Evans and Rollinson take GT enduro crown in Christchurch
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Smeg Racing's Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson have taken top honours at the New Zealand Endurance Championship finale in Christchurch; dominating the three-hour endurance race in the long-distance debut of the team's newly acquired current specification Audi R8 LMS GT3.
“The team's done a really good job. We had a slight issue at the shakedown, but for the first run out it's been really impressive,” Evans told Driven.
For Evans, it's the second national championship he's won in as many weekends, after he was awarded his second BNT NZ Touring Car Championship title last weekend at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
“It's pretty special, and it's nice in terms of in the V8 we went back to back, whereas in this we finished second last year — so it feels really rewarding to go one step better,” he added.
The pair and their Audi managed to lead the vast majority of the three-hour enduro. Having won the race start, Rollinson simply drove into a rhythm — managing to break away from nearest rival John McIntyre in the Tulloch Motorsport SaReNi Camaro GT3.
“I've only had a handful of laps in the car, so I'm not used to a car like this — I haven't raced for eight months either, and haven't been here for about eight years. So it's just been about hopping in the car and getting comfortable with it,” Rollinson said.
“I managed to get the jump on John [McIntyre] at the start, which was cool. That was pretty critical. I thought that if he gets in front he might try and hold us off, and I didn't really want to scratch the car — Mark might not like that too much.”
After handing back the controls to Evans for the second half of the race, it was just a case of maintaining pace and maintaining the margin to McIntyre, which eventually blew out to more than a lap as the race flew by without any safety car periods. Both Evans and Rollinson commended the efforts of the lapped traffic.
“Everyone out there was pretty good, looking in their mirrors all the time. I know that they've got their own race as well; it's not all just about us fast guys,” Rollinson said.
“You've still got to stay out of trouble, you know. All the back markers did a really good job of staying out of the way but still having their own battles. In my stint I just got out there and drove,” added Evans.
McIntyre and Camaro co-driver Mark Gibson eventually took second, ahead of the fiercely fought dice for the third and final spot on the podium.
That battle was between Trass Family Motorsport's Ferrari 458 (driven by Sam Fillmore, Danny Stutterd, and Richard Muscat), International Motorsport's Audi R8 LMS Ultra (driven by Jonny Reid and Neil Foster), and Carters Tyres' Mercedes-AMG SLS (driven by Dwayne and Matt Carter).
A spin on the opening lap for Fillmore in the Ferrari handed third place to the Carter SLS, however as the rest of the stint resolved itself Fillmore was about to counter attack and push back to third.
A pit-lane penalty forced the Ferrari squad to once again come from behind, but in the end charging drives from both Stutterd and Muscat helped them seal third place; just ahead of the IMS Audi, with the Carters Tyres AMG completing the top five.
Scott O'Donnell/Allan Dippie (Porsche), Lindsay O'Donnell/Phil Mauger (Porsche), Darryl Barrett/Hamish Frew (Mazda), Arron Black/Stuart Black (WTCC BMW), and Phil Hood/Aaron Harris (Seat Super Copa) rounded out the top 10.
The Barrett/Frew V8 Mazda RX-7 also managed to take victory in the Class 1 sub-category. Barry Moore and Tim Mackersy won Class 2 in their Volkswagen Golf. And Gavin Yortt and David Grigor won Class 3 in their Honda Civic Type R FD2.
Earlier in the day, Jarrod Owens led a Porsche 1-2-3 to win the one-hour New Zealand Endurance Championship title. Scott O'Donnell and Allan Dippie took second in their current-spec 991 911, with Steve Parker rounding out the podium finishers.
The big hitters from the event will now prepare themselves for the Eneos North Island Endurance Series and the Carters Tyres South Island Endurance Series; the former kicking off in two months time.