Alex Riberas and Darren Kelly stormed to victory in the opening round of the Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series at Pukekohe Park.
The pair drove the Heart of Racing Aston Martin to a menacing two-lap triumph, despite a sublime performance by their rivals in a wet-dry affair.
Riberas and Kelly fought back from a one-lap deficit, overcame a drive-through penalty and three safety car restarts to command the final half of the race.
The win is there second endurance victory in as many races, backing on form their NZ Endurance success at Highlands Motorsport Park last year.
Jonny Reid’s ‘never-give-up’ mentality was on display for International Motorsport.
The team had started the race on pole and led the early stages. However, when a brief shower of rain hit, the team made the unfortunate error of pitting for wet tyres when the slick tyres were still the fastest option.
At one point, the No.22 Audi R8 was over four laps down on the leaders. But a spellbinding recovery effort led by Reid and co-driver Neil Foster ensured the team stood on the rostrum.
Reid posted the race’s fastest lap on his 143rd of 146 tours, with his 1.00.844s the only lap to venture below the 1.01s.
Third fell the way of Glenn Smith and John De Veth in the McLaren. However, the pair were never far from the top crop of cars, and they leave today with a podium in the three-hour and victory in the one-hour.
It was a case of ‘what could have been’ for Chris van der Drift and Lance Hughes in the debut outing for the Hamilton Motorsport Nissan GT-R GT3.
The team made the wise decision to leave van der Drift on slick tyres during the first shower of rain, elevating him to the race lead.
Boasting a one-lap advantage at the 90-minute mark, van der Drift and Hughes were unable to match the strength of the Aston Martin as it clawed back the margin and powered past to snare the lead.
Still, a podium finish looked to be on the cards as van der Drift ran second with half an hour remaining.
However, an unfortunate mistake at the turn four chicane resulted in the GT-R billowing smoke from the now-flimsy front bodywork.
The damage led to the team receiving a mechanical black flag and cost them a chance for a top-three result.
Andrew Fawcett and Sam Fillmore had a muted race but kept themselves mostly tidy and rounded out the top five.
The only non-finisher in the GT-A class was John Penny and Gene Rollinson, who were racing the Lamborghini Gallardo.
Penny made hefty contact with the concrete wall on the main straight, with the car eventually coming to a halt just below the start/finish gantry.
Penny exited the car under his own steam, though the car was not seen for the rest of the race.
Shane Helms and Greg Murphy were set to debut the Renault R.S 01 in today’s race. But, unfortunately, a lack of spare parts meant the car was not able to be run.
Racelab did confirm that the Renault will be ready for the second round at Hampton Downs in three weeks.
|3||Smith/De Veth||3 Laps|
|5||van der Drift/Hughes||7 Laps|
- *winners in GT-B
- **winners in Class 1
Main Image: ASP