Final win seals NIES Championship for Tulloch and McIntyre
Inky Tulloch and John McIntyre have taken a come from behind win at Pukekohe Park Raceway in the three hour feature race to take out the 2015 edition of the North Island Endurance Series.
After taking pole position earlier in the morning, Tulloch immediately came under fire from up and coming V8 Supercar driver Andre Heimgartner in the Hamilton Asphalts NZV8 Commodore.
A brilliant start by Heimgartner saw him quickly move from fourth into the lead. Closest championship rivals John De Veth and Glenn Smith in the SuperTourer prototype followed suit soon after, demoting Tulloch to third place on just lap three.
With Heimgartner in the lead and De Veth in pursuit, the pair began to separate themselves from the group of GT cars behind. The youngster’s lead quickly vanished though as the first of many safety cars closed up the field. Heimgartner and Hughes’ luck finally ran out as pit stop dramas curtailed their charge for the flag.
After dramas in Friday practice, Trass Family Motorsport drivers Jono Lester and Graeme Smyth were forced to switch from the GT3 to the Challenge F430 due to an engine failure. All was not lost however as Lester found himself leading the race with an hour remaining.
A bizarre sequence of events kicked off when the International Motorsport Audi R8 of Bagnall and Armstrong was black flagged and subsequently disqualified for blocking the Camaro of McIntyre on the front straight.
With half an hour remaining McIntyre began to close the gap to the Trass Ferrari, McIntyre taking the lead with twenty five minutes remaining on the front straight.
McIntyre’s challenge again came under threat when the Porsche of Porter and Fillmore ran into the rear of the Camaro under braking into turn five. The Porsche veered out of control hitting the adjacent wall before coming to a halt on the return road.
“Jono [Lester] and I were obviously racing for the lead and we were passing lapped cars. One of the lapped cars we passed in a straight line and going into the braking zone we were past that car.
“Jono was on my inside, and the lapped car was on the outside and just tried to out brake us and hit me in the left rear. It was unfortunate for them to have an accident and take them out of the race.”
A brief safety car in the final stages of the race for the stranded Porsche couldn’t dampen the efforts of McIntyre and Tulloch, the pair eventually coming home four seconds ahead of Lester and Smyth to take out the final race and the series crown.
“The weekend went great, it was awesome. Inky really nailed it for us, he made my job easy. The car’s very difficult to drive, for someone like Inky who’s only doing it every now and then, it’s a big ask.
“We were only racing the De Veth car effectively, whatever they were doing we were doing. So that was the fight we were interested in. Getting the race win was a bonus, but we would’ve given that up for the series.”
John De Veth and Glenn Smith came home third to secure second in the championship. The late race incident saw O’Donnell and Dippie in the Mobil 1 Porsche 911 promoted into fourth whilst the Endless R35 of Farmer and Martin took a surprising fifth place result.