A masterful effort from Chris van der Drift gave him, Lance Hughes and the Hamilton Motorsport Nissan GT-R victory in the opening three-hour race of the South Island Endurance Series at Highlands.
Van der Drift was tasked with a double stint for the race’s final two hours but comfortably eased the GT-R home in first.
He put a lap on the entire field and set the race’s fastest tour – a 1.33.342, which ended up as the only time in the 1.33s bracket.
For Hamilton Motorsport, today marks the first win for their GT-R, which they only took up at the start of the year.
Though it wasn’t the best of starts for the team. Lance Hughes was embroiled in an early scrap with the MARC II V8 Mustang of Sam Collins for second position.
The scrap allowed the pole-sitting McLaren 650S GT3 of Glenn Smith to escape into a sizable lead.
The McLaren led proceedings for the first 90-minutes of the race before cycling the pitlane for its first pitstop. They planned to do just the sole stop and driver change.
However, Glenn Chappel’s out-lap was immediately hindered by an inexplicable right-rear puncture.
Chappel limped back to the pitlane while the safety car was deployed for the stricken Ben Coffin/Cameron Jones RX7.
The full effect of the McLaren’s puncture became clear it when found itself fifth in the safety car queue.
Meanwhile, now at the GT-R’s helm, van der Drift had vaulted into the lead courtesy of an earlier stop. Though they would have to do one more before the end of the race.
The Martin Dippie/Hayden Paddon Porsche was second, ahead of the 991 GT3R of Scott O’Donnell and Allan Dippie.
Collins Motorsport was having a solid outing with the MARC and the car was fourth at the restart. But it soon developed gearbox gremlins and retired shortly after.
They weren’t the only big names to return to the garage. The Dippie/Paddon Porsche was running comfortably in the top three before an overheating drama ended their race early.
That promoted the McLaren back onto the podium, though they were over two laps behind van der Drift.
Van der Drift completed his final pitstop with zero dramas and surged home to take the victory.
Scott O’Donnell and Allan Dippie came home in second in the 991 GT3R, with the McLaren boys nearly a full lap further back.
Graeme Rhodes and Paul Rickerby were fourth in one of two Ford SuperTourers in the field. They also take out the win in Class D.
The nifty SEAT Supercopa Leon of Grant and Cole Askew claimed the spoils in Class B and rounded out the overall top five.
The SIERDC paddock will head to Levels Raceway in Timaru in two weeks for the second round of this year’s championship.
Main Image: Mark Petch