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Pirelli Porsche Race Series – Round Six

After a tumultuous and incident filled round at Pukekohe we were all looking forward to a less dramatic event at Hampton Downs. Chris Barendregt had organised another popular one-day meeting for us, with qualifying, and three races all on the Saturday. The Friday practice session was well patronised as all the drivers were preparing for a close contest.

One of our series sponsors, Sotheby’s, had generously provided catering for our Saturday lunch in one of the upstairs hospitality suites and all Porsche supporters were welcomed. It was good to see some previous Porsche racers visiting us up in that suite. Greg Taylor, Brian McGovern, Nigel Cagiou and Neil Dewar all dropped in to see how we were getting on.

We were delighted to welcome a new driver to our series. Steve Sullivan from Nelson joined us with his 991 Cup car and is intending to do a lot more races with us. After not seeing long-time campaigner Dave Allison for a while, we also welcomed him back for this round in a nicely prepared 944S2.

With rain showers passing across the track none of the drivers were sure about what tyres to put on for the early morning qualifying session. The conditions were frustratingly close to being dry but there was still residual dampness on the track surface. I was talking to Boxster driver Iain Hill about tyres for these conditions and after looking at the track surface I sagely advised him to put on dry tyres. My reasoning was that the track would dry quickly once the cars were circulating. Fortunately, Iain is way too smart to listen to my advice and he chose to go out on wet tyres. The wets proved to be absolutely the right choice. Some of the other Boxster drivers who chose the dry tyre option, said they were amazed as they watched Iain practically drive around the outside of them as they slithered around trying to get heat in their harder dry tyres. Iain triumphantly claimed the Boxster pole position in front of Noel Simpson, followed by Kelly McEwan and Grant Biggar.

At the front of the field, Steve Sullivan marked his first round with us by putting his car on outright pole. Beside him was Regan Scoullar. On the second row behind them was the Wellington driver Ethan Hourigan in his Cayman GT4 and Cam McCormack in his 996 Cup car.

Race One
Once again the choice of tyres was the major talking point prior to the first race as rain showers kept passing over. To make conditions just that little bit more difficult, a Formula 5000 competitor had been circulating prior to our race and spread almost the entire contents of their oil sump around the full length of the track. The ominous combination of the oil and a damp track had a few drivers looking even more wide-eyed and nervous than usual.

Steve Sullivan was about to experience his first ever standing start in his Cup car. Steve is an experienced racer but has only ever had rolling starts in his 991 up until our race.

As the lights went out Steve went for the safe option of lots of revs and plenty of wheelspin in order to avoid a potentially catastrophic stall. This gave Regan Scoullar the chance to get away cleanly and he led the pack into the first corner.

This was a lead Regan wouldn’t relinquish, despite Steve setting a faster lap time behind him during the race. Following Regan and Steve, Cam McCormack came home in third place, then Ethan Hourigan in his Cayman. Next were Daniel Angus and Jim McKernan in their 996 Cup cars.

Despite the brilliant qualifying performance by Iain Hill he couldn’t quite capitalise on his starting position amongst the Boxsters and had to relinquish his prime position to Noel Simpson who added to his healthy points swag at the head of the field with another first. Noel was followed past the chequered flag by Mark McCaughan, then Iain, followed by Rhys Warren, Grant Biggar and Chris Taylor.

Race Two
A much less complicated weather picture meant a straight-forward choice of dry tyres for everyone for the start of race two. Also, the starting grid had been reformatted by drivers who had set improved lap times during the first race. Robert Dong had moved up to the outright pole position and Regan was now beside him on the front row. Robert had chosen wet tyres for the first race which suited the damp conditions better than the slicks the other drivers chose.

The dry conditions for this race were much more suited to Regan’s set-up and tyre combination and after the lights went out, he set about establishing a commanding lead over Steve Sullivan, eventually finishing 19 seconds ahead and posting some very fast lap times. Ethan Hourigan put on another skillful performance in his Cayman to finish third, followed by Daniel Angus and Robert Dong.

Once again, Noel Simpson claimed the Boxster class victory with Mark McCaughan grabbing another impressive second place. They were followed across the line by Chris Taylor and Symon Thurlow. Symon was delighted to get one of his personal best finishes in fourth place.

Race Three
This was another of our 30-minute races which involve a compulsory pit stop for all the classes except the Boxsters. The Boxsters are required to do a pit drive-through, but don’t have to come to a complete stop. The pit stops can be strategically positioned to take advantage of a safety car, or they can be used tactically to split up a battling group and give a driver some clear track space.

Regan Scoullar was now starting off from the pole position because he set the new fastest lap time in race two. He stormed away at the start and set about establishing a healthy margin over the rest of the field. Regan and his crew knew they had a longer pit stop to serve and he would need to get a big gap on the other Cup cars to offset that longer pit-stop time he had been allocated. Despite Regan putting in some very fast lap times he was not able to overcome his handicap time and the race was won by Cam McCormack in his older 996 Cup car. Cam has made a specialty of these races and skillfully puts down consistent lap times to get the best result from the handicap system. Just three seconds behind Cam was Steve Sullivan followed by Regan, then Daniel Angus and Steff Chambers.

Noel Simpson was the first Boxster to take the chequered flag followed by our second-place specialist Kelly McEwan, who had worked his way through the field to reclaim his customary finishing position. Chris Taylor kept his championship points chase alive by finishing third in the Boxster class.

Driver of the Round
We had some catching up to do with these trophies. We were presenting trophies from our previous rounds at Hampton Downs, Highlands, Ruapuna, and Pukekohe. These were presented by representatives of our valued sponsors, Daniel Angus from Kensway, Scarlett from Sotheby’s and Richard Norris from Rapid Dry Towels.

Congratulations to our trophy winners; Neville Chandler (Hampton Downs), Kelly McEwan (Highlands) Regan Scoullar (Ruapuna) and Robert Dong (Pukekohe).

These trophies are custom made by Brent Greer and always become treasured possessions for the recipients.

Once again, our huge thanks to Sotheby’s for hosting this occasion. It’s great to have you onboard with our series.