Carters Mercedes-AMG SLS claims first New Zealand race win
Carter and Hodgson win Southern thriller with big Merc
The Carters Tyres team of Dwayne Carter and Shane Hodgson have won the second three-hour race of the Carters South Island Endurance Series, which took place at Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch.
It's the first New Zealand win for the team's recently acquired a Mercedes-AMG SLS GT3, which replaced their ex-V8 Supercar Ford Falcon BA for this season.
The win came after a tight three-way battle for the top step, with each of the three GT3-spec cars on the grid all falling in and out of contention as the race wore on — the Carters SLS having to fend off the Tulloch Motorsport SaReNi Camaro of John McIntyre and Simon Gilbertson, plus the Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari 458 of Sam Fillmore and Danny Stutterd.
“We had the Ferrari right there, and the Camaro a bit earlier on in the stint was there or thereabouts,” said race winner Hodgson.
“We haven't got any bent panels, which is a huge bonus. We'll bolt some new tyres on it and do all the necessary things, and be back in a couple of weeks time for the final and see what happens.”
The Tulloch Motorsport crew had hoped to bounce back from a forgettable opening round, but their campaign was hobbled early in the weekend after a crash during Saturday testing. The team then worked until 3.00am the following morning to repair the damage, with a further five hours of work to mend the damaged car taking place before qualifying at 10.00am.
And while the Camaro was quick enough to claim pole position, both drivers would have to battle fatigue over the course of the race due to a lack of cool suits and drinking facilities on what eventually became one of the hottest days of competition in this year's endurance calendar.
Gilbertson dropped a lap to the leaders during his first stint to the race, and while McIntyre was able to get back onto the lead lap — setting the fastest lap of the race on the way — severe fatigue saw him have to make an unscheduled stop late in the race to give the car back to Gilbertson. They eventually salvaged fourth place.
“I just got dehydrated, we had no drink in there and we couldn't run a cool suit because we couldn't fit it yesterday after the crash. There were a whole lot of things from the crash that we didn't get a chance to do,” McIntyre told Driven.
“Our car runs very hot on the inside. We've been able to deal with that so far because it's been a bit cooler — we've always had a drink obviously. But without having a drink [today] it just got too hard.
“We've got to work on all that stuff. [The Camaro is] not a factory car like the Mercedes, which has got air conditioning — and we've just managed to get away without using a cool suit for a long time. It was a hotter day today, so everything just went against us.”
With McIntyre and Gilbertson out of the running, it left the leading Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG to duke it out for first and second. While Fillmore and Stutterd had displayed better speed for most of the race, the SLS had better track position heading into the final 30 minutes of race — Shane Hodgson behind the wheel.
The Ferrari, driven by Stutterd, chipped away at what had been a near 30-second gap until it was nearly down to 10 seconds with 20 minutes of the race left.
Then a blown engine, ironically from Hodgson's old TL-spec Falcon, prompted a safety car — effectively whittling the margin down to zero. However there were still some chaotic moments to be had in the last 15 minutes.
The first took place when the field arrived at the point where the back-marking car had dropped oil all over the circuit, just after the Carousel. With fuel-soak coating the right hander, the two leaders slid sideways through the corner, nearly making contact. Behind them several cars spun, including the recovering Camaro, but luckily they weren't t-boned by the approaching pack.
Then a mistake from Hodgson leading into the final corner allowed Stutterd to sail inside and take the lead of the race with around 10 minutes to go. It looked like the Ferrari squad had victory in the bag, only for Stutterd to get momentarily held up by the lapped Gilbertson Camaro with just three minutes remaining on the clock. This allowed Hodgson to pass and take the SLS GT3's maiden domestic endurance race win.
Behind the SLS and 458 was the Porsche 911 of Craig Baird and Paul Kelly, with McIntyre/Gilbertson and the current-spec Porsche 911 of Scott O'Donnell and Allan Dippie rounding out the top five finishers.
Earlier in the day Hugh Gardiner romped home in the one-hour race to continue his dominance of the series, beating Chris Henderson's V8-powered Toyota Corolla despite being hobbled by a pit-lane penalty. Grant Williams and Brent Buist finished third in their ex-NZ SuperTourer Ford Falcon.
The third and final round of the South Island Endurance Series will take place at Levels Raceway in Timaru on October 15.
1. Dwayne Carter/Shane Hodgson (Mercedes-AMG SLS GT3)
2. Sam Fillmore/Danny Stutterd (Ferrari 458 GT3)
3. Craig Baird/Paul Kelly (Porsche 911 997 Carrera Cup)
4. John McIntyre/Simon Gilbertson (SaReNi Camaro GT3)
5. Scott O'Donnell/Allan Dippie (Porsche 911 991 Carrera Cup)
6. Daniel Gaunt/Sue McLaughlin (Porsche 911 997 Carrera Cup)
7. Craig McDermid/Scott McDermid (Toyota 86)
8. Lindsay O'Donnell/Phil Mauger (Porsche 911 997 Carrera Cup)
9. Paul Rickerby/Graham Rhodes (NZ SuperTourer Ford FG Falcon)
10. Arron Black/Stuart Black (WTCC BMW M3 E46)