Ferrari and Audi squads tie in Manfeild enduro finale
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Trass take maiden Mahindra win, as bizarre circumstances see endurance title shared
The final round of the Mahindra North Island Endurance Series at Manfeild was always going to go down to the wire, with the three leading cars entering the event separated by just a handful of points. But few could predict that the end result would see two cars end the series equal tied on points for the overall championship.
The unique circumstance was created after Trass Family Motorsport, with drivers Sam Fillmore and Danny Stutterd, claimed their first race win of the season — doubling as their first win in the three-hour series after a couple of seasons of trying. Making the win particularly sweet was Fillmore and Stutterd's underdog status as 'amateur' drivers, compared to the 'pro' drivers scattered among the other leading entries. Sweet also given that the TFM squad came so close to claiming a maiden win at Hampton Downs just weeks ago.
“It feels really really good; it’s been a long time coming. Danny and I are usually in the Porsche and this year we’ve been in the Ferrari. It’s very sweet, it’s a sweet win,” Fillmore told Driven.
“I think we knew when we were here on Friday that we were on the pace. Everyone tells a few fibs but we knew from what we saw that the pro drivers weren’t any faster than the times we were doing. We just about had it in Hampton, [but] we just let that one go. So I felt like we deserved it today.”
Fillmore and Stutterd's win was enough for them to tie on points with International Motorsport's Audi R8 LMS Ultra driven by former A1GP star Jonny Reid and Neil Foster [pictured above].
While the pair drove well all race, a penalty for passing under caution stunted any chance of leap-frogging the TFM team. They instead finished third behind the giant-killing Smeg Racing Holden Commodore of Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson — which was only enough for a championship tie. Because the category rule-book did not allow for a points tie, the championship title will be shared equally among the two winning squads.
Despite their absence from the post-race fanfare Tulloch Motorsport's John McIntyre and Simon Gilbertson, with their thumping SaReNi Camaro GT3, were the championship-winners elect for much of the day. A stellar opening stint from Gilbertson kept the crew in touch with the race-leading TFM entry. Pit strategy also fell in their favour, as they eventually took over the lead by the time lead-driver McIntyre took over the controls.
However, a nose-to-tail clash in pit lane with Simon Evans saw the Camaro take on rear damage. For some laps the car circulated with flapping rear panels, but the team eventually elected to pit the car to repair some of the damage after one of the taillights stopped working. The stop cost them five laps, and effectively ended their shot at the crown.
The McIntyre / Gilbertson machine had an off during qualifying. The resulting race however was almost the perfect performance
“The thing that I guess stopped us from winning the series and winning the race was we got hit in pit lane by Simon Evans, hit really hard,” McIntyre said.
“As I was going down pit lane, getting a few things adjusted and things like that, I might not have been doing 40kph. He must’ve been doing right on 40 and just served me up big time, and then kept into the back of me all the way down.
“At the end of the day the last thing that got us was that the brake light had stopped working and all the wiring had come out when the bumper had got loose. We went from being a lap up, doing it easy until the end, to finishing fifth and being third in the series. Pretty average driving from him.”
Talking to Driven, Evans had an alternate view on the pit-lane incident.
“I thought he was just trying to hold me up in pit lane. They had a real quick fuel stop and merged out, and we just touched them. To me it wasn’t a big hit, so their car must be a bit weak in the rear end. I’m not one to crash into people very hard, if anything it’s the other way around,” he said.
Evans and co-driver Rollinson had been more than a rival for their GT3-spec opposition at the head of the field for much of the race, holding down second place for most of it. Strategy and speed saw them enter the closing 30 minutes of the race with the lead, but they were ultimately chased down by the confident Sam Fillmore, who with Stutterd had recovered from a penalty of their own.
Giving their team a shot in the arm was the return of driver coach, Hampton Downs co-driver, and former Australian GT champion Richard Muscat, who spent the week giving both drivers further encouragement.
“Sam did the first hour, and he drove really beautifully. That was the point that we probably thought we had it over the other guys early,” said Danny Stutterd.
“I think the other thing with Sam for that last stint was that that car in second was catching him by a couple of seconds a lap. Richard [Muscat] was on the radio just letting him know to keep pushing because he was going to catch them — and it was pretty close.”
TR 86 Championship drivers Callum Quin and John Penny finished the race fourth in Quin's newly acquired Holden Commodore NZ Touring Car; enough for them to also seal fourth in the overall points. McIntyre and Gilbertson wound up in fifth, and second in the points behind the dual-winning teams.
Earlier in the day, Nick Chester stormed home to victory in the one-hour race with his ex-V8 Supercar Holden VZ Commodore [pictured above]. International Motorsport's Matt Whittaker took second and the title win, ahead of TFM's Elliot Andrew and his Ferrari 430 Challenge.
With the series now over, teams in the top 20 of both the one and three-hour series points are now invited to compete in the next New Zealand Endurance Championship finale at Mike Pero Motorsport Park alongside the top competitors from the upcoming Carters Tyres South Island Endurance Series. Tulloch Motorsport and Trass Family Motorsport have already put their hands up to make the journey to Ruapuna, with many more expected to confirm their presence in the coming weeks and months.
Three-hour race results
1. Sam Fillmore / Danny Stutterd (Ferrari)
2. Simon Evans / Gene Rollinson (Holden)
3. Jonny Reid / Neil Foster (Audi)
4. Callum Quin / John Penny (Holden)
5. John McIntyre / Simon Gilbertson (Camaro)
6. James Urquhart / Brett Rudd (Holden)
7. Tim O'Connor / Craig Innes (Ferrari)
8. Glenn Smith / John DeVeth (Camaro)
9. Stephen Farmer / Dean Farmer / Tim Martin (R35 GT-R
10. Andre Mortimer / Warrick Mortimer (BMW)
One-hour race results
1. Nick Chester (Holden)
2. Matt Whittaker (Porsche)
3. Paul Verryt (Holden)
4. Elliot Andrew (Ferrari)
5. Rhys Warren (Porsche)
6. Craig Innes / Tim O'Connor (Ferrari)
7. Jason Easton (Ford Mustang)
8. Rick Cooper (Ford Mustang)
9. Charles Rollo (Toyota Levin)
10. Oliver Heycoop (Honda Civic)