Rick Armstrong took a hard-fought win in the Open Class of the Summerset GT New Zealand Championship at Ruapuna on Saturday, while Brock Gilchrist, in a McLaren 570S, was again at the top of the GT4 field.
The Open Class Podium was rounded out with the Porsches of Paul Southam in second, and local Steve Brooks in third.
Steve Scoles was second in GT4 in a Ginetta G56, with the BMW M4 of Garth Piesse in third.
The Mercedes AMG GT2 of Paul Pedersen went into the lead off the start, taking the lead spot from pole-sitter Armstrong, who slotted into second, ahead of the AMG GT2 of Joel Giddy.
Giddy made a bold move at Turn 4 to jump into second the following circuit.
He then made his way into the lead after the sister AMG of Pedersen slowed and lost a handful of places. The issue for Pedersen seemed to persist, resulting in him pitting on Lap 7, and by the time he re-joined, he was at the back of the field.
Behind in GT4, Gilchrist was quick to build a considerable lead on the Mercedes AMG GT4 of James Sax.
At the 20-minute mark, the compulsory pit-stop window opened, and a handful of the front runners, including Armstrong, Sam Fillmore, Luke Manson and Brooks, all pitted, as well as Pedersen, who was further down the order.
GT4 runners also began to make their stops, changing the order at the front of the class-leading pack. Steve Scoles jumped to the lead of the class, with Gilchrist behind, and the BMW of Garth Piesse in third.
In the Open Class, Southam found himself leading, a good turn of results considering he missed qualifying and started from the back of the field.
With the clock ticking down, Southam’s lead was shrinking, with a fierce battle behind between Armstrong, Manson, Scoullar and Brooks bringing them into contention.
In GT4, Gilchrist was quick to reclaim the lead followed by Scoles and Piesse, the order settling as the laps counted down.
With 10 minutes to go, Southam still led, his advantage sitting at 2.7 seconds from Armstrong and Manson, who, at this point in the race, were lapping around three-quarters of a second faster than the leader.
Southam’s advantage came to an end, however, when a Safety Car was called on Lap 35 when the Porsche of Tony Austin stopped on the circuit.
With under four minutes to go, the safety car lights were out, and the race restarted for a two-lap dash to the line.
Southam held his lead off the start and did well to fend off a charging Armstrong for a lap. On the last lap, Armstrong made a bold move into the Turn 4 hairpin, diving into the lead and holding on until the chequered flag.
The GT New Zealand Championship returns for two 30-minute races on Sunday, both of which will be streamed live on Sky Sport.
Words & Images: Supplied