Glenn Smith and John De Veth have stamped their authority on Pukekohe Park in the final round of the Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series.
Just hours after the two clinched victory in the one-hour race, a fortunate win in the afternoon’s three-hour has seen them seal another championship title.
Running second for almost the entire race, the SBT Motorsport McLaren found themselves in the lead at the start of the final half-an-hour as polesitters Alex Riberas and Darren Kelly in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin were struck with a tyre sensor drama.
Kelly was en route for an emphatic win, up over an entire lap on the field when he came to stop on the back straight.
It gifted De Veth the lead, one he and Smith consolidated as they shared stints over the last twenty minutes to snare a convincing win and the 2020 championship title.
“This is the best fun you could possibly have,” said De Veth. “There is always a lot of highs and lows in motorsport, but this is definitely a high.
“The car was faultless” added Smith. “Driving it just feels so good and I am really rapt.”
The Heart of Racing Team were unsurprisingly left deflated after losing the win through a technical gremlin, but Riberas said the team should be proud with their efforts over the weekend.
“We haven’t experienced as strong pace since we got the car as we did today,” said Riberas.
“This was our first pole position and we have not had pace that was as dominant as what we had today, even with our sensor issue.
“So, overall that is what we take away [from the race] and we are looking forward to the national finals.”
Riberas and Kelly once again finished third, with the International Motorsport Audi duo of Andrew Fawcett and Sam Fillmore in second.
Unfortunately, the race was marred 15-minutes in by a frightening collision along the main straight involving Bernard Verryt and Subaru BRZ of Robert and Jeffery Drum.
Verryt posted the Mustang around the outside of the Subaru at the final corner, but the two tangled, sending Verryt headfirst into the concrete barrier. The initial impact then had Verryt spear back across the circuit and collect the inside barrier.
The safety car was deployed immediately with Verryt clambering out of the car seemingly clear of any injury.
With very little time run, few cars took the opportunity to pit. But those who did were Smith and Fawcett in the International Motorsport Audi.
Fawcett was promoted ahead of Smith, but the McLaren pushed hard in retaliation. The switch of position then came on lap 43 when Fawcett ran deep into the hairpin and ran off the road at the hairpin.
With clear road ahead of him, Riberas had established a commanding lead before the Mortimer and Mortimer M6 entry suffered a spectacular rear tyre blowout while travelling along the back straight.
The car was hurled into a spin, eventually grounding to a stop in the complex section. But the consequent debris skewed across the straight led to the second intervention of the safety car.
The incident fuelled another round of pitstops, this time the Heart of Racing Aston Martin was whistled in for his stop while their Audi R8 stablemates were elevated to the lead courtesy of staying out.
Riberas remained in the driver’s seat for the second stint, and within five laps of the restart had reclaimed the lead with a move at Turn 1.
Surviving another period of caution when James Kirkpatrick came unglued at Turn 1, Kelly was given control of the Aston Martin, only to lose the lead when the car entered a limp mode along the back straight.
Fresh into his stint, De Veth seized the opportunity and the McLaren stole the lead as Kelly grounded to a halt. The safety car was deployed with the Aston Martin able to re-fire itself before crawling back to the pitlane under its own power.
De Veth was gifted a free fuel-stop while International Motorsport were able to hastily remedy the issue, sending Kelly back into the race two laps down.
De Veth then handed control over to Smith who eased home to a comfortable win. Fillmore hung on to second with Kelly coming home third.
Lance Hughes and Simon Evans ran a strong race to finish fourth in the Holden Commodore.
GTD was won by Arron Slight and Daniel Gaunt while GT C was won by Rob Williams and Phil Blythe.
Despite electrical issues threatening to thwart their efforts, the Hyundai TCR pairing of Gene Rollinson and Craig Innes still managed to finish in ninth overall and secure top honours in Class 2, despite loosing 15 laps in the pits identifying and remedying an engine mis-fire.