By Stuart Owers
This was one of the strangest Pirelli Porsche rounds I’ve attended. The Covid sweeping through the country meant that the event organisers had to take some extreme measures to isolate each racing group and keep everyone apart. We were lucky to have our very pro-active Chris Barendrecht getting in early to book prime position garages for our Porsches and help work through all the organiser’s many issues. Anybody not driving or directly crewing on a car was not allowed access through the gates and names were checked at the entry by security guards. Ironically and rather humorously, despite that, we probably had quite healthy spectator numbers because of the Covid testing stations set up on the grass hill above “The Mountain”. Many cars paused after their test to watch in bemusement as our maniacs scorched around in their Porsches searching for that elusive half a second.
Despite all the organisational restrictions our drivers were excited about the prospect of racing on the old track configuration. The “new” chicane section was going to be bypassed and the original long back straight was back in use. This was the first time many of the drivers had experienced this legendary back straight.
Outright pole position was a forgone conclusion for Robert Dong. He had brought along the only 997 Cup car to the field. His rival, Struan Robertson, couldn’t make the meeting so we were denied the treat of watching the two Cup cars duelling it out at the front of the pack. In fact 911s where thin on the ground, but all of them came up from Wellington. Brent Greer had towed his beautiful air cooled car there and he was joined by a car we haven’t seen with us for a while. Tony Patmore brought up his beautiful and heavily modified 1991 Carrera. Tony’s car started life in NZ as a Japanese import tiptronic, but now looks like a factory race car with its wide body conversion and a 3.8 litre motor squeezed in under the rear tail. Daniel Angus also made the trip with his striking looking 996 Cup car.
The closest contest was going to be between the four 944s and the big field of Boxsters. For the 944s, Matt Burton set the qualifying benchmark but was closely shadowed by Neil Dewar. Jim McKernan was third and was looking a lot happier and faster after a number of mechanical issues had been sorted out from the previous round. Gerry Kessels also joined us and looked like he was enjoying his run along the big back straight. The Boxster times were tight.
Noel Simpson had the strategy to go hard early in the session and he posted fast times immediately. However, Chris Taylor built up to an unbeatable time and eventually claimed the Boxster pole from Noel.
Third was last season’s champion, Scott Bradley, followed by David Mackrell, Tony Houston, Chris Barendregt, Rhys Warren, Regan Scoullar, Kelly McEwan, Steven Fang, Nick Cutfield, Grant Biggar, Stephen Stokes and Guy Heaysman.
As the lights went out for the start Brent Greer timed everything perfectly and he got in front of Rob Dong’s 997 and lead the entire field down the long back straight. Despite Rob’s slow start he was eventually able to put his superior straight line handling to good use and cruise past Brent along the back straight. Daniel Angus and Tony Patmore had a close tussle for many laps with Daniel finally getting the upper hand at the finish. Behind the 911s there was drama in both the 944 field and the Boxsters. The high speed back straight followed by a tight hairpin caught out Jim McKernan, Tony Houston and Gerry Kessels in separate incidents. This left just two 944s, Matthew Burton and Neil Dewar. Neil finished only one second behind Matt, but having only two cars in the class meant Matt and Neil were denied their full quota of points.
The Boxsters were great to watch, as usual. Noel Simpson got the best start and was able to use that advantage to create a safe gap at the front and lead the Boxsters home. Chris Taylor was second, David Mackrell third and Scott Bradley fourth.
Brent Greer got another perfect start and in a replica of the first race he lead the race until Rob wound up the rubber band on his Cup car and drove past down the long straight. Behind him Daniel Angus was getting used to the track and this time he also got the better of Brent to finish in second place overall.
We were treated to a good battle between Matthew Burton and Neil Dewar in their 944s. Neil made a great pass on Matt and hung on to win the class. The Boxsters were close as usual. David Mackrell and Scott Bradley had a good contest with Scott getting the upper hand this time and finishing third in front of David. In front of them, Noel Simpson had a handy lead and a win over the second placed Chris Taylor.
When the lights went out Robert finally got the right number of revs he needed for a fast start and this time he charged in to the first corner in first place. Daniel Angus was doing a good job in his older Cup car and he lead home the two air cooled cars of Brent Greer and Tony Patmore. Gerry Kessels withdrew his 944 from the final race which left just Matt Burton and Neil Dewar to debate over first and second place finishes. In the end Matt crossed the line with nearly a two second advantage.
Behind them, Noel Simpson was proving unbeatable in the Boxster class. He also had a nearly two second lead over an improving Scott Bradley. For this race Chris Taylor was relegated to third and behind him were David MacKrell, Kelly McEwan, Rhys Warren, Chris Barendregt, Steven Fang, Regan Scoular, Nick Cutfield, Grant Biggar and Guy Heaysman.
There was some conjecture that the other Boxster drivers were very graciously letting Noel Simpson win every race because it was his birthday on race day, but Noel is not giving any credence to that story. Because of the Covid restrictions at the track I wasn’t able to go up into the commentary area or the race official’s room. This meant that I could only get a brief glimpse of our cars as they flashed past the front straight and couldn’t watch what was happening on the rest of the circuit. My apologies for these rather brief race reports.
Driver of the Round. We presented the beautiful and very sought after custom made trophy to Daniel Angus for his dominant win of the enduro race at the previous round at Taupo. He won the race in a car that was new and unfamiliar to him and is vastly different to his old 944. Congratulations Daniel. Big thanks from all of us go to Brent Greer for making these fabulous trophies.