NZ GT3: Series Taupo Sunday notes

YOUTH AND EXPERIENCE COMBINE TO TOP PORSCHE PODIUM AT TAUPO Youth and experience proved the winning combination in both Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge endurance races at the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport meeting at Taupo over the weekend,...


Youth and experience proved the winning combination in both Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge endurance races at the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport meeting at Taupo over the weekend, former series front-runner Matt Halliday flying in from the United States to share the winning 26000 Vodka-backed car with young gun Jono Lester.

The Halliday/Lester combination won both 50 minute endurance races at the meeting to top the overall round podium from Jody Vincent and Jonny Reid in the Koken Tools car and Darryn Henderson and former motorcycle ace Aaron Slight in the RadioSport/Samsung entry.

The Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup cars contested four races at the A1GP meeting, with a sprint race and a 50 minute enduro each day.

Victory in the sprint races was shared between Jody Vincent (Saturday's race) and V8 Supercar star Shane van Gisbergen (Sunday's) but both enduros belonged to Halliday and Lester.

Despite stiff early competition from both Vincent and fellow series young gun Mark Russ, Halliday and Lester were only headed during the compulsory driver change during Saturday's race, a lightning quick change only serving to underline their advantage.

Both Vincent and van Gisbergen forced their way past Halliday and dictated the early pace in Sunday's enduro only to clash as the pit window opened, van Gisbergen retiring a couple of corners later with a flat tyre and Vincent's co-driver Jonny Reid slowed when he took over the Koken car with the wheel alignment awry.

With the pressure off, Halliday was the able to hand over to usual car driver Lester confident in the knowledge that all other things being equal a second race win and with it the round trophy would be his and Lester's to share.

Afterwards Lester was full of praise not just for his co-driver but also for the slick pit work from his International Motorsport team.

"What can I say?" he said. "We put all our efforts into the two races that counted and we came away with the result. Our pit stops were fantastic - 16 seconds in that second race - and Matt's been good, really good, particularly in terms of set up and his know-how with the car. So really it made it easy for me to do my job, keeping my times within a couple of tenths and consolidating our position."

With a win in the first sprint race - his first in the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship, perennial hard charger Jody Vincent had reason to celebrate, despite not quite getting the win he and Reid were seeking in one of the endurance races.

He could also be proud of his confident performance at the front of the pack early in Sunday's enduro, withstanding huge and prolonged pressure from V8 Supercar star Shane van Gisbergen before eventually succumbing under brakes at the end of the Taupo circuit's long back straight.

That was enough for van Gisbergen though having been forced out of Saturday's enduro when he collected a track side marker and ended up in a gravel trap, then out of Sunday's by the flat tyre he had to be content with a win and fastest race lap in the sprint race earlier in the day.

It was quite some performance too, the 19-year-old former New Zealand Formula Ford champion and now works driver for Stone Brothers Racing in Australia, catching and passing a fast starting Darren Henderson before setting off and quickly catching and dispatching early race leader Halliday.

Once past Halliday he put his head down and pulled away, the margin at the line almost one-and-a-half seconds with Wellington businessman Henderson enjoying one of his most competitive outings to hold out Vincent and Christchurch's Kevin Bell.

Henderson and co-driver Aaron Slight produced arguably the biggest surprise of the weekend, Slight finishing an excellent fourth - after only minimal wheeltime - in Saturday's sprint race then proving the perfect lieutenant to a confident and quick Henderson in both enduros. Series veterans Andrew Bagnall and Kevin Bell were another pair to impress over a greater number of laps, finishing fourth in both enduros.

There was also recognition at the meeting for drivers of older 996 model GT3 Cup cars with the overall win in that category going to Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge regular Rob Steele and rookie co-driver Logan Sears.

There's was the third 996 home in Saturday's race behind the Tim Martin/James Kirkpatrick and Simon Evans/Matt Williams cars, and the second one home - behind the Williams/Evans car - in the second but a more consistent run in the two sprint races gave them the top step on the 996 podium for the round.

The Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship now reverts to its usual format for the penultimate 2008/09 series round at Manfeild at the end of February, the final at Pukekohe Park Raceway in March and a second non-championship Trophy round at the Hamilton V8 Supercar meeting in April.

-credit: nz gt3

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