Glenn Smith and John DeVeth have claimed victory at the Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series one-hour finale at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo, placing them well ahead of the pack in the one-hour title fight ahead of the series finale.
The McLaren duo were able to survive a late-race safety car that dropped them to second place. But in the four-minute sprint to the flag DeVeth was able to reclaim the lead and seal their third win in a row. Anthony Leighs finished second after briefly holding the lead with the end in sight. And the father-son combination of Martin and Geoff Short claimed a stellar podium in their Speed Works Events Audi R8.
From pole Smith held the lead off the start, with Sam Collins grabbing second. Collins nabbed the position after going three wide with the Audi R8 of Anthony Leighs and the Ford Falcon of John Midgley. Thankfully all three came out the other side with just minor contact
Smith kicked clear, quickly opening up a big margin as Collins and Leighs did battle, Leighs eventually stealing back the position after a slight mistake from Collins at the final corner. Midgley’s grip on fourth, meanwhile, crumbled on lap three; a left-rear puncture dropping him down the order.
The opening laps were uncharacteristically chaotic, with Midgley’s surprise puncture followed by a crash at turn one involving Nick Ross and Conal Dempsey. Dempsey appeared to dive inside the Nissan Altima with his Porsche, with clumsy contact ensuing and both cars spinning.
Missing from the action was the McLaren 570S of Simon Evans and Marco Giltrap. The pairing were unable to make the start due to pre-race mechanical gremlins.
Dempsey’s stranded car on the front straight (thanks to a split fuel tank) prompted the race’s first safety car, playing into the hands of early stopper Midgley. By the time the race restarted 48 minutes remained; Smith leading Leighs, Collins, Lochlain Fitzgerald-Symes, Brock Timperley, and the giant-killing Hyundai i30 N TCR of Gene Rollinson.
At the halfway point, Smith’s lead had blown out. Leighs and Collins were still second and third, with Fitzgerald-Symes now much more under threat from Timperley for fourth. But this order would soon shuffle, with Smith peeling off at the 32-minute mark as the first leader to complete their mandatory stop.
With 13 minutes left in the race and some like Leighs still yet to pit, all hell broke loose with three separate spins taking place on the same lap. The first of these was Nick Archibald at turn one in his Holden Commodore. Then, a few corners later and a few seconds later, Collins spun his Mustang off the podium. And then, at the top end loop, Fitzgerald-Symes spun while trying to navigate traffic.
Collins and Fitzgerald-Symes were both beached in the sand, triggering a safety car. The remainder of the pack made its pit-stops under the safety car, completing a wild shuffle of the pack. Leighs’ strategy had seen him leap-frog DeVeth in the McLaren. Martin Short had emerged in third, and, also benefitting from Fitzgerald-Symes and Collins’ issues was Rollinson; the little Hyundai restarting the race in fifth.
The race restarted with just under five minutes to go. Leighs and DeVeth were both at the back of the queue, meaning that the race for the win would be contended for in lapped traffic. DeVeth immediately made inroads, taking just a handful of corners to get by the traffic between he and Leighs. By turn four, he had reclaimed the lead.
By the time the chequered flag flew, DeVeth had almost 10 seconds over Leighs. Martin and Geoff Short was able to hold on to an excellent third. John McIntyre was narrowly off the podium in fourth with co-driver Timperley, finishing one spot ahead of class winner Rollinson in the Racer Products Hyundai TCR.
Sean Kirkpatrick/James Webb finished sixth, ahead of Ross after he recovered from the turn one incident. Blair McDonald, David O’Leary, and Kris Bostick rounded out the top 10.