Lance Hughes says a podium result was a real possibility in the third round of the North Island Endurance Series at Taupo.
Hughes and co-driver Chris van der Drift came home fourth on Saturday in their Nissan GT-R GT3 after the pair were caught out by the minimum driver time.
A change in the regulations meant drivers must complete a minimum of 70 minutes in their car over the race, an increase over the former 60-minute rule used earlier in the series.
Hughes pitted for his driver change during a lengthy mid-race safety car period, putting van der Drift into a competitive top-three position.
However, the two would have to swap once again late in the race after Hughes fell short of the minimum driver window by a mere few minutes.
The extra pitstop meant Hughes rejoined the race in fourth, where he would finish.
“Under the safety car the boys mapped out where we were on track and decided to get me out of the car,” Hughes told Velocity News.
“I had done just over an hour, which by the old rule was fine. But it was short of the 70-minute rule by a few minutes.
“We had already worked out that [Alex] Riberas would have to do one more stop for fuel.
“The R8s were fine on fuel, but without the driving timing mistake, I think we could have finished as high as second.
“The good news is that we are there or there abouts with everyone else.”
Taupo’s race was Hughes’ third meeting in the GT-R.
The aero-dependent GT3 is a significant change from Hughes’ usual V8-powered touring cars.
He admits the challenge of getting used to his new machine is still a steep hill to climb as he prepares for the series finale at Pukekohe in two weeks.
“I’ve still got a long way to go,” he said.
“I haven’t quite fully got confidence with the aero and how hard I can push it.
“But it will be good to go back to Pukekohe.
“Chris and the team have done a lot of data work at the circuit, and during testing, I managed to get to within one second of Chris.
“Chris is our ace and to have a driver of his calibre in our team is awesome.”
Despite the challenge of learning the GT-R, Hughes is enjoying the ‘underdog’ status of the car.
“I think it is an underdog car, and no one quite knew what to expect from it.
“But I think it is good being the underdog.
“We always knew this season would be about getting our heads around the car.
“We are getting there but still got work to do.”
The Pukekohe finale will be on June 26-27.
Main Image: Matt Smith