NZ GT3: Series Taupo Saturday notes

EXPERIENCE TELLS AS HALLIDAY AND LESTER SHARE FIRST PORSCHE GT3 ENDURO RACE WIN AT TAUPO Experience told in the first 50 minute endurance race of the weekend at the Trophy round of the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge at the A1GP meeting...


Experience told in the first 50 minute endurance race of the weekend at the Trophy round of the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge at the A1GP meeting at the Taupo Motorsport Park this afternoon with a lights-to-flag win for former series front-runner Matt Halliday and teammate Jono Lester.

Despite stiff competition in the early laps from Saturday sprint race winner Jody Vincent and fellow series young gun Mark Russ, Vodka 26000-backed international Halliday and co-driver Lester were only headed during the compulsory driver change and once back in the lead retained a comfortable margin - 24.743 at the flag - over second placed pairing Jody Vincent and Jonny Reid.

Before he and Reid joined New Zealand's A1GP team Halliday's focus was the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, and experience in that series - as well as in the five Bathurst 1000 endurance races he has competed in over the years - told today.

"You know how it is," he said as he returned to the International Motorsport pit after the race, "The key with these cars is looking after the tyres, especially in longer races like this one. We used to have 50 minute races like this - one driver - at Teretonga and I learned a lot about how to save your tyres from guys like Jimmy Richards and though I haven't been in one of these cars for a while it all came back today. We did it really easy at the start and I knew the guys behind me were really pushing. But I also knew that by doing that they'd be killing their tyres."

The only fly in the ointment was a five second penalty, handed down for a jumped start.

In a sprint race like the one this morning won by Jody Vincent, that might have mattered but not, as it turned out, in the 50 minute enduro.

Particularly after what was also arguably the fastest pit stop to change drivers, one which Halliday reckoned was as good as it gets.

"Again," he said. "that's something which comes with experience, particularly with teams like FPR. It's something I've practiced a lot and ours - from the in lap to handing over the Jono - was pretty much perfect."

Race one winner and enduro runner-up Jody Vincent could only agree, having lapped quicker than Halliday in the early laps of the race and with Jonny Reid behind the wheel remained a threat - should something have happened to the Halliday/Lester car - till the end.

"We were definitely doing quicker lap times than Matt early on but, you know, we lost something like 10 seconds on them when we pitted to put Jonny in the car, so, yeah, that's where the race was lost if you like."

Despite that Vincent was upbeat about the meeting. particularly his win in the first race.

"Yeah. About time," he laughed. "We actually won a race here last year but got pinged for a jump start so it was good to get that one and keep it!" Jody

Meanwhile third in today's 50 minute enduro was Wellington driver Darryn Henderson and good friend Aaron Slight, the former World Superbike Championship front runner making a seamless transition to four wheels.

"Yes " he said. "These cars are great, and you know, the sequential gearbox is a motorcyclist's dream. I only got the call to do this on Tuesday and I wasn't sure, but then I thought, why not? You don't get offers like this every day, especially here in New Zealand."

Slight set the fifth fastest lap time in his first time in the car in testing then the sixth fastest lap time in the second qualifying session and finished fourth in the first race.

That put he and car owner Henderson (who drove the first stint) on the third row of the grid beside endurance specialists Andrew Bagnall and Kevin Bell and Slight crossed the finish line in third place, just 1 minute 15.038 seconds behind Lester with the Bagnall/Bell car the only other one on the lead lap 11 seconds further adrift.

Also impressing on debut were teenage Formula Ford drivers Simon Evans and Matt Williams who shared the first of the older 996 Porsche GT3 Cup cars across the line in fifth place after a last lap pass on the 996 shared by Tim Martin and James Kirkpatrick.

Martin and Kirkpatrick led early on only to be slowed late in the race by a clutch problem, allowing Kirkpatrick to catch and get by with the chequered flag very much in sight.

Series young gun Mark Russ was part of a three car battle pack with Matt Halliday and Jody Vincent at the front of the field early in the race but teammate Shane van Gisbergen's sesssion was cut short when, on jinking out of the slipstream of the Vincent/Reid car heading into the sweeper, he collected a bundle of tyres marking the outside edge of the track and ended his race in one of the circuit's gravel traps.

Today's format will be repeated tomorrow with another sprint race in the morning followed by the second 50 minute two-driver enduro late in the afternoon.

-credit: gt3 nz

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Series Road racing
Drivers Aaron Slight , Andrew Bagnall , Jonny Reid , Simon Evans , Kevin Bell , Tim Martin , Shane van Gisbergen , Matt Halliday , Jono Lester
Teams Williams