Anthony Leighs is yet to stop smiling since his breakthrough victory in the final North Island Endurance Series one-hour race at Pukekohe.
This year is Leighs’ first racing a GT3 car after a handful of seasons steering Porsche Cup cars.
Leighs controlled the slippery conditions on Sunday and overtook Tim Edgell for the lead just past the race’s halfway point.
He then eased home for his first win in the Audi and with the Carlyle Performance team.
“We were kind of hoping for a wet race, though probably not as wet as it was,” Leighs told Velocity News.
“The old Audi is a good car in the wet. It has great aero, ABS and traction control, but it is down on power compared to the McLaren and V8s.
“We saw the wet weather as a good equaliser.”
Leighs’ race strategy began Saturday afternoon when the team opted to qualify on old rubber, preserving a fresh set of boots for the race.
“Our game plan was to qualify on old tyres and save a new set of wets for the race.
“I was confident the tyres would stay under me for the race, so the first part of the race was about being patient.
“Tim [Edgell] and John [Midgley] were having a good scrap ahead of me, and I was impressed that Lochie [Fitzgerald-Symes] was also in the mix.
“But I was being patient and focusing on not making a mistake.
“When it was time to close the gap [to Edgell], we put some pressure on and hoped we would make a mistake and a good passing opportunity would present itself.
“But it wasn’t easy. Tim is one hell of a campaigner.
“It was also great to see that everyone drove well. To not have a safety car in those conditions was a testament to that.”
While the win didn’t result in the championship trophy for the team – that instead going to Glenn Smith and John de Veth in the McLaren 650s GT3 – Leighs was over the moon with the weekend’s performance.
He says there was zero expectation to win a race in a season of learning.
However, getting the monkey off the back so early makes it so much sweeter.
“There was no anticipation of having any wins this year,” he said.
“We planned this as a step-up year for me from the Cup car to the Audi.
“So, to get a win is fantastic but was not expected.
“I’m also stoked to put in a solid rain drive with no mistakes. I had to keep pedalling the Audi and keep it straight and tidy, and we managed to do that.
“I haven’t stopped smiling since Sunday, that’s for sure.”
Leighs will be contesting the three-hour South Island Series with Tom Alexander later this year.
The first of four rounds is scheduled to be at Ruapuna in Christchurch on September 4.
Main Image: Matt Smith