McLaren pair score dominant endurance race win at Pukekohe
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Endurance and GT-racing veterans Glenn Smith and John DeVeth have won the second round of the three-hour ENEOS North Island Endurance Series in their McLaren 650S GT3. Second went to Anthony Leighs and Paul Kelly (Porsche 911), with Rod Gimblett and Cameron Jones (Holden Commodore) completing the podium.
It was a race of attrition from the outset, with three of the McLaren duo's key rivals striking trouble in the early laps.
The most significant of those was the No. 1 International Motorsport Audi R8 GT3 shared between Neil Foster and Jonny Reid. The round-one winners failed to complete qualifying due to a diff failure earlier in the day. And, after an arduous morning of attempted repairs, they were unable to make the start of the race.
There were pre-race issues too for the Hamilton Asphalts Holden VE Commodore of Lance Hughes and Matt Griffin. Early gremlins meant that they missed the start, although ultimately they were able to join the race a few laps down before ultimately failing to finish.
Their finishing slot was three spots shy of the third of the early race casualties, with the wild, winged Ford Mustang beast [pictured above] driven by Nick Ross and former touring car world champion Paul Radisich ending proceedings 17th. After featuring early in the race (as well as in the one-hour event earlier in the day), they lose numerous laps in pit lane with issues of their own.
Although their biggest threats had unlucky races, it wasn't to say that Smith and DeVeth's result wasn't deserved. They led each lap of the three-hour showdown, barring a few laps in the opening pit cycle, and mistakes were few and far between despite a considerable number of caution periods interrupting the day. In the end they won by two laps.
The Leighs/Kelly and Gimblett/Jones combinations steered to second and third in the finishing order after quietly achieving throughout the day. The oddly well matched 991-gen Porsche Carrera Cup car and Holden Commodore SuperTourer represented one of the tightest battles in the closing laps; eventually crossing the finish-line separated by less than 10 seconds.
The other battle to watch was the one immediately behind for fourth place through to sixth.
Entering the last half hour the spot had been held by the newly imported Hyundai i30 N TCR [pictured above] of Gene Rollinson and Jordan Michels. The little hot hatch had been a giant killer for most of the day, passing many of the field's more fancied V8s and GT cars to sit one position shy of the podium.
These passes included a clash with the Shelby Mustang GT350-R GT4, which had sent the big V8 into the wall in the central phase of the race.
But, in the final minutes the little Hyundai faded; first losing fourth to the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR of Rob Williams and Phil Blythe, before losing fifth to the wild Audi TT RS VLN of Shane Helms and Rob Bollard. The latter was able to claim the Class 1 win, while the i30 TCR took sixth and victory in Class 2 on competitive debut.
The day's earlier one-hour endurance event was won by Brock Timperley. The BNT V8s Class Two regular drove the well-known Tony Anderson–built ex-NZV8 Ford Falcon BF to what was eventually a comfortable win, edging the stunning Ferrari 458 Challenge shared between Tim O'Connor and Sam McNeil in a straight run to the flag.
Pre-race favourite Matt Whittaker had a puncture foil his race; eventually finishing third and one lap down. A double-duty Radisich/Ross took fouth, ahead of Andre Mortimer and his Gull BMW M3 in fifth.
The third and final round of the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series takes place at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park on June 7–8.
ENEOS North Island Endurance Series — three hour results (top 10)
1. Glenn Smith/John DeVeth (McLaren 650S GT3)
2. Antony Leighs/Paul Kelly (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup)
3. Rodd Gimblett/Cameon Jones (Holden Commodore SuperTourer)
4. Rob Williams/Phil Blythe (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR)
5. Shane Helms/Rob Bollard (Audi TT RS VLN)
6. Gene Rollinson/Jordan Michels (Hyundai i30 N TCR)
7. Kent Baigent/Benjamin McDonald (BMW M3 GTR)
8. Wayne Leach/Paul Burborough (BMW 235i Cup)
9. Todd Bawden/Rhys Bawden (BMW 235i Cup)
10. Marty McCollough/Ian Foster (Honda Integra Type R)