ANOTHER ROUND WIN FOR REYNOLDS BUT BAIRD CONTINUES TO LEAD BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE CHASE Australian driver David Reynolds made it two round wins from two starts at a drama-packed third round of the 2009/10 Battery Town...
ANOTHER ROUND WIN FOR REYNOLDS BUT BAIRD CONTINUES TO LEAD BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE CHASE
Australian driver David Reynolds made it two round wins from two starts at a drama-packed third round of the 2009/10 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship at Invercargill's Teretonga Park over the weekend.
However third place behind Triple X teammate Reynolds and International Motorsport's Matt Halliday was enough for defending series champion Craig Baird to retain a healthy lead in the overall series points standings.
Having missed the opening round of the 2009/10 championship at Pukekohe in early November last year, former Carrera Cup Australia champion and 2009 V8 Supercar racer Reynolds was always going to be in catch up mode as far as the championship points chase was concerned.
But with pole position in qualifying then three wins from three starts at the second round of the 2009/10 series at Christchurch's Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna Park late in November, and pole and two wins from three starts at Teretonga Park Raceway this weekend the 24-year-old from Melbourne is certainly making his presence felt.
A point he drove home in the 16 lap reverse top six grid final Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship race on Sunday afternoon.
After getting the better of poleman and early race leader Daniel Gaunt and Halliday's International Motorsport teammate Jonny Reid to win the race, Reynolds ended up with 284 points, 13 more than first race winner and second race runner-up Halliday and 37 more than Baird.
However Baird retains the overall points lead at the half way point of the 2009/10 series with 793 points, 86 more than Matt Halliday who with a win, a second and a fourth place is now second with 707 points and 127 more than Triple X teammate Gaunt who has slipped to third with 666 points.
Halliday's teammate Jonny Reid is fourth with 619 points, while a second round win has elevated David Reynolds to fifth just 35 points back.
Having claimed pole position in qualifying then followed Halliday home in the double points/$10,000 prize money 100km The Mad Butcher mini-enduro on Saturday afternoon, then won the first sprint race of the weekend on Sunday morning from Halliday and Baird, Reynolds started the weekend's reverse top six grid Battery Town final from the second row of the grid behind poleman Jonny Reid and fellow front row starter Gaunt.
Then, after slotting into third place behind a fast starting Gaunt and Reid on the first lap Reynolds took a lead he was not to lose on lap 12.
That said, the drama in that race started before the cars were even on the grid after Halliday and series young gun Courtney Letica clashed on the warm-up lap.
The contact punctured tyres on both the cars with each being pushed off the grid and back to the pits as the other cars took their places on the grid and waited for the start.
Quick work by their respective pit crews meant both drivers were able to start - and finish - the race. The handicap of having to start from pit road meant Halliday was never going to be able to challenge either Reynolds for the race - and with it possible round - victory.
As it was he was aided in his drive back through the field by a couple of other incidents, one which saw Mitch Cunningham - who started the race seventh and ran as high as fifth -being served a stop-go penalty after early race contact with Shane McKillen, and another which saw Jonny Reid pit to observe a stop-go penalty of his own for contact with early race leader Daniel Gaunt.
And Craig Baird?
Having swapped fastest lap times with Reynolds and Halliday in qualifying and got the jump on Reynolds off the line in mini-enduro on Saturday afternoon the defending series champion was leap-frogged in the pits in that race by both Halliday and Reynolds to finish third.
He also finished third in the first sprint race of the weekend on Sunday morning before following Reynolds home for second place in the final, a performance good enough both for the final place on the round podium and enough points for the former Hamilton but now Queensland-based 21-time New Zealand title holder to head to the fourth round of the 2009/10 Battery Town series next weekend at Timaru with the prospects of a record sixth Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship virtually undiminished.
While all this was going on last season's 996 category title holder Hugh Gardiner continued to set the pace in the Mothers 996 Cup competition, eventually crossing the finish line in the final in eighth place ahead of fellow category regulars Simon McLennan and Simon Evans and series and category debutant Allan Dippie from Dunedin.
Like Halliday, Gardiner is on the comeback trail points-wise after a dnf in one of the double-points The Mad Butcher mini enduro races late last year and therefore expressed himself well pleased with his weekend.
