Kiwi drift star and Spanish GT ace Darren Kelly and Alex Riberas have sauntered to a convincing second successive South Island Endurance Series victory, this time at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch.
The pair survived a race of attrition with over half of the top-class GT E cars eliminated before the two-hour mark.
“It has been a very full on day,” said a relived Kelly.
“Yesterday we were still working on the car, trying to get things right and today we have finally nailed it. The team has done an incredible job setting this thing up. It was a luxury to drive.”
On his return to the New Zealand endurance scene, Greg Murphy came home a commendable second with Dwayne Carter in the Mercedes AMG GT3.
The pair finished 38-seconds adrift of the Aston after making a splash and dash in the final twenty minutes.
“We weren’t really chasing them down,” said Murphy. “We knew what we had, and Alex was pretty quick.
“We tried to save fuel but we were going to run out in the end so, it is what it is.”
However, the talk of the race will be on reliability as several key runners suffered mechanical and technical woes which drastically altered the shape of the race.
The most notable retirement was John McIntyre in his SaReNi Camaro. The ex-NZ V8 champion was comfortably leading the race after surging to the front on the opening lap. But he and newly recruited co-driver Nick Ross would ultimately finish over 70 laps down after a diff drama.
Similarly, International Motorsport experienced a frustrating day of the office. The Jonnny Reid and Nick Foster Audi R8 broke an axel in the first twenty minutes. Meanwhile, Sam Fillmore and Andrew Fawcett sister machine had a turbulent race after dropping to last due to contact, eventually recovering to finish.
An electric start by McIntyre from the second row of the gird had the Camaro muscle himself into the lead through the Turns 1-2 complex. Pole-sitter Foster was left flustered as he diced with Kelly for third as McIntyre looked to establish an early lead.
The race’s first safety car came only ten minutes into proceedings when the Fillmore/Fawcett International Motorsport Audi spun and collected the Honda crew of Taylor and Maloney.
Both cars were hastily repaired with the Audi returning to the race patched up with race tape, albeit two laps down on McIntyre.
International Motorsport then suffered a double blow when defending champions Johnny Reid and Neil Foster Audi grounded to a stop on the short chute into Turn 3. A broken axel was the confirmed culprit and the safety car was required again to assist with its recovery.
McIntyre was thus sitting comfortably in the lead as his rivals floundered around him, but the Camaro’s race was then instantly quelled when smoke was spied expelling from the rear of the car. The differential side seals had failed, and the team were kept the car in the pitlane for over twenty minutes repairing the damage.
Current North Island points leaders Glenn Smith and John De Veth had a less than warm return south. An intercooler gremlin scuppered their efforts and put the McLaren in the lane for the rest of the day.
Eager to make amends after their premature round one exit, Jaden Ransley and Rhys Gould unfortunately retired with another mechanical drama.
Emerging from the early race chaos was the Heart of Racing Vantage who held a steady margin over the Carters Tyres AMG GT3. A clean first stint by Dwayne Carter paved the way for Murphy to ease into the race.
Thirty seconds was the deficit between Murphy and Kelly with the older-generation Leitch and Orr-West Audi the last car on the lead lap in third. The trio all made last stops within the final half hour before cruising to the chequered flag.
Class D was won by the Leighs/Kelly Porsche who led from start to finish after a dominant display in qualifying.
The best of the TCRs was Rowan Shepherd and Lochlainn Fitzgerald-Symes in the Track Tec Audi who stormed to an emphatic win and eighth overall.
Other class winners were the McDermid/McDermid in their Toyota 86 (Class C) and the Simons/Berry Honda Integra in Class A.