Kiwi wins while others denied at Highlands Motorsport Park
Shane van Gisbergen and co-driver Klark Quinn have emerged victorious at the 2015 Highlands 101, after a dramatic race capped off by a close-quarter three-car final dice.
The pole-sitting Trass Family Motorsport (TFM) Ferrari piloted by Jono Lester and Graeme Smyth looked likely to romp home with a maiden win, after Lester was able to open up a 40-second margin over second place by the time the second cycle of pit stops had taken place. This was despite a minor off for Smyth in the opening laps of his stint.
But as the race wore on, their time at the front wouldn't last after the pair lost the lead during an inconvenient caution period, before then being disqualified for taking their final pit stop outside of the mandatory stopping window.
The TFM Ferrari 458 GT3 looked like a sure winner in the early running. Photo / Velocity NZ
After initially electing to fight the disqualification and continue driving, the team incurred a pit lane penalty for overlapping during one of the restarts late in the race. They were eventually excluded from the race results.
"Basically the compulsory pitstop window closes at the two hour mark, and we were cutting it fine but we thought we were going to make it," Lester told Driven.
"We needed Graeme [Smyth] to be cutting some relatively quick laps which he was doing — he wasn't conceding to Shane [van Gisbergen] or [Christopher] Mies. We missed the cut off by about three seconds, [Graeme] was literally braking for it when it ticked over two hours.
"This was one we really should've won to be honest, and I think it would've been one we would've won relatively comfortably so the whole team was pretty down."
Their demise from the order resulted in the fierce three-car battle of Morgan Haber/Jack LeBrocq (Erebus AMG Mercedes), Klark Quinn/Shane van Gisbergen (STIX McLaren 670S), and Christopher Mies/Ryan Millier (MPC Audi R8) taking over the three top spots.
The combination of Haber and LeBrocq had been tailing the TFM Ferrari for most of the race, but lacked the ultimate pace to challenge them for outright honours.
Quinn and van Gisbergen meanwhile had driven through the field after being mired through the start of the race. van Gisbergen's lightning driving had vaulted them up the order, while Mies had made a similar impact in the leading Jamec PEM Audi R8.
While it didn't take long for van Gisbergen to catch the four-year-old Erebus AMG SLS — which had LeBrocq behind the wheel for the closing stint. But it took him much longer to successfully pass the young driver.
During this time, Mies was able to tack onto the back of the pair, creating an enthralling battle with ten laps to go.
LeBrocq (SLS AMG), van Gisbergen (McLaren), and Mies (Audi R8) battle in the final laps. Photo / Velocity NZ
After spending numerous laps underneath the SLS' rear wing, van Gisbergen made the move exiting the carousel. A poor run out of the corner saw Mies follow the Kiwi through to take over second place.
Despite Mies' best efforts to take the lead off van Gisbergen in the dying moments, the attempts would prove fruitless — the McLaren crossing the line in first for the second time this weekend.
Max Twigg and Shae Davies were able to finish fourth — ensuring that both Erebus SLS' finished in the top five. The returning Roger Lago completed the top five, with co-driver David Russell in their Lamborghini.
Earlier in the day the combination of Sam Fillmore and Danny Stutterd took victory in the preceding 1 + 01 enduro for Spurdle Motorsport. Driving their Porsche 911 the pairing dominated the one hour race, taking a lights-to-flag victory to defeat Ian Hayr and Glenn Smith in their newly acquired SaReNi Camaro GT3.
Danny Whiting and Andy Knight completed the podium in their Porsche 991, finishing just three seconds ahead of their nearest rival Tim James.
Highlands 101 top ten results
1. Klark Quinn/Shane Van Gisbergen, McLaren, 1:32.610 2. Christopher Mies/Ryan Millier, Audi, 1:32.332 3. Morgan Haber/Jack LeBrocq, Mercedes-Benz, 1:33.376 4. Max Twigg/Shae Davies, Mercedes-Benz, 1:32.816 5. Roger Lago/David Russell, Lamborghini, 1:33.125 6. Tony D’Alberto/Grant Denyer, Ferrari, 1:33.018 7. Warren Luff/Tony Walls, McLaren, 1:33.003 8. Nathan Antunes/Barton Mawer, Audi (trophy category), 1:33.877 9. Peter Fitzgerald/Fabian Coulthard, Audi, 1:34.491 10. Marcus Marshall/Theo Koundouris, Porsche (trophy category), 1:36.553