GAUNT AGAIN IN PORSCHE THRILLER AT TERETONGA
It was a case of 'Daniel Gaunt again' on the opening day of competition at the third round of this season's New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship at Invercargill's Teretonga Park this afternoon, the 25-year-old from Auckland claiming pole position in qualifying before leading the first race of the weekend - a 38 lap/100km mini-enduro - from start-to-finish.
Defending series champion Craig Baird, and last season's series runner-up and Rookie of the Year, Jonny Reid, didn't make it easy, but despite race-long pressure from Triple X teammate Baird, Gaunt crossed the finish line just over half a second in front with Baird second, Reid - who staged a late charge to bridge the gap on the leading pair and make it a three-way fight to the finish - third, and Mitch Cunningham fourth.
"Craig certainly kept me honest but all credit to the team we have exactly the same equipment, I just think I am driving the car better this year," said Gaunt. "I knew going into the race that I was on a different tyre pressure strategy to Craig and this time it worked out in my favour. My idea was to try and make a break at the start then manage it and that is pretty much what happened. Bairdo came on very hard towards the end but when Jonny (Reid) caught up he had to defend as well as attack and that took a little bit of the pressure off me."
Today's win is Gaunt's sixth so far this season, the former single-seater star and two-time New Zealand Grand Prix title winner having claimed two wins from two starts at the opening round of the 2010/11 series at Pukekohe and three from three at the second at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park in November last year.
Having shadowed Gaunt and Baird in qualifying Jonny Reid lined up on the grid in a confident state of mind only to spend the majority of the race in catch-up mode after a slow start.
"The plan was to win - definitely - but we had a clutch problem off the line, " he explained. "Once I got going I was very happy with the car but the start cost me, as did having to work my way past the back markers. By the time I did I was able to start pushing and when I saw Daniel and Craig up front I dropped my lap times by a tenth or two and it was enough to close the gap."
Behind the leading trio Mitch Cunningham had a lonely race to finish fourth, with Shane McKillen fifth, Scott Harrison sixth, Paul Kelly seventh and young Wellingtonian Simon McLennan the first of the 996 Cup runners in eighth.
McLennan enjoyed another strong run, eventually crossing the finish line less than a second behind Paul Kelly in his later model 997 after setting a quicker qualifying time.
Fellow young gun Simon Evans again ran McLennan close, eventually crossing the finish line just over two-and-a-half seconds behind, but the other member of the '996 pack,' Mark Whyman was an early retirement, spinning off the track and being fortunate to only graze the tyre wall.
Today's race was the first of three for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge field this weekend. Tomorrow (Sunday) there is a 12 lap race in the morning and a 16 lap reverse top six grid final in the afternoon.
-source: nz porsche gt3 cup