Glenn Smith and Chris van der Drift have had the best possible start to their Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series title defence with a convincing two-lap win in round one at Hampton Downs.
In a race of attrition where just 12 cars reached the chequered flag, the SBT Motorsport McLaren made amends for a poor start from pole position to overhaul a 30-second deficit and an early spin to claw himself ahead of the Heart of Racing Aston Martin who experienced niggling issues in the final half of the race.
“It was pretty good race,” said van der Drift. “I had idea where we were lapping wise but we had good pace and couple of safety cars which let the car cool down so we could go again.”
The race was punctuated by three separate safety cars which affected the flow of the race. The first of which was to recover the Mustang GT4 of father-son combo Rick and Deon Cooper who grounded to a halt at Turn 8 within the first hour.
The second full-course caution was deployed just after the half distance when the Audi TT VLN piloted by Shane Helms and Cole Armstrong suffered a mechanical failure on the exit of the final sweeper.
The Heart of Racing Aston Martin then experienced radio dramas which hampered their race and by the time Smith and van der Drift made their final pitstop the advantage was two laps in favour of the McLaren.
A final safety car period neutralised the race with 25-minutes on the clock when the Gen 2 Porsche 997 of Rob Williams and Phil Blythe expired on the entry to Turn 10.
The subsequent restart bunched the field back up again, but Alex Riberas in the Aston Martin was unable to regain a lap on Smith and instead came under increasing pressure from his International Motorsport stablemate Andrew Fawcett.
The silent assassins of the GT field, Fawcett capitalised on the final safety car and overtook Riberas for second into Turn 1 with 15 minutes left to play.
GT B pole-sitters Lance Hughes and Simon Evans had a tumultuous day at the office of the Holden SuperTourer. Hughes was pitched into a spin by the Audi A5 of Jono Lester and Dave Dovey in the first few laps. Evans then returned to the pitlane with a sway bar drama just after the after two-hour mark to put an end to their challenge for the win.
The pair would still rack up 145 laps which had them classified seventh overall. Though the car would fail to reach the chequered flag when it pulled over with a terminal problem at the Golden Homes hairpin on the final tour.
It meant Lester and Dovey were able to run an untroubled race to finish fourth overall and first in their class.
Fifth overall and the victory in class 1 was awarded to Bernard Verryt and Steve Taylor in their Ford Mustang Boss 302.
After dominating qualifying with seventh overall, Craig Innes was one of the race’s first causality in the Racer Products Hyundai TCR when the dipstick blew and began spilling out oil just 15-minutes into the race.
Connal Dempsey and John Penny were another notable retirements when they limped their Porsche 991 MR TT back to the pitlane with twenty minutes on the clock.
The final round of the North Island Endurance Championship will be at Pukekohe Park over October 23-24.