Glenn Smith and John De Veth have opened their North Island Endurance Series account with a comprehensive one-hour victory at Pukekohe Park.
The defending three-hour champions joined forces for the one-hour series, driving an SBT Motorsport McLaren GT3.
Steering clear of trouble on a drying circuit, De Veth crossed the line 20.7s ahead of John Midgley in his Ford SuperTourer.
Anthony Leighs was third in the Audi R8 in a topsy-turvy race for the final podium placings.
Brock Timperley and John McIntyre ran as high as second in the race’s early stages but were shuffled back to fourth after the pitstop phase.
At the start, Smith blasted away from pole position, opening up a slight advantage over Midgley.
The margin between first and second slowly grew as Smith found his groove in the testing weather conditions.
Yet the most enthralling tussle was between Midgley and McIntyre.
Both were racing Ford SuperTourers and were on even pace for almost the entire first stint.
Midgley initially held second, resisting the early pressure of McIntyre.
However, a minor excursion with a lapped car at the final corner forced Midgley to pass around the outside. McIntyre, on the other hand, placed himself on the inside line.
As the pair got around the lapped car, McIntyre found himself on the ideal line for turn one and slid on through.
Behind Midgley, Anthony Leighs in his Audi R8 was gradually closing the gap.
When a profusion of traffic then hindered Midgley’s run over the back half of the circuit, Leighs pounced and snatched third.
However, the swap of position wouldn’t last long as Midgley would get back ahead of Leighs following a mistake by the R8.
The first and only safety car intervention came at the halfway stage when Danny Stutterd spun into the turn three gravel trap.
The circuit was still slippery despite a lack of rain, and when the Porsche caught too much kerb, Stutterd was unable to regather himself and slid into the awaiting kitty litter.
Stutterd’s accident triggered a flurry of pitstops up and down the field, with each of the front runners making their compulsory pitstop.
Smith handed control of the leading McLaren to De Veth, who quickly re-established the advantage at the restart.
Timperley had hopped into the No.47 SuperTourer moments before the safety car, though he was unable to capitalise on the situation as race control quickly restarted the race before anyone had fully caught up to the leading queue.
He thus dropped back to fourth and behind the Audi.
Running second, Midgley was coming under increasing pressure by Leighs as the clocked ticked nearer to completion.
Leighs posted the fastest lap of the race with less than five minutes remaining. Still, he was unable to reel in and overtake Midgley.
A mere half a second was the difference between second and third at the chequered flag.
Timperley was a further 20s adrift, but the team showed immense promise, especially in the wet conditions.
For the winning pair, their attention turns to the start of the three-hour season this afternoon, where they will start third.
The rest of the one-hour field will have a small break before the next round at Hampton Downs on May 28-29.