GAUNT CONSOLIDATES PORSCHE SERIES POINTS LEAD IN CHRISTCHURCH Auckland driver Daniel Gaunt has consolidated his points lead in this season's New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship with three wins from three starts at the second round...
GAUNT CONSOLIDATES PORSCHE SERIES POINTS LEAD IN CHRISTCHURCH
Auckland driver Daniel Gaunt has consolidated his points lead in this season's New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship with three wins from three starts at the second round at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park over the weekend.
With luck again deserting defending series champion Craig Baird, 27-year-old two-time former Toyota Racing Series champion and New Zealand Grand Prix winner Gaunt was effectively unchallenged, but warned that though he has now won five of the first six races this season (he won two of the three at the first round at Pukekohe Park Raceway earlier this month) there is a long way to go yet.
"Obviously I am over the moon with the way everything is going, especially this weekend, the car has been absolutely faultless and the harder the guys in the team worked the better the car seemed to go, but, you know, there's still a lot of racing to do and Craig (Baird) and Jonny (Reid) are not going to go away. Craig has hit a couple of speed bumps, both here and at the last round, but he will bounce back, he always does, and Jonny is always going to be there too."
Gaunt's perfect weekend started in qualifying on Saturday morning where he pipped Baird for pole then ran away from Reid and Baird to win the first race of the weekend later that afternoon.
He then proceeded to win the second race of the weekend on Sunday morning from Reid and series debutante Earl Bamber, then the third reverse top six grid 14 lap final from Reid, Bamber and last season's 996 Cup winner Hugh Gardiner, the latter now behind the wheel of one of the newer 997 model Porsche GT3 Cup cars.
Underlining his domination, Gaunt also set the fastest race lap in each race.
In stark contrast, Craig Baird, the defending and record six-time New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champion, could hardly have had a worst weekend.
After being pipped by Gaunt by the narrowest of margins in qualifying the 40-year-old Queensland-based Kiwi was wrong-slotted on the first lap of the first race and had to accept third place behind Gaunt and Jonny Reid, before tangling with Mitch Cunningham and being forced to pit to replace a punctured rear tyre in the second, then not even making the end of the first lap in the reverse top six grid final when he punctured a water radiator.
Last season's runner-up and Rookie of The Year Jonny Reid also struggled in the face of Gaunt's relentless pace, though with three second places to his credit he claimed the second step on the round podium and retained second place in the series points standings.
"Yes," he said, "we've had a solid weekend, but winning is what it's all about, what we're here to do so from that point of view there's a little disappointment as well. The pace is there though, so the signs are promising for future rounds."
Third overall, meanwhile, was young single-seater ace Earl Bamber, who despite only finally agreeing terms to take over Triple X Motorsport sponsor and driver mentor Mike Morton's Porsche 997 GT3 Cup Car on Friday, set the fourth quickest lap time in qualifying then claimed a fifth and two thirds in the races.
Not bad for someone who has never raced a 'tin-top' before and a performance that bodes very well for a future in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge category.
"To come out of the weekend third? Fantastic, " he said as he was surrounded by well-wishers after the final race." It's not just a great result for me either, it's a brilliant one for the Triple X team and for that I'd like to sincerely thank Mike Morton for giving me the opportunity to drive his car."
Whether he does any more rounds of the 2010/11 series with the team has yet to be decided, but Bamber, understandably, is keen.
"Absolutely. I'd love to be on the grid at Teretonga so fingers crossed and we'll see."
Things were not quite so clear cut in the 996 Cup category with young Auckland drvier Simon Evans topping the qualifying sheets but only finishing one of the three races. In the first he tangled with fellow 996 Cup young gun Simon McLennan, damaging his car's oil radiator, then in the second he ran into the back of the other driver in the category, Mark Whyman, puncturing a water radiator.
He made amends in the third with a strong run which saw him finish ninth, just behind 997 runner Andrew Bagnall, but a consistent run across the three races saw McLennan win the category prize for the round, and an even more consistent run across the first two rounds saw Whyman, a 40-year-old Kiwi businessman who is commuting to this season's New Zealand series from his home in Hong Kong, retain his category lead in the series points standings.
Ironically, Whyman - who was born and spent his formative years in Auckland, but has done the lion's share of his racing in Australia and the United States - has to learn each circuit as he goes, meaning his results inevitably get better as the weekend goes on.
Having run the same car in last year's series McLennan doesn't have the same problem. Though with Evans getting quicker and quicker he knows he has his work cut out if he wants to win the 20010/11 996 Cup category title.
Race 2 (Sun 10 laps)
Poleman Gaunt got the better of his fellow front row starter Jonny Reid at the start of the weekend's second race on Sunday morning but exiting the first corner it was Mitch Cunningham - who had made a stunning start from P4 on the grid - who was in second place with Baird third.
Buoyed by his start and pace through the first two turns Cunningham then had a look at Gaunt round the outside at the hairpin. Spying his own opportunity Baird followed Gaunt then matched Cunningham gearshift for gearshift up the dogleg to the first infield right hander.
The pair remained neck and neck through the corner until as they exited the two cars collided, sending both drivers limping back to the pits to replace punctured rear tyres.
Another casualty of the first lap was young Aucklander Simon Evans, who burst a water radiator after running into Mark Whyman's car as the field slowed to avoid the spinning Cunningham car.
While they were doing that Daniel Gaunt proceeded to pull away from Jonny Reid, Earl Bamber and Hugh Gardiner. Initially Reid looked like he he had the pace to set off after Gaunt, but as Bamber closed, Reid was forced into defence mode.
That left Gaunt to steadily ease away, setting his second fastest race lap of the weekend to cross the line just over four and a half seconds in front of Reid with Bamber a further half a second back.
Hugh Gardiner was a lonely fourth with young gun Scott Harrison fifth after finally getting the better of his Triple X Motorsport team boss Shane McKillen on the last lap.
Behind them came Andrew Bagnall, who emerged from his car remarkably fresh considering he and co-driver Ant Pedersen won the three-hour afternoon/evening South Island Endurance Series event the day before, with Simon McLennan leading Mark Whyman to take 996 Cup category honours.
Race 1 (Sat 10 laps)
Havign claimed pole position in qualifying Daniel Gaunt led the first New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge race from start to finish.
Behind him Jonny Reid, who set the third quickest lap time in qualifying, got the better of Craig Baird after the defending series champion was forced wide at the first corner, the initial order Gaunt, Reid, Mitch Cunningham, Baird and local driver Paul Kelly.
Baird quickly despatched Cunningham for third but met what turned out to be an immovable force when he caught up on Reid.
Cunningham remained fourth, initially from Kelly and a battle pack consisting of Shane McKillen, 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 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 making up the field.
This weekend all the cars competing in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship ran 'For The Miners' decals and the drivers wore 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."
After a break over the Christmas/New Year period the 2010/11 New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship resumes at Invercargill's Teretonga Park Raceway over the January 14-16 weekend.
-source: pcc nz