While Brendon Leitch and Christina Orr-West were able to claim a podium finish at the opening round of the Carters Tyres South Island Endurance Series at Teretonga, a second successive podium seemed like a tall order at last weekend’s second round a Christchurch.
Between events the series had attracted a bevy of extra GT3 entries, made up of cars much newer than the Dayle ITM Audi R8 LMS Ultra shared between Leitch and Orr-West. But thanks to an excellent opening stint from Orr-West and reliability gremlins among the other GT3 runners, the pair were able to stand on the podium.
Orr-West’s opening stint was among the most action packed of anyone on track; the former Toyota Racing Series and SsangYong Race Series pilot almost collecting a spun Andrew Fawcett/Sam Fillmore Audi R8; the International Motorsport entry awkwardly parked across the circuit and forcing Orr-West to take evasive action.
“We started seventh and thought our best hope for the day would be a top five,” said Orr-West.
“The race turned out to be a lot more dramatic than any of us had imagined though and after our close call on lap seven we then had to deal with an overheating gearbox thanks to the bodywork damage. That meant Brendon and myself had to nurse it a little whilst still trying to maintain the fast pace of the newer GT cars.”
Leitch praised his co-driver’s performance. Early damage forced the southern driver to play a conservative strategy on the run to the finish, where they would cross the line third behind Alex Riberas/Darren Kelly (Aston Martin Vantage) and Dwayne Carter/Greg Murphy (Mercedes-AMG GT3).
“Christina handed the car over to me in third which was super impressive,” added Leitch. “From there I was able to push on for a few laps but the temperatures were getting too high after the contact so we opted for a more conservative race.
“We went into fuel saving and gearbox nursing mode to make it homes and it was actually more difficult to drive at that slower pace than flat out as there were some new things to think about and manage. That’s a position I’ve never really been in before, but we were genuinely delighted to grab another podium.”
The third and final round of the South Island Endurance Series takes place at Levels Raceway on October 17.