Australian driver David Reynolds staged a winning return to New Zealand's Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge on the first day of competition at the second round of the 2009/10 championship series at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park this afternoon

Reynolds, who finished second to five-time series champion Craig Baird in the 2008/09 Battery Town series, was a last minute addition to the field at the second round of the 2009/10 series this weekend.

But the 25-year-old from Melbourne could not have wished for a better welcome, topping the time sheets on a damp track in qualifying in the morning then getting the better of defending champion Baird in The Mad Butcher-sponsored 29-lap/100km mini-endurance race late in the afternoon.

As a race it was a classic too, Reynolds making the most of pole position and a by now drying track to eke out an early advantage over fellow front row starter Baird and fast starters Daniel Gaunt and Ant Pedersen.

An early Safety Car intervention closed the field up and Baird got the better of the re-start to catch then pass Reynolds for the lead on the lap eight. From then until the round of compulsory pit stops it looked like Baird had Reynolds' measure too with a couple of car lengths between the pair then a gap back to their Triple X Motorpsort teammate Daniel Gaunt and a similar one back to Matt Halliday, Ant Pederson, Jonny Reid and the first of the Mothers 996 Cup runners, Hugh Gardiner.

Baird remained in front as the pit window opened on lap 15 with his lead increasing when Reynolds pitted for his stop.

Baird followed suit soon after and at that stage the advantage could have gone either way.

But as Baird returned to the circuit Reynolds swept past and remained in the lead - albeit with Baird reducing the gap with every lap - until the chequered flag came out.

"When I saw Craig coming out of the pits, my first thought, you know, was 'sweet, this is going to be great,'" admitted Reynolds, "but then, " he continued, "I thought, 'oh no this is going to hard, I've got to hold him (Craig) off for another ten laps. I only just got there in the end too. In those last laps I probably dropped four or five tenths a lap and one more lap and I would probably have been gone."

Third was fastest first round qualifier Matt Halliday, fourth his teammate Jonny Reid - the pair both benefitting from super-quick pit stops - and fifth category young gun Ant Pedersen.

After a frustrating first series round where he struggled with a stomach upset Pedersen came back fighting today, spending most of the race splitting his older and more experienced International Motorsport teammates Matt Halliday and Jonny Reid and crossing the finish line in fifth place, less than half a second behind Reid.

Of the other drivers, last season's 996 category winner Hugh Gardiner was running comfortably in the top six but any hopes he had of again being the first 996 driver home were dashed when he ran out of petrol late in the race. With Gardiner out first 996 honours went to category rookie Simon McLennan from fellow young gun Simon Evans, the latter slowed late in the race after losing the use of first and third gears.

Fortunate to finish, meanwhile, were Andrew Bagnall and Mitch Cunningham, the pair clashing early on and forced to pit to replace punctured tyres. The race also went ahead without dynamic young Auckland driver Courtney Letica who was admitted to hospital for observation after a heavy crash early in qualifying, and series rookie Colin Caldwell who went off on the warm-up lap.

Today's The Mad Butcher-sponsored mini-enduro was the first of three Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship races at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway @ Ruapuna Park this weekend.

Tomorrow brings two sprint races, the first over 10 laps in the morning, the second a reverse top six grid start over 14 laps in the afternoon.

There is then a break over the Christmas/New Year period before rounds three (at Invercargill's Teretonga Park) and four (at Timaru's Levels Raceway) over consecutive weekends in mid-January.

-credit: nz gt3