Sam Collins and Nick Ross of Cambridge took first blood at the opening round of the South Island 1 Hour Endurance Series at Teretonga Park, Invercargill on Saturday.
The duo led virtually all the way in their Ford Mustang, only losing the lead briefly when they pitted at the 37-minute mark of the race. The Mustang started from pole position with the Porsche 991 GT3 of Russell McKenzie alongside and the similar Porsche of Ben and Garry Derrick and the McLaren GT4 of David McAlpine and Kynan Yu on the second row.
A cracked front brake rotor was found on the Mustang thirty minutes before the start of the race and new rotors were fitted but the team had no time to bed them in. Despite that Nick Ross led away at the start and built up a good lead until his pitstop just after the halfway point of the race.
McKenzie had initially been second but the Derrick Porsche, Bruce Davidson of Alexandra in a Corvette, Danny Whiting of Christchurch (Porsche 991 II GT3), Dunedin’s Martin Dippie (991 GT3 Cup car) and Murray and Karl Beeby of Timaru in a Nissan R32 GTR took up the chase with local driver Jordan Michels running well in his Honda Civic TCR Fk7 behind them.
The frontrunners stayed out as the pit stops began while Debbie Chapman of Tai Tapu had a quick spin in her Audi RS3 LMS TCR. The Derrick Porsche stopped at 35 minutes followed by the Mustang soon after. That left Whiting in the lead from Dippie, Davidson and Collins who was now at the wheel of the Mustang.
Whiting was the next to come in just as the safety car appeared after Robert Gjaja of Queenstown went off in his Lotus Exige. That prompted several others to pit and when racing went green again Collins was back in the lead ahead of Derrick, Dippie, Whiting and Davidson. Dippie got past Derrick soon after and minutes later Whiting went off at the Elbow, stopping in an awkward position on the side of the track, eventually getting under way again in seventh place.
The Collins/Ross Mustang crossed the line as the hour ticked over having covered 56 laps with Dippie second, twenty-nine seconds behind. The Ben & Garry Derrick Porsche was third just 1.5 seconds behind Dippie with Davidson, McKenzie and Michels rounding out the top six.
Team Manager for the Collins/Ross entry, Paul Collins, said the Mustang, “had a slight electrical gremlin in the accelerator but they were able to drive around it and they aimed for consistency with laps mainly in the 1 minute, 1 minute 1 second bracket with a best of 59.497.
As well as overall honours, drivers were competing across four different classes. As well as taking race victory, Collins and Ross won Class C (>3501cc) from Bruce Davidson with current Class title holders Murray Beebt/Karl Beeby (Nissan R32 GTR) retiring from the race.
Martin Dippie took out Class D (GT) from Ben Derrick/Garry Derrick (Porsche 991 GT3) and Russell McKenzie (Porsche 991 GT3 Cup). Local favourite Jordan Michels (Honda Civic TCR FK7) won Class B (2001-3500cc) from Debbie Chapman (Audi RS3 LMS TCR).
With the largest number of competitors competing in Class A (0-2000cc) it was a Honda Civic podium with Andrew Kitching/Andrw Bartlett (Honda Civic) taking round honours from Andrew Gibson/Paul Booth (Honda Civic) and Bradley Rule (Honda Civic).
Drivers and teams take a break before heading to Christchurch for the second round at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park 3 October, followed by the third and final round two weeks later at the Timaru International Raceway 17 October.