Challenge Australia for a reason, it's a national championship for GT3 cars. Most people in Bathurst will know the Bathurst 12 Hour is a big event and most of the cars and drivers who are in the Bathurst 12 Hour are racing this series all year round," he said.
"You've got professional drivers not only from Australia and Supercars, but also factory drivers from overseas. It's renowned as one of the highest regarded series in Australia for sure.
"We're the small team from Bathurst up against the biggest teams that are on offer and we've beaten all of them, it's just such a great felling.
"We roll up we've got the smallest little truck, we are like the part-time team, but we've come out on top."
Schumacher first joined the GT World Challenge series three years ago. He won the Trophy Class in 2021 and finished second in that same class last year even though he spent time in the Pro-Am category as well.
But to be crowned amateur champions is a moment which tops those efforts.
"The first time was in Trophy Class, which was for the older cars, so I guess for me it was a like a shallow championship then. But now in the current specification GT3 Car against the best drivers the category has to offer - I'm thrilled," he said.
"It's a total team effort, everybody who works for Schumacher Motorsport has done such a great job this entire season to piece it together for a national championship."
Schumacher headed to Adelaide, a venue he'd only competed at once, sitting 23 points clear on top of the amateur class leaderboard.
He was eagerly anticipating the challenge which lay ahead - three races on the street circuit.
"Adelaide is just such a cool circuit, there's something about driving on the streets of Adelaide. It's not easy, in particular in a GT car because there's not a lot of grip because it's not a full-time race circuit," he said.
"But it's so much fun, it's like you're driving around in a tunnel or something because you're surrounded by walls and buildings. Every lap is just as fun as the next, so even if we didn't have so much success, it would've been fun to be part of the event regardless."
Race one on Friday resulted in a class win, but on Saturday morning as he made his way through the out lap for race two, Schumacher spun and dropped back to the rear of the field.
It was a mistake he recovered from well, climbing back inside the top 10 outright and finishing third in class. That effort earned him enough points to make him provisional champion.
But later that afternoon Schumacher started feeling unwell and it wasn't due to nerves.
"I actually fell sick ... it zapped me of all my energy, I couldn't eat dinner which isn't ideal for the following day. I was in the horrors over night with hot and cold sweats and I didn't have a very good sleep," he said.
"I'd never been in a position like that in my career. I didn't want to tell anyone I was sick because I didn't want them to get a mental advantage, of course I told my team about it, but we didn't tell anyone else."
Schumacher's task on Sunday was to battle the fatigue he felt as well as finish without incurring any points penalties which may rob him of the championship.
It was a nervous start as the field went four-wide into the first bend, the Bathurst driver only narrowly avoiding being spun.
But he picked his way through the field and emerged from the compulsory pit stop second in class behind the Renee Gracie driven Audi.
"Our pit stop took a little longer than we'd hoped and it let her get the jump, so I had to come out and follow her. I stayed on her for about five laps hoping she'd make a mistake while she was under pressure and she didn't make any mistakes at all," Schumacher said.
"I had to start searching for where I was a little stronger than her on the circuit, which happened to be turn eight."
After making the passing move down the inside of the hairpin corner with just under 11 minutes left, Schumacher pulled away for an easy class win. In fact only three factory drivers in Matt Campbell, Chris Mies and Max Hofer beat him to the chequered flag.
It was an effort which impressed others in pit lane.
"It was really cool, Matt Campbell came up to me and said 'Brad you're as fast as us pros, it's pretty incredible," Schumacher said.
"For me to hear that, I'm not driving a car all that often , I don't do any test days really because the budget just isn't there, so to hear that from a factory pro driver for Porsche like Matt Campbell who is driving cars every day of the week, it's really cool."
Now it's a break before the team turns its attention to the Bathurst 12 Hour early next year and possibly the hunt for glory in a new class too.
"We just have to wait and see now what happens to my licence grading, they may turn me into a pro, who knows?," Schumacher said.