GAUNT CONTINUES ON HIS WINNING WAY IN CHRISTCHURCH First round winner Daniel Gaunt continued on his winning way on the first day of competition at the second round of the 2010/11 New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship at...
GAUNT CONTINUES ON HIS WINNING WAY IN CHRISTCHURCH
First round winner Daniel Gaunt continued on his winning way on the first day of competition at the second round of the 2010/11 New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park this afternoon.
After pipping defending series champion Craig Baird for the top spot in the qualifying session at midday Aucklander Gaunt led the first race of the weekend from start to finish, topping off a perfect day with the fastest race lap.
Behind him last season's series runner-up and Rookie of The Year, Jonny Reid, set the third quickest lap time in qualifying but got the better of Baird as the field streamed into the first corner, then withstood incredible pressure from the defending series champion to retain the place to the flag.
With Baird forced wide at the first corner, the initial order was Gaunt, Reid, Mitch Cunningham, Baird and local driver Paul Kelly. But Baird got past Cunningham on the second lap and set off after Reid.
Cunningham, in turn, remained in third place, initially from Kelly and a battle pack consisting of Shane McKillen, series newcomer Earl Bamber, Hugh Gardiner (who was forced to start from the back row of the grid after exceeding his weekend's tyre allocation) and Scott Harrison.
Bamber, who thus far has concentrated on single-seater classes and was a late entry in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge this weekend, soon found a way around Kelly, however, then set off after Cunningham, eventually closing the gap to just 0.176 of a second at the finish line.
Gardiner also got past Kelly, as did Shane McKillen with Andrew Bagnall, Simon McLennan and Mark Whyman (the latter pair in 996 Cup cars) making up the field.
With Gaunt in front and seemingly comfortable all eyes were on the incredibly intense scrap for second between Reid and Baird.
Reid was absolutely resolute in defence and no matter what Baird tried he couldn't unsettle the Auckland-based international. For good reason.
"Really, " said Reid, "it was just a matter of positioning my car. "I'm used to that sort of pressure from running single-seaters in Europe. I was never hard up on the inside so there was always an opportunity for Craig to dive down in there but the track was quite dirty down there so it was always going to be difficult for him to overtake."
For Baird, it was very much a case of a missed opportunity after coming off second best in the scrum for position into the first corner.
Earl Bamber was also involved and like Baird it took him a couple of laps to get back into a position to challenge for a top position.
Otherwise Bamber was buzzing about his first race in a 'tin-top' and hopes to do more in mentor and sponsor Mike Morton's Triple X Motorsport car.
"Absolutely, " he said as he got out of the car. "For a start it's great to be racing again, not to mention racing in New Zealand and racing a touring car. It's been something I've been working away at for a while now so it's good to finally be able to get behind the wheel."
And the race?
"I got an OK start but I ended up on the grass with Bairdo at Turn 1 and I lost a couple of spots because I couldn't get back into the line again. I made them up again though and towards the end there we had a good turn of pace. As to the rest of the season all I can say is that I'd like to acknowledge the part Mike Morton has played in me getting a start. Because he's racing a ute this weekend he just said 'go on mate, get in and see how you go.' Obviously I'd like to do more rounds because I've enjoyed every minute of it so far but right now it's really up to him."
The final word, however, has to go to Daniel Gaunt.
After losing his drive in Australia's V8 Supercar series earlier in the year, then seriously damaging his own Triple X Motorsport Porsche GT3 Cup Car the day before the first series round at Pukekohe, his stocks were not high. Yet he responded the only way, he says, he knows how, by letting his driving do the talking.
He did the same today, and could well do the same tomorrow.
'It certainly would be nice to win three out of three this weekend, " he said. "The car is fantastic, I can't fault it, and for that I've got to say a sincere thanks to the boys at Triple X, Ian, Todd, Adam and everyone else, for the work they put into repairing my car. We only had four laps to do it but they did it in three and bar picking up a little understeer in the race this afternoon it was perfect."
This weekend all the cars competing in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship are running 'For The Miners' decals and the drivers are wearing black armbands.
"It's our way of showing respect for the miners and their families, and show that our thoughts are with them," said series spokesman Douglas Blair."
Today's Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge race was the first of three at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park this weekend. Tomorrow there is a second 10 lap race in the morning then a final 14 lap reverse top six grid final in the afternoon.
-source: pcc nz