Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup
Timaru, New Zealand
Day 2 Report
Rutherford Comes Through as Favourites Falter
It was a case of all-change on the second day of competition at the third round of the 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series at the Timaru International Motor Raceway today as Hamilton driver Ross Rutherford took over the mantle of race winner and overall points leader from early series pace-setter Matt Halliday and his arch-rival Craig Baird.
Auckland International Halliday was again the fastest qualifier and Queensland-based former New Zealand Grand Prix winner Craig Baird won the weekend's first race on Saturday afternoon, but Rutherford stormed through to win both races today after Halliday and Baird tangled in controversial circumstances - not once but twice.
In the morning's 10 lap race held on a damp track but in drying conditions pole sitter Baird got the jump on Halliday off the line but when Halliday tried to wrest the lead back the pair touched and were forced to pit to replace wheels and tyres damaged in the incident.
Unfortunately the only wheels available on pit lane to replace the damaged ones were fitted with slick tyres. Both drivers were able to get back out onto the track but because the race had been declared wet by the organisers and all the cars had started on treaded wet tyres, the Event Director deemed that the use of the slick-shod wheels was contrary to an article in the series regulations and disqualified both drivers from the race as well as deducting 20 points from their series tallies.
The disqualification meant that the pair had to start the day's final 16 lap series race from the back row of the grid then to add insult to injury they had a second coming together - again on the first lap - and both again limped back to the pits, Halliday with damage to the front of his car which prompted him to park it, and Baird with damage to the rear of his car and the need for yet another rear wheel and tyre.
After the final race, in which he stormed back from his early pit stop to eventually finish in a hard-won 16th position, Baird said he accepted the decision of the Event Director but was not happy about the turn of events leading up to it.
"Look, there was contact in both races today puncturing my car's left rear tyre in both races causing a reasonable amount of damage (to the car) and I am just a little bit disappointed that, at this level, in two races out of two I have to come into the pits with problems caused by someone else."
While all this was going on Hamilton driver Rutherford, son of legendary Christchurch saloon and sports car driver Ron Rutherford, grasped the opportunity with both hands, fending off an aggressive early attack from Auckland driver Dean Fulford for a debut series win in the 10 lap morning race, then led the dry 16 lap final from start to finish, crossing the line almost two seconds ahead of fast-finishing young Australian driver Jonathan Webb.
After being one of the best resident New Zealand drivers at the first and second rounds of the 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series, and earning himself an early lead in the Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge for over-35-years, 37-year-old company director Rutherford expressed himself very happy with his debut race then overall round win.
"Yes, I'm really, really happy about the way things have gone for me this weekend, "he said. " It is not a position we expected to be in but you know we always go into a meeting with a positive mental attitude to get into the top position, though I'm also a realist when we are up against the likes of drivers like Craig (Baird) and Matt (Halliday) who are professional drivers."
Fellow businessman/driver Fulford also impressed, qualifying fifth behind Baird, Halliday, Rick Armstrong and Ross Rutherford then finishing Saturday's race in fourth position, this morning's wet first one in second and the longer afternoon one in third, after holding second until 20-year-old Sydney driver Webb caught up with three laps to go then got past a lap later.
Third overall for the weekend after an eventful three races was young Aucklander Rhys McKay in his debut drive in his new ex Walter Lechner Jnr 'O4 GT3 Cup car.
Having driven an older '01 car at the second round McKay reveled in the later model car, getting to grips with the extra suspension adjustment in qualifying and carding a 6-3-4 run through the weekend's races.
"The car is definitely a lot more stable in the high speed corners which is the newer aero package and with the shocks being adjustable you can make a few changes and gain a few tenths here and there."
McKay said that he was 'quietly confident' after setting the sixth fastest lap time in the older car at the second round of the Battery Town series at Ruapuna late last year but that his main goal is simply to make incremental improvements at every round.
Enjoying what he described as a 'tough' debut weekend in the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup series was Infineon Porsche Carrera Cup Asia front-runner Darryl O'Young, the Hong Kong-based, Canadian-born Chinese setting the seventh fastest time in qualifying and finishing a weekend best fifth overall in the final race.
"The competition out here is fantastic, the organisation was good and I learned a lot, " he said. "I could have done better in qualifying, and I had a spin in the first race, but I got to drive the car for the first time in the wet in the second race which was good - but then I had to serve a drive-through penalty - and after I got past Graeme (Cameron) in the final race I was able to push really hard and put in some good laps and finish fifth."
Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series action remains in the South Island for the next two weeks with Invercargill's Teretonga Park hosting the fourth round next weekend (Jan 15/16) and Chrischurch's Powerbuilt International Raceway at Ruapuna Park hosting the fifth on January 22 and 23.
<pre> 2004/05 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Series Rnd 3 Timaru International Motor Raceway Timaru Sat/Sun Jan 8/9
Race 2 1. Ross Rutherford 11.48.962 2. Dean Fulford +3.588 3. Rhys McKay +5.296 4. Jonathan Webb +6.884 5. Graeme Cameron +10.239 6. Dean Cockerton +16.706 7. Andrew Bagnall +20.654 8. Darryl O'Young +22.632 9. Mike Weeks +22.696 10. Shane McKillen +33.154 11. Angus McFarlane +33.401 12. Rick Armstrong +33.523 13. Grant Dalton +37.415 14. Paul Kelly +37.573 15. Scott O'Donnell +40.293 16. Bryce Washington +40.925 17. Michael Morton +1 lap 18. Matt Halliday +2 laps
Race 3 1. Ross Rutherford 17.20.296 2. Jonathan Webb +1.793 3. Dean Fulford +2.836 4. Rhys McKay +8.803 5. Darryl O'Young +14.129 6. Rick Armstrong +22.225 7. Graeme Cameron +23.319 8. Dean Cockerton +23.319 9. Andrew Bagnall +27.259 10. Shane McKillen +31.572 11. Paul Kelly +38.826 12. Bryce Washington +39.331 13. Grant Dalton +40.059 14. Mike Weeks +56.931 15. Scott O'Donnell +59.365 16. Craig Baird +1 lap 17. Michael Morton +1 lap DNF Angus McFarlane DNF Matt Halliday
Points after Rnd 3 of 8 1. Ross Rutherford 540 points 2. Craig Baird 481 3. Matt Halliday 481 4. Dean Fulford 464 5. Mike Weeks 374 6. Rick Armstrong 372 7. Graeme Cameron 328 8. Paul Kelly 303 9. Scott O'Donnell 241 10. Angus McFarlane 240 11. Michael Morton 189 12. Rhys McKay 188 13. Shane McKillen 186 14. Andrew Bagnall 183 15. Bryce Washington 181 16. Grant Dalton 164 17. Jonathan Webb 121 18. Dean Cockerton 114 19. Darryl O'Young 114 20. Jamie Peters 61
Tag Heuer Carrera Challenge 1. Ross Rutherford 2. Dean Fulford 3. Mike Weeks 4. Rick Armstrong