NZ GT3: Series Hamilton Sunday notes

VINCENT STEPS UP TO CLAIM HIS FIRST BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE RACE VICTORY IN HAMILTON It all came right for Pukekohe driver Jody Vincent on the second day of competition at the Hamilton 400 V8 Supercar meeting on Sunday, the 26-year-old claiming his...

VINCENT STEPS UP TO CLAIM HIS FIRST BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE RACE VICTORY IN HAMILTON

It all came right for Pukekohe driver Jody Vincent on the second day of competition at the Hamilton 400 V8 Supercar meeting on Sunday, the 26-year-old claiming his debut win with an impressive lights-to-flag victory in the final reverse top six grid race of the Trophy round weekend over Daniel Gaunt and Mark Russ.

Series regular Vincent has always been one of the top locally-based drivers competing in the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship series. And he has definitely been in the position - particularly in the reverse grid third races, most recently at the final championship round at Pukekohe - to claim a win before.

But each time, something has gone wrong.

This time nothing did. And the long-time Porsche GT3 Cup series racer was still trying to come to terms with the fact as he was surrounded by well-wishers in the International Motorsport compound immediately afterwards.

"To win the last race of the season in front of such a large crowd? It's fantastic. Just fantastic. I knew, once I was in front and pulling away, that a win, obviously, was on the cards, but I've been there so many times before that part of me was thinking what's going to happen this time? I tried to forget about it and just drive my own race but it was always in the back of my mind," he admitted.

Though a first corner tangle took out fastest qualifier and first race winner Craig Baird (who started from P6 on the grid) and slowed series guest driver John McIntyre, Vincent put on a copybook display of fast, controlled driving to first establish then maintain a lead he would never lose over former singe-seater ace and reigning New Zealand Grand Prix champion Daniel Gaunt, and the first of the category's young guns, Mark Russ.

With Baird's car squeezed into the wall when John McIntyre and Courtney Letica collided exiting the first corner, the Safety Car was deployed for two laps so that the Baird car could be removed, and when the Safety Car returned to the pits Vincent also got the best of the restart leaving Gaunt to fend off Vincent's fellow front row starter Mark Russ.

Like Vincent, Russ was enjoying his strongest run of the season, trying everything he knew to force Gaunt into a mistake.

Gaunt, however, is made of sterner stuff and despite several serious looking lockups held second place to the flag.

"The bumps round here are certainly tricky in one of these cars, particularly when you are under pressure " the 24-year-old said of his often wild ride round the 3.4 km downtown Hamilton circuit. "It didn't help of course that I'd spent the weekend playing catchup after getting caught out by the red flag in qualifying. All credit to Jody though. If I had been in the position to put my head down and chase him I might have been able to go with him but he certainly had some pace and all year long he's somehow been able to save up and have genuine pace in these third races so the win was well-deserved."

With the victory Vincent became just the fourth Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge race winner this season, joining series champion Craig Baird, Baird's Triple X Motorsport teammate David Reynolds (racing a V8 Supercar this weekend) and Vincent's International Motorsport teammate Jono Lester.

Lester could not quite match the pace in the final that he showed in qualifying and the first two races, where he was second only to Baird, but fourth place behind Vincent, Gaunt and Russ was enough to give him the round win from Gaunt and Vincent.

Vincent qualified fifth then finished the first race of the weekend in fifth position but found himself on the back foot in the second race when his car started overheating and he was forced into the pits.

Ironically it was his seventh place finish in the second race which combined with his fifth in the first which gave him pole for the reverse top six grid final, opening the way for his breakthrough win in the third.

Another driver to enjoy a better run in the final race was Ant Pedersen who broke a driveshaft in the second race but forced his way from P10 on the grid to fifth in the final, setting the fastest race lap in the process as he pulled away from Courteny Letica and closed in on Lester who he harrowed to the flag.

And what did guest driver John McIntyre think of his return to the Battery Town Porsche GT3 ranks?

McIntyre was initially credited with the second quickest time in qualifying but was demoted a spot for bringing out the red flag late in the session as he tried to go even faster.

He then spent the best part of both Saturday races playing catchup only to get caught up with Baird and Letica in the final and have to pit for a new left rear tyre while the Safety Car was on the track.

Not quite the result he wanted. But it certainly had the NZV8s class front-runner thinking.

"They're a real race car, "he said of the 997 GT3 Cup car he drove for the Triple X Motorsport team "You've got to be on it all the time and as the weekend went on I probably got more confused between the V8 and the Porsche. With the V8, if you like, you've got to stroke it along whereas with the Porsche there's a lot more intensity and a lot more equipment which you can use hard so I think that though they are rear engined, grip-wise and brake-wise they've got more in common with a V8 Supercar than my car."

And Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champion Craig Baird?

The man who has been the dominant figure in the Porsche GT3 Cup class racing on both sides of the Tasman for the past five years has never been a great fan of the reverse top six format for the final race and it certainly didn't do him any favours on Sunday.

"I got a blinder start to get between John McIntyre and Daniel Gaunt and then tried to make up another spot -- went wide -- no problem --but where the kink is in the wall I got squeezed where it is a bit rounded and it broke something in the front, "he explained.

Though he regretted what happened Baird said he was going for position: "It's not a place I would have positioned myself if it were a championship round. I was trying to make up four spots by turn one and put myself in a vulnerable position and paid the price.

-credit: nz gt3

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Series Road racing
Drivers Craig Baird , John McIntyre , Daniel Gaunt , David Reynolds , Ant Pedersen , Jono Lester