From colossal crash to endurance champion
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Big brute helps former champs win inaugural endurance crown
Former national champions John McIntyre and Ian 'Inky' Tulloch can add another title to their long combined list of achievements, after winning the three-hour Mahindra New Zealand Endurance Championship title at Hampton Downs.
The event saw the best competitors from the respective North and South–Island endurance categories pool together for a winner-take-all overall title, a title that McIntyre, Tulloch, and their SaReNi Camaro GT3 were ultimately able to win with relative comfort.
"I think that we deserved it," said a satisfied Tulloch.
"We had a pretty good run last year in the North Island and South Island series', but you never know, when it comes down to a one-off race like this, a puncture or anything can put you out. So we're very fortunate. The car ran really well all day."
Photo / Matthew Hansen
It initially appeared that the event would be a close competition between the Camaro and Trass Family Motorsport's Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, driven by Sam Fillmore and Danny Stutterd, but the Ferrari pair ruled themselves out of contention after a botched pit stop, and a number of on-track spins during the second half of the race — forced instead to settle for third.
Tulloch and McIntyre's most significant threat for the win over the length of the race therefore was the Smeg Racing Holden Commodore driven by Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson.
The car, which normally competes in the BNT NZ Touring Car Championship, recently took on a series of subtle modifications for the event. This included new cams, a new inlet manifold, and the stickier, more durable Hankook tyres it had run in the past. However, longer pit stops as well as a penalty for fuel overfill leaking in pit lane ensured that second was the best the pair could do.
Photo / Matthew Hansen
"We always knew that [the Camaro] would have the edge on us. That car's got too many driver aids and all sorts, and because we're still running the five-studs in the pit stops we'd always either change four tyres and lose lots of time, or change two tyres to [lose less]," said Evans.
"I enjoyed the race, with all the variables, and you've got to work with your team — it's good fun," added Rollinson.
For McIntyre, the title comes only weeks after the former V8 champ was able to regain his ability to do more than walk, after he had a massive crash at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour while driving a Lamborghini.
"I couldn't do anything more than walk around three-weeks ago, so I'm pretty lucky. [The crash] actually broke my helmet as well. I was wearing my old helmet today — the one I used when I got sixth with Shane [van Gisbergen] at Bathurst (in 2011). It was sitting on the shelf there collecting dust.
"It was a big accident. I haven't been able to do any training because I've just been trying to be able to bend over and touch my toes and get my neck nice."
Photo / Matthew Hansen
In a race dotted with safety-car periods, the most major incident came with 30 minutes left, with the Porsche 911 shared by George and Angus McFarlane crashing heavily into the concrete wall on the outside of the front straight. While the driver was able to exit the car uninjured, the car (pictured above) was a wreck — having lost a wheel during the smash.
Among those to punch above their weight was the Castrol Toyota 86 driven by Craig and Scotty McDermid, which claimed fourth place; pipping the Carters Ford Falcon ex-V8 Supercar in the process.
Earlier in the day, Hugh Gardiner was able to win the one hour Mahindra New Zealand Endurance Championship, after having the lead of the race handed to him after Smeg Racing's Mosler MT900R, Gene Rollinson behind the wheel, had a tyre failure while leading.
Results — three hour
1. McIntyre/Tulloch (Camaro GT3)
2. Evans/Rollinson (Holden Commodore NZTC)
3. Stutterd/Fillmore (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3)
4. McDermid/McDermid (Toyota 86)
5. Carter/Carter (Ford Falcon ex-V8 Supercar)
6. Martin/Farmer/Farmer (Nissan R35 GT-R)
7. Barrett/Frew (Mazda RX-7)
8. Kett/Coker (Ford Falcon)
9. Doughty/Bonney (Holden Commodore NZV8)
10. Helms/Bolland (BMW M3)
Results — one hour
1. Hugh Gardiner (Porsche 911 GT3)
2. Neil Foster (Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3)
3. Richard Oxton (Ferrari F430 GT3)
4. Tim O'Conner (Ferrari 458 Challenge)
5. Blair MacDonald (Holden Commodore NZTC)
6. Danny Whiting (Porsche 991 GT3)
7. Rick Cooper (Ford Mustang)
8. Sue McLaughlin (Porsche 911)
9. Graeme Fraser (BMW 3 Series)
10. Patrick Heagney (Toyota Sprinter)