Rags to riches: Evans and Quin defy penalty to win Pukekohe enduro

After a chaotic and rain-sodden three-hour race, Simon Evans and Callum Quin have clinched the 2018 ENEOS North Island Endurance Championship title after taking the lead in the final three minutes.


It was a race of attrition with the pole-sitting International Motorsport Audi of Andrew Fawcett and Gene Rollinson among the favourites to retire or be caught up in incident. Evans and Quin looked like they would also be claimed by the race after a drive-through penalty cost them the lead with the end in sight. But a spirited drive from Evans, and late issues for the SaReNi Camaro of Glenn Smith and John DeVeth would result in a late-race pass for first place. 


The race kicked off in very wet conditions with a rolling start. Around the outside the Evans/Quin Commodore took the race lead. With its power advantage, it opened up a significant margin over the pole-sitting IMS Audi and its Reid/Foster stablemate.


The Smith/DeVeth Camaro, the Carter's Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, and Nick Chester's Holden Commodore made up the top five, until an incident at the end of the back straight saw the ex-V8 Supercars Commodore spin into the grass. The Mercedes subsequently incurred a pit-lane penalty.


And just a few minutes later, another frontrunner struck problems. This time it was the second IMS Audi, which first lost a few spots after slowing to a crawl at the hairpin with some kind of issue. 




And things continued to shuffle as problems then descended on race favourite Fawcett. First he lost second and third, and then he spun running out of the new complex and into the hairpin. The former NZV8 driver was lucky to only graze the inside wall, and to not get collected by the oncoming traffic. 


With all the shuffling going on, the top five was changing constantly. Evans led by a massive 10 seconds by lap nine over the dark horse of John McIntyre in his Porsche 911 MR. Smith, Stephen Farmer's Nissan R35 GT-R, and the recovering Nick Chester were the rest of the top five. The Carter's Mercedes was buried in 13th; five spots ahead of Fawcet in 18th. 


Things soon got even worse for Fawcet, after the Audi driver clashed with a lapped Seat Supercopa at the end of the back straight. He incurred comprehensive front-left damage, and pitted for repairs a few laps later (going several laps down in the process). By the 30-minute mark it had been confirmed that the team were a retirement. 




McIntyre was a man on a mission; clearly revelling in the wet conditions. He quickly burned the margin to Evans down to just a few seconds. And on lap 14 he made the pass for the lead. 


At the 45th minute a safety car was called for the spun Mike Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Chelsea Herbert and Christina Orr-West, which had become beached on the outside of the hairpin.


This triggered another wave of pit-stops, which included a lengthy stop for Nick Chester. With the Commodore's bonnet up, the team lost numerous laps to the field while in pit lane. 


Racing resumed shortly after, with still more stops taking place. This created a new lead order; the Evans/Quin Commodore (Quin at the wheel) once again in first place and now leading the Smith/DeVeth Camaro. McIntyre's teammate Simon Gilbertson had taken over the Porsche, and was back to third place ahead of the Carter's SLS AMG. 




By the halfway mark, Quin had put a lap on everyone but Smith in second. This included Gilbertson in third place. The track was still damp, but the rain wasn't as heavy anymore and a dry line was emerging. 


Lap 66 saw two cars have major issues. The first was once again the Mike Racing Aston Martin, which took on right-front steering damage. And the second was the Farmer/Farmer/Moore R35 GT-R that had stopped at pit entry with mechanical issues. 


The stationary Nissan triggered the second safety car of the race. For certain teams this meant another stop; including fifth-placed Carter's Tyres Motorsport (Dwayne Carter handing the controls to Andrew Waite). A flurry later in the yellow phase saw Quin pit out of first, leaving Smith to take the lead. The Wet & Forget Commodore then made another pit stop under yellow, but lost no additional time. 




Smith then pitted out of first, still under safety car. He handed the car over to DeVeth, while new wet tyres went onto the Camaro. In a race of attrition, the order was Evans, Smith, and then a lap to McIntyre and Gilbertson's Porsche. After a quiet run Angus and George MacFarlane had raced to fourth, ahead of Waite in fifth and the recovering Foster/Reid Audi in sixth — three laps off the lead. McIntyre lost another lap (and position) via another stop late in the SC period.


With just over an hour to go the race restarted. Evans led DeVeth by just over five seconds, but traffic was everywhere — including McIntyre that hoped to get one of his two laps back. And with almost exactly an hour to go, McIntyre passed Evans to hop from two laps down to one behind Waite. 


The reason for Evans' second stop during the earlier safety car period only became known with 40 minutes to go when he peeled into pit lane to sit a drive-through penalty. The penalty was for fuel spillage in the first of those two stops — underlining that the second stop was undertaken to fill the tank to the brim. Team owner Owen Evans later voiced disagreement with the penalty; criticising officialdom for not investigating it after the race. 


Evans resumed in second, 40 seconds behind DeVeth in the Camaro and 34 seconds ahead of Waite. McIntyre was still fourth, and was still making inroads on the leaders despite a brief off at turn two. Ultimately he still needed a safety car to catch back up to the lead battle. 




And that 40-second margin between DeVeth and Evans held together with 30 minutes to go. If Evans wanted to win, he'd need a safety car. And one came with 20 minutes left to run after the Fitzgerald/Symes Seat Supercopa became stranded with broken steering and suspension at the hairpin. 


This compressed the order, although Evans still had 13-seconds to catch up to the leader as the race restarted with seven minutes to go. DeVeth's other concern was McIntyre, who was pushing him to try and take another lap back — DeVeth electing to let him by. 


The other occurence that had happened during the caution was that the rain had picked up for a second time, making the circuit more challenging than it had been. Waite soon followed too, with DeVeth's pace trickling down for reasons unknown.


Evans however was pushing. On lap 121 he was a whopping seven seconds quicker than the Camaro, and a lap later he was right behind him. On lap 122 with three minutes to go the Commodore stormed around DeVeth on the front straight due to the mystery lack of pace. 


The race from there was won; Evans and Quin taking the chequered flag in first on debut for their heavily revised Holden VF Commodore. DeVeth took second, 24-seconds adrift in the horrible weather, with Waite and Dwayne Carter rounding out the podium 1min 17sec off the lead. 


McIntyre and Gilbertson finished fourth, while Jonny Reid and Neil Foster completed the top five. Other impressive results in the top 10 included seventh and eighth-place finishes for two of New Zealand's newest race cars; the GT4-spec McLaren 570S driven by Hayden Johnston and Damon Jackson, and the TCR-spec Volkswagen Golf driven by Barry Moore and Tim Mackersy.


Results (top 10)


1. Simon Evans/Callum Quin (Holden Commodore VF)  126 laps
2. Glenn Smith/John DeVeth (SaReNi Camaro GT3)  +24.122
3. Dwayne Carter/Andrew Waite (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3)  +53.821
4. Simon Gilbertson/John McIntyre (Porsche 911 MR)  +1 lap
5. Neil Foster/Jonny Reid (Audi R8 GT3)  +1 lap
6. George MacFarlane/Angus MacFarlane (Porsche 911 GT3-R)  +4 laps
7. Hayden Johnston/Damon Jackson (McLaren 570S GT4)  +8 laps
8. Barry Moore/Tim Mackersy (Volkswagen Golf TCR)  +10 laps
9. Paul Rickerby/Graeme Rhodes (Ford Falcon FG)  +10 laps
10. Mike Eady/Gavin Dawson (Honda Civic Type R)  +11 laps