A SPANIARD racing his first race in New Zealand and a former D1NZ drift champion taking part in his first motor race won the three-hour race in the opening round of the South Island Endurance Series at Teretonga Park, near Invercargill, last Saturday.
Spaniard Alex Riberas, who found himself stranded in New Zealand earlier this year and former drift champ Darren Kelly, of Waikato, combined to win the three-hour race by a mere .574 of a second after 186 laps of racing in their Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
Kelly was elated after the race.
“It was a very good day. The safety car (just after the first hour mark) was perfect for us for a driver change and managing fuel. Alex did a double stint and loved the track but it was narrower than what he is used to.
“The Audi had a pitstop issue at their last stop and we got a buffer but it is a very fast car.
“We were down on straight line speed in comparison. Towards the end the two cars were very even with tyre wear and the last ten laps were very close.
“Alex did an amazing job – there was just half a second in it after three hours of racing.”
The winners of the race for the past two years, Neil Foster and former New Zealand A1GP driver Jonny Reid, led for much of the race in their Audi R8 LMS but an issue at their last pitstop meant Reid had to chase hard over the last half hour of the race, falling just short in an enthralling finish.
Third was local driver Brendon Leitch and Christina Orr-West, of Whakatane, in another Audi. Orr-West took the first stint which was interrupted by an unscheduled pitstop for a tyre issue, while Leitch ran out of petrol at the pit entry late in the race and had to be pushed along the pit lane to be refuelled. Those issues left them five laps down at the end.
The other major player in the race, the Simon Gilbertson/John McIntyre Camaro, had niggling dramas all day during Friday’s testing, with the team doing a 12-hour stint until 4am on race day to ready the car.
They set their best qualifying time at Teretonga Park only to be penalised after an ABS fault sent the car off the track, bringing a red flag and dropping them three places on the grid.
Gilbertson ran third initially and McIntyre maintained position, putting plenty of pressure on the Aston Martin before meant the tyres went away and faded.
Near the end of the race a small oil leak appeared which led to an electrical misfire.
“It could have been cleaned up but, with the risk of fire, the car was put away, McIntyre said after the race.
Earlier in the day, Sam Collins and Nick Ross, of Cambridge, won the one-hour race in their Ford Mustang.
The duo led virtually all the way, only losing the lead briefly when they took their pitstop.
A cracked front brake rotor was found on the Mustang 30 minutes before the start of the race and new rotors were fitted, but the team had no time to bed them in.
Team manager Paul Collins said the Mustang, “had a slight electrical gremlin in the accelerator but they were able to drive around it and they aimed for consistency throughout the race”.
The Collins/Ross Mustang crossed the line as the hour ticked over having covered 56 laps with Martin Dippie, of Dunedin, second in his Porsche 991 GT3 Cup Car, 29 seconds behind after a good battle with the Ben and Garry Derrick in their Porsche 991 GT3, which was third, just 1.5 seconds behind.
Bruce Davidson, of Alexandra, (Corvette) was fourth, Russell McKenzie, of Christchurch, (Porsche 991 GT3 Cup) fifth and Jordan Michels, of Invercargill, rounded out the top six in his Honda Civic TCR Fk7, taking Class B honours.
The Southland Sports Car Club was rapt to be able to host spectators at the event after a late ruling on Friday afternoon allowed it.
Despite the short notice, a good sized crowd enjoyed the action.
- Lindsay Beer is the Southland Sports Car Club publicity officer