REID CLOSES IN ON TITLE HUNT
With just one round to go in the 2010/11 NZ Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, the chase for the championship crown has come into realistic reach of three drivers, Daniel Gaunt who leads by 23 points, Jonny Reid in second place and reigning champion Craig Baird, another 15 points back behind Reid in third.
Round 5 at Manfield was held in sunny conditions with track temperatures reaching 47 degrees and drivers having to deal with cockpit heat in excess of 48 degrees. Reid was quickest in qualifying, putting his Rayglass / Giltrap Group GT3 on pole for Race 1 and got off to an excellent start. Although team mate Mitchell Cunningham hooked onto his bumper on the drag race down to turn 1, defending champion Craig Baird muscled his way in to drop into second place for the first lap. In the heat of Lap 1, Ant Pedersen, Scott Harrison and Daniel Gaunt had a coming together, putting all three out of the race, prompting 'oil warning flags' to be put out. Heading into the last corner of Lap 1, Reid saw the flags and took a different line opening the gap for Baird to slip through into the lead.
With Cunningham hot on Reid's tail in third place, the three front runners fought for position with Reid and Baird pulling away from Cunningham and opening up a gap on the rest of the field. Reid consistently put in the quickest lap times of the race, constantly closing in on Baird under braking, but not getting close enough to put in a pass. With the gap getting bigger between Cunningham and Reid, Baird charged on with Reid on his tail, but managed to hang on for the win with Reid finishing just 0.308 behind in 2nd place. Cunningham brought his Windward Construction GT3 home in 3rd place.
All the action for Race 2 of the GT3 Cup Challenge at Manfield seemed to happen prior to the start of the race, and before turn 1. Gaunt, who did not finish Race 1 due to accident damaged caused by a scuffle with Ant Pedersen and Scott Harrison, suffered too much damage to his 997 that he needed to resort to a car change in an effort to keep his championship hopes alive. Shane McKillen stepped aside for Gaunt and controversially he lined up on the grid in a new car, albeit at the back.
Craig Baird was on pole, sharing the front row with Jonny Reid, followed by Mitch Cunningham and Hugh Gardiner on row 2. As the lights turned out it would have appeared that Gardiner jumped the start locking onto the back bumper of Baird, but it was Cunningham who picked up a penalty for a jump start as he slipped into third place with Reid close behind. Cunningham held off early attacks from Reid in the opening lap although conceded to Reid's calls for attention and let him through into third spot. As the race continued to unfold, Baird would hold onto the lead with Reid keeping a constant distance back in second, while the battle for third heated up between Cunningham, Gardiner and Pedersen. Cunningham let his guard down allowing Pedersen to slip through, then by lap 8, Gardiner had lost touch with Reid and let Pedersen take his third spot.
Cunningham found some late race speed and closed in on Gardiner and although he didn't manage to make a move on him, he opened up the gap behind him to Gaunt to finish in 4th place, however a 5 second penalty was added to his time for the jump start demoting him to 7th place.
Reid kept the pressure on Baird to finish in second collecting 68 points, and closed the gap to the series lead to just 8 points difference heading into Race 3.
Race 3 featured a top six reverse grid, which gave Gaunt the opportunity to claw back some lost points having being positioned on the front row alongside rookie Scott Harrison. Hugh Gardiner and Ant Pedersen made up row two with Reid and Baird making up the top six. Pedersen got the dream start launching his GT3 through to the lead ahead of Gaunt with Reid rounding out the top three after turn 1. Baird struggled to get through the field and spent the next three laps working his way forward to get up to 4th place.
Gaunt kept the pressure on Pedersen for the top spot and made his way through to take the lead on Lap 9 of the 16 lap race. With Reid comfortably in 3rd place and Baird back in a lonely 4th, Reid set his sights on closing in on Pedersen for 2nd place. By lap 11 Reid had reduced the gap, but couldn't make the move on Pedersen and settled for 3rd place.
The overall result for the weekend looked good for International Motorsport with two drivers, Jonny Reid and Mitch Cunningham in the top three behind Craig Baird.
-source: international motorsport