McLENNAN TANTALISINGLY CLOSE TO CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE Upper Hutt Porsche GT3 racer Simon McLennan came tantalisingly close to championship honours in his class of the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup at the final round at Taupo last...
McLENNAN TANTALISINGLY CLOSE TO CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE
Upper Hutt Porsche GT3 racer Simon McLennan came tantalisingly close to championship honours in his class of the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup at the final round at Taupo last weekend.
McLennan, in just his first season in the category, led the Mothers 996 Cup category by 16 points from experienced campaigner Hugh Gardiner as the duo arrived to battle it out at Taupo and after the first race on Saturday afternoon it appeared that Simon would become the champion 24 hours later.
However cruel luck on the second day of the event saw McLennan finish runner-up in the championship he had led since the second round in November. However he has made a huge impression after making the daunting step from the MINI Challenge Series to the ultra-fast and completely different Porsche Cup cars with a season beyond even his own expectations.
Qualifying on Saturday had seen Simon in the New World Metro On Willis Porsche GT3 996 and Gardiner set times within 6/100th's of a second of each other. "They were two ripper times," said Simon. "We knew we were going to be competitive. Our Friday times were good and I was comfortable with the set up and the team."
Saturday's first race was a double points, 100 kilometre mini-enduro and Simon got a great start and went into the lead. "I led for the first fifteen or sixteen laps. Hugh was being very aggressive behind me. It was a good battle. We didn't touch at all."
Gardiner pitted early and when Simon brought the New World Metro On Willis car in the team did a great job to get him back on track and into the lead. "It was a lightning stop. We were 5 seconds behind Hugh when we came in and 5 ahead when we came out. You have to give credit to Cam and Dave of Motorsport Services," said Simon. "From then on I kept my head down and kept it safe. It was awesome!"
The points gap now meant that Simon was looking odds-on favourite for the title.
The team chose a cautious approach for Sunday's opening race. Saturday was so positive but Sunday turned sour when a problem in the brakes meant McLennan couldn't pull the car up for a corner and he tagged the similar car of Gene Rollinson, much to Simons horror. "Gene and I get on well and he is a great driver. I didn't want to hit him, even putting the championship aside.'' The New World Metro On Willis Porsche GT3 996 suffered major front end damage including some to the radiator. "I did one more lap and the engine got hot. I brought it in but the damage was major and the team could do nothing. If we had continued we would have cooked the engine and then we could not have done the third race."
The incident meant no points for Simon as he had not covered the 3/4 of the race distance required. That invariably cost him the championship. "We were leading Hugh by 39 points and if we could have continued even last place would have gained us enough points to allow us to tackle the last race conservatively. The only way we could lose the chamnpionship on Sunday was with a DNF (non-finish) and that is exactly what happened."
"It shows you how things can go wrong in motorsport. We have had such a tidy season thanks to the team and their work and that is why we were in the position to lead the championship."
Simon admits he was pretty down after race 2 but he took to the track for race 3 buoyed by words of encouragement from several people such as Richard Giltrap.
If Gardiner struck some misfortune in the race the championship could still swing back in Simon's favour. "I put my head down. You never want to have something happen to a competitor. I had to go off the back because I didn't finish the previous race. I actually enjoyed myself, racing hard with Simon Evans and Gene and working back through to second place behind Hugh."
"Not taking the championship was real hard to swallow but at the end of the day it is our first season and it was originally planned as a learning year. If you had told me at the beginning of the season we would go into the final round challenging for the championship I wouldn't have believed it. It was real close and that summed up the battle for the final round."
"I have to thank Cam McCormack from Motorsport Services. The New World Metro On Willis Porsche was always in tip top condition and as a rookie driver he coached me on the do's and don'ts. Also Dave Taylor for both his and his teams support during the season."
"I'm disappointed because I am naturally competitive but we have had great support from the guys, mum, dad and my sponsors. The people that matter are pleased. It was so close - bring on next year!"
After the stress of fighting for the championship McLennan is looking forward to a break although he is also looking forward to contesting the new Altherm 1000 Endurance race at Hampton Downs in June with Craig Innes - "a driver I really respect."
Simon McLennan's campaign in the 2009/2010 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Championship was supported by New World Metro On Willis, Auto Despatch, Heretaunga Collision Repair Centre, Ice Tech New Zealand, Orrsum Laser Services, RTW Motors Ltd, Kinetic 121 and Powder Coating Services.
-source: m2 motorsport