SURPRISE FIRST PORSCHE GT3 CUP RACE WIN TO GAUNT Daniel Gaunt was a surprise and very grateful winner of the first New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship race of the 2010/11 season on the first day of competition at the Fujitsu 200...
SURPRISE FIRST PORSCHE GT3 CUP RACE WIN TO GAUNT
Daniel Gaunt was a surprise and very grateful winner of the first New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship race of the 2010/11 season on the first day of competition at the Fujitsu 200 motor racing meeting at Pukekohe's Pukekohe Park raceway this afternoon.
Defending series champion Craig Baird qualified quickest and had a 24 second lead in the 36 lap mini enduro race only to have a tyre fail with just three laps to go, leaving Triple X Motorsport teammate Gaunt to take the lead and chequered flag from International Motorsport's Mitchell Cunningham and Triple X motorsport rookie driver Scott Harrison.
The result was a turnaround for both Gaunt and Cunningham, the former after a high speed crash in testing on Friday, the latter after a high speed off of his own in qualifying this morning.
Cunningham's car was able to be fixed in time for the race but Gaunt's was too badly damaged to be fixed in time's for this weekend's meeting, the former New Zealand Grand Prix title holder and Toyota Racing Series champion only able to start today's race through the good graces of sponsor and mentor Michael Morton and Triple X team boss Shane McKillen.
"So the first thing I'd like to do," he said," is acknowledge their support. From where I was yesterday, with the car on the truck, I feel really lucky that Mike was prepared to step aside and Shane was able to make it happen and I can't thank them enough. I got a good start today and was trying to be as consistent as I could early on, keeping the car as straight as I could, so that I would have enough tyre to take it to the guys at the end but I certainly wasn't expecting a win with Craig so far out in front."
"I just felt the car shudder and I knew then that I was in trouble," he said, "What happens when these tyres go is that they break the cords then pop and that is exactly what happened. Before that everything was fine, we had good speed and I didn't have to push hard to keep Jonny (Reid) at bay at the beginning. All I can say is that we are lucky we were able to get back to the pits, get the tyre changed and salvage sixth place for some points as opposed to destroying the car."
Before Baird's late race drama the first 36 lap/100km 'mini-enduro' of the season had run very much to script with Baird getting the jump on second fastest qualifier Jonny Reid and pulling a handy gap before Reid made an unscheduled pit stop to see if there was anything obviously wrong with his car.
There wasn't and he was sent back out to return 10 laps later for his compulsory stop.
By this stage he was running out of sync with the other front runners and ended up crossing the finish line seventh, 16 second behind Baird.
After the race Reid was still not sure what, exactly, was wrong with his car, bar the fact that it wasn't handling the way it should.
"It just felt like something was not quite right," he explained. "it could be an antiroll bar, a damper, something like that. The car just felt very lazy and didn't want to turn, and after the compulsory pit stop I just decided to nurse it home to salvage some points."
Behind Gaunt, Cunningham and Scott Harrison at the flag were Ant Pedersen, Paul Kelly, Baird, Reid then Triple X team boss Shane McKillen with Wellington driver Simon McLennan the first of the 996 class-within-a-class drivers home in ninth place from fellow young gun Simon Evans, series newcomer Mark Whyman and Mark Maddren.
Tomorrow (Sunday) then brings two sprint races, the first over 12 laps in the morning and the second, with a top six reverse grid - over 16 laps in the afternoon.
-source: pcc nz