Andre Heimgartner and Lance Hughes have claimed the opening feature race of the 2020/21 NZ V8 Touring Car Championship at Pukekohe Park after a mid-race safety car upset the running order.
The one-hour race was to be the first in series history to include a compulsory pitstop with a Balance of Performance system which dictated the length of each car’s stop.
However, when the Collins Motorsport Mustang GT crawled to a stop dead on the 20-minute mark – the same time as the opening of the pit stop window – Hughes and Tim Edgell were able to make it to the lane before race control deployed the safety car.
Thus, both were able to complete their pitstops, which were over four-minutes in length due to the Balance of Performance system. At the same time, the rest of the field ambled behind the safety car.
It proved to be a wise, yet contentious call, as both essentially gained two laps on the field after the rest of the field made their pitstop.
Coming into the weekend as the defending series champion, Heimgartner was then unchallenged once he had jumped ahead of Edgell following the safety car restart. The margin between the two at the chequered flag was 14.4s.
Though initially, Edgell looked to have his grip on the victory.
Awarded pole position courtesy of setting the fastest overall lap in yesterday’s two qualifying races, he was able to control the lead as the depleted nine-car field charged into turn one.
Starting second, Matt Dovey, sharing the Audi A5 GT with Jono Lester, was pitched on the outside line through the sweeper. By the time he had recollected himself for the chicane, he had fallen back to fifth.
Hughes was thus promoted to second and soon was the only other car with Edgell to be lapping in the 1.04 bracket.
Sam Collins sat third while Dovey was quickly able to muscle his way back past Kerry Jones in the Corvette C5 Transam to lay claim to fourth.
The margins between each car then began to plateau, and there was little change in position as the clocked ticked over the twenty-minute timeframe to signal the opening of the compulsory pit window.
However, just after confirmation of the CPS window, Collins grounded to a halt along the back straight with a broken axel.
Disgruntled, Collins was hopeless in his attempts to bring the Mustang back to the lane, leaving the team rueing over a missed opportunity to secure a strong result.
Anticipating a full course yellow, both Edgell and Hughes dove into the lane to fulfil their pitstop obligations.
With Heimgartner having taken the wheel from Hughes, the Hamilton Asphalts Commodore quickly dispatched Edgell off the restart to snatch the provisional lead.
Given they were unable to pit under safety car conditions, Lester and Jones fell over two laps behind the leaders. At the same time, Jones was able to capitalise on having a 15-second shorter BoP pit stop length and jumped ahead of the Audi on the road.
Robert Wallace was one of the biggest gainers from the safety car, as his pit stop length was over half-a-minute shorter than the likes of Jones and Lester. Thus, the Commodore was able to leapfrog ahead of the Audi and Corvette for third.
It was a position he wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the race, rounding off the podium finishers.
Jones finished 31-seconds up the road from Dovey, with Peter Begovich nursing a damaged splitter home in sixth.
Joining Collins on the retirement list was Shaun Varney and Simon Fleming.
|3||Robert Wallace||2 Laps|
|4||Kerry Jones||3 Laps|
|6||Peter Begovich||5 Laps|