"This place (Teretonga) is pretty unique as far as tracks in New Zealand are concerned in that it is very fast and very flowing and with a car like the 996 you've got enough grip and horsepower to make it really interesting. Because of the points situation (the consistent McLennan continues to lead the Mothers 996 Cup category from Gardiner, Simon Evans and Colin Caldwell) our main goal was just to gather points but after three category wins from three starts, and strong finishes against the 997 guys in each race I'm pretty happy."
As was McLennan, the 22-year-old Wellingtonian - who just two years ago was still racing karts - gaining speed and confidence with each round of the 2009/10 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship series.
"We had a good year in the MINI Challenge last year but this," he said of the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, and the 996 model GT3 Cup car he is driving, " is a whole new ball game. The power is amazing, the grip from the tyres is amazing and its fantastic to have Mothers getting behind the guys in the 996 cars."
And series debutant Allan Dippie?
Entering a round of the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship was real 'jump-in-at-the-deep-end' stuff for the Dunedin businessman. But afterwards he was all smiles.
"Really, " he said, " it's just a great privilege to be able to join some of New Zealand's - in fact some of the world's - best Porsche drivers on the grid. Seeing first hand just how hard they push was a real eye-opener and I'm sure my driving got a little bit better because of it."
Race 2 (Sunday morning 16 laps)
This was also a David Reynolds benefit, the hard-charging young Australian ace making a blinder of a start from P2 on the grid to lead pole man Matt Halliday and Craig Baird into the first corner.
Any chance he had of gapping a scrapping Baird and Halliday was lost little more than a lap later however when the Safety Car was deployed while the circuit's crash crew attended to an early off by Mothers 996 Cup category competitor Colin Caldwell.
Baird attacked and got past Halliday just as the Safety Car accelerated onto the circuit but with the yellow flags already out for Caldwell's prone car Baird chose to relinquish the position as the field circulated behind the Safety Car rather than risk a penalty.
Having made such a good start first time out Reynolds was in no mood to concede any advantage when the Safety Car returned to the pits though and when it did his advantage remained, Halliday slotting into second, Baird third and Daniel Gaunt fourth.
After forcing his way past Halliday's teammate Jonny Reid, before the Safety Car came out, Courtney Letica looked set to challenge Gaunt only to fall foul of the Teretonga circuit's daunting high speed Loop corner, losing a number of positions in a wild ride across the grass until he was eventually able to re-join the circuit.
That left Reynolds Halliday and Baird line astern out front with a small gap back to Gaunt with Reid slowly closing the gap and Mitch Cunningham (who failed to finish Saturday's race after a gear selection cable broke) completing the top six.
Early in the race top Mothers 996 Cup competitor High Gardiner held got as high as eighth as he split the 997 Cup cars of Shane McKillen and Andrew Bagnall but at the line it was Bagnall in seventh place, McKillen eighth and Gardiner ninth.
Second Mothers 996 Cup competitor and category points leader Simon McLennan was tenth with usual sparring partner Simon Evans not far behind in eleventh.
Race 1 (The Mad Butcher Mini Enduro Saturday 100km 38 laps)
It was slick work in the pits which made the big difference in the weekend's first Battery Town series race on Saturday afternoon, Matt Halliday turning the tables on Craig Baird and David Reynolds in the 38-lap double-points/$10,000 prize money The Mad Butcher-sponsored curtain-raiser.
Baird got the jump on Reynolds off the line but come the race's compulsory pit stop - in which two crew members must change two tyres - the advantage swung Halliday's way.
Baird was the first of the front-running trio to take his pit stop with Reynolds and Halliday following soon after.
When they returned to the track however the order was Halliday, Reynolds and Baird, Halliday retaining the advantage until the chequered flag.
Reynolds closed what at one stage was a three second gap to less than a second in the closing laps but didn't get quite close enough to deny Halliday his second win of the 2009/10 Battery Town season.
Baird in turn circulated in third place, eventually crossing the finish line just over 18 seconds behind Reynolds but with a safe 21 second break back to the first of his other Triple X Motorsport teammates, Daniel Gaunt, who in turn had a comfortable buffer over Halliday's International Motorsport teammate Jonny Reid and Courtney Letica.
Behind Reid and Letica came Triple X Motorsport team boss Shane McKillen followed by the first of the Mothers 996 Cup runners, Hugh Gardiner.
Gardiner had the edge over fellow Mothers 996 Cup category (for older 996 model GT3 Cup cars) drivers Simon Evans, Simon McLennan, Colin Caldwell and series debutant Allan Dippie in qualifying and was again acut above them in the race, splitting 997 drivers McKillen and Andrew Bagnall in the finishing order