Motorsport Wrap: Kiwis score Porsche wins, SVG takes V8 lead
Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber win in the US as Supercars put on Sandown classic
This past weekend has seen just about every facet of Kiwi circuit-racing expertise placed on show; from young open-wheel stars to GT aces to V8 peddlers of the highest regard. All of whom did a largely stellar job — so without further ado here are their efforts
Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber win at the Circuit of the Americas
Earl Bamber and co-driver Frédéric Makowiecki pose on the podium. Photo / Porsche
Racing two completely different cars in two different races, both Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber were able to spray champagne from the top step of the podium at Austin's Circuit of the Americas.
Hartley claimed his third straight World Endurance Championship race victory with teammates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard, and their LMP1 919 Hybrid. The win was aided by issues for both of Audi's LMP1 R18s, the #8 car suffering electrical issues and the #7 getting taken out following a collision with a slower car.
The #8 Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis Audi looked like it might bounce back to threaten Hartley's Porsche in the closing phase of the race, but it couldn't, and the trio that had to endure such an unlucky start to the year ended up with the win.
Bamber won their shorter race in somewhat similar fashion following the failings of some of his and co-driver Frédéric Makowiecki's main rivals in the GTLM class.
By the end of the race, it was a three-horse race between a third-placed Bamber, the second-placed Nick Tandy in the other factory Porsche 911 RSR, and Ferrari driver and former F1 star Giancarlo Fisichella.
Fisichella led only for electrical issues to end his race for the win with 20-minutes left. Bamber then took the opportunity to pass Tandy with only a handful of laps to go — earning himself and Makowiecki their first IMSA win of 2016.
Marcus Armstrong makes strong Renault 2.0 NEC debut
Photo / Renault 2.0 NEC
This could well be one of those ‘remember this name’ moments, because young Marcus Armstrong could well be part of the next wave of big Kiwi motorsport stars.
Making his debut in the competitive Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup, Armstrong impressed all weekend at the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit.
He set the tone by landing second in first practice. Armstrong then went on to eventually back that up by taking fourth in the final race of the weekend.
To put things into perspective, those to beat Armstrong include race winner and series leader Lando Norris. Norris, reigning former Toyota Racing Series champion, has looked untouchable for much of the season.
For Armstrong to be within fighting distance of the champ says plenty about his talent, despite jumping straight out of karts and tin-top categories like the Toyota 86 series.
SVG and McLaughlin star in Sandown 500 nail-biter
Photo / Supercars
There was drama, there were tears, and there was an emotional and somewhat fitting race winner on the Sunday afternoon of the Wilson Security Sandown 500.
When the dust eventually settled on what was a nail-biting race, it showed that the Holden Racing Team and the combination of Garth Tander and Warren Luff had emerged as the race winners, with Shane van Gisbergen leading the charge as first Kiwi home, with help from French teammate Alex Premat.
But the weekend was tense at times for van Gisbergen, especially after an on-track clash with fellow New Zealander Fabian Coulthard during the second 20-lap qualifying race on Saturday afternoon. The pair collided at the end of the back straight after a late dive from the Red Bull Commodore driver, sending Coulthard into the dirt.
While stewards were happy with van Gisbergen's response of readdressing the contact immediately by letting Coulthard by straight away, Coulthard was fuming — labeling SVG a “deadset moron” over the radio to his engineer, then adding further words in a post-race interview.
But fast forward to Sunday and it was van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin threatening for the race win. McLaughlin led for a healthy portion of the final third of the race, following a stellar opening stint from co-driver David Wall, but lost the lead during the final cycle of pit-stops.
Van Gisbergen meanwhile sliced through the field after losing time early in the race to get to the podium. Then in the final laps he chomped into Garth Tander's lead to give the crowd a tense grand-stand finish. In the end Tander, his car sporting a flapping front fender, took the win (his first since 2014) by a slender margin.
SVG wins a title on the other side of the world
Photo / McLaren GT
His second-place Sandown finish was enough for him to take over the lead of the 2016 Supercars Championship points standings, but overnight van Gisbergen also became a champion on the other side of the world in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup.
His factory McLaren Garage 59 squad finished third at the Nürburgring last night to seal the title win; the podium nicely complimenting the pair of wins van Gisbergen and co-drivers Rob Bell and Côme Ledogar earned at Monza and Circuit Paul Ricard.
It's SVG's first title win since his maiden Formula Ford title, way back in 2005–’06!
Lester back on the Super Trofeo Asia podium but out of title hunt
Photo / Direction Racing
A bitter-sweet weekend for Auckland-based GT ace Jono Lester; a third in class and a second overall across his two races in Blancpain Super Trofeo Asia not enough for him to stay in the overall title hunt with one round to go.
Lester and co-driver Yudai Uchida sit second in the points in their Direction Racing Lamborghini Huracan, but are now too far behind to challenge for the championship win.
“We are destined for second in the points as the title is now out of reach,” said Lester.
“If I'm brutally honest, we aren't deserving of the title this season. We have made mistakes in the car and the pit lane while our rivals have been faultless. Full credit to them for their composure because it's made all the difference this season.”
The latter half of Lester's Super Trofeo season has featured numerous podium finishes, with bad luck and circumstance denying him the race wins that would've kept him in title contention.
“I'm always enjoying myself if I'm driving a race car, but this case of bridesmaid syndrome is wearing a little thin.
“The first race at Fuji was ours until the brake problem surfaced. The torrential weather in race two meant we had to dig deep, and while we we easily the quickest car overall we came up short on strategy by a handful of seconds.”
Read more about Brendon Hartley's WEC triumph
Read more about Earl Bamber's IMSA breakthrough: qualifying / race
Read more about Marcus Armstrong's Renault 2.0 debut: qualifying / race 1 / race 2
Read more about the Sandown 500 blockbuster: qualifying / qualifying race 1 / qualifying race 2 / race
Read more about Shane van Gisbergen's Blancpain Enduro Cup win
Read more about Jono Lester's Fuji weekend