The NZ SuperTourer prototype Holden VE Commodore driven by John De Veth and Glenn Smith has claimed a surprising win in the opening feature race of the Mahindra North Island Endurance Series, ahead of the SaReNi Chevrolet Camaro GT3 campaigned by Inky Tulloch and former NZ SuperTourer Sprint champion John McIntyre, and the third placed Ford Mustang of Bernard Verryt and Aaron Harris.
Despite being the reigning series champions, car owner/driver De Veth couldn't have predicted the result.
"I didn't personally think that we were going to even get a podium," said a surprised De Veth after the race.
"But in a 3 hour race, you just never know. The old girl just kept going and going and going. We were pretty consistent with our times, so we got the win."
Fresh from a competitive performance at the Phillip Island 101 in Australia, Trass Family Motorsport's Jono Lester and Graeme Smyth approached the event as favourites. But after dominating the early running of the race, the team's newly purchased Ferrari 430 GT3 failing within the first hour with technical dramas.
The other main GT3 competitors also had their share of problems. A temperamental oil-leak causing the Tulloch/McIntyre Waterloo Business Park Camaro GT3 to make numerous pit-stops, losing numerous laps in the opening hour due to a lengthy pit-stop. And the rebuilt Smeg Racing Mosler GT3 shared between NZ SuperTourer series champion Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson failed to make the start, after teething issues ruled them out of qualifying.
With the GT3 drivers out of the way, this paved the way for the race to be decided between the respective V8 and Porsche contingent's.
Sam Fillmore and Andrew Porter took hold of the race after the Ferrari and Camaro's failures, in their Freem Porsche 997 911 GT3. Rick Armstrong and Rhys Warren were on their tail in second. However neither car would make it to the end of the race - the SuperTourer passing both cars to take the lead at the half-way point, enduring an enthusiastic battle with the Freem Porsche along the way - John De Veth behind the wheel at the time.
"It was a fun battle. I know the driver, and he's a very good and aggressive driver. I got passed him at first, but then he dived on me, so I just let him go again - because I know the driver. Then I just thought that I'd be able to take him again somewhere else and then hold him off," said De Veth.
A quick stint from John McIntyre helped vault the Camaro to second place, finishing a lap down on the leaders after being four laps down earlier in the race. Bernard Verryt and Aaron Harris rounded out the podium in their Ford Mustang.
In a field full of variety, the combinations of Dave Dovey/Matt Dovey (Ford Falcon), Bruce Kett/Shane Johnson (Ford Falcon), Darryl Barrett/Hamish Frew (Mazda RX7), Lance Hughes and Andre Heimgartner (Holden Commodore), Richard Billington/Lewis Scott (Seat Leon), Hayden Johnston/Damon Jackson (Honda S2000), and Jason Weel/Simon Murray (Honda Civic) rounded out the top ten.
Earlier in the day, International Motorsports pilot Ian Hayr won the one hour endurance race - leading home former NZ SuperTourer driver Simon McLennan in his M2 Motorsport Holden Commodore, and the stunning Ford GT campaigned by Deon Cooper.
The series now travels north to Hampton Downs for round two of the series on the 27th of June, where De Veth and Smith will look at consolidating their current overall series lead over the Camaro GT3.
"We know our car is good and reliable. It was reliable last year as well. We'll give it a go. Today showed that you can have the flashest car, but you've still got to bring it home after three hours," said De Veth.