Manfeild is always one of my favourite occasions. It’s an “away” event for most of the teams, even the Wellington based crews, so it’s a chance for everybody to socialise and get together in the evenings. Friday night saw several different bbq’s and gatherings where the main topic of conversation was racing and Porsches. For Saturday night, the hard working Phil Jones booked and organised a restaurant for us to gather and tell stories.
Watching the fast times being set during the Friday practice sessions gave us an inkling that we were going to be in for a close contest all the way through the field. Saturday morning’s short qualifying session proved that to be correct. We were joined for this round by Andrew Whittaker with his magnificent GT2 RS Clubsport and many picked Andrew to take the pole position, however Connor Adam had other ideas. He quickly established his grip on the fastest time with a very impressive 1.07 which was quicker by over a second.
The surprise of the morning was Brent Greer. Brent arrived late after practice on Friday night and hadn’t driven his Cup car for a couple of years. He amazed everyone with the third quickest qualifying time, joining Andrew Whittaker in the 1.08s. Also racing with us after a long absence was Keith Miller in his 997 Cup car who shook off the cob-webs to post an excellent 1.10.
Steff Chambers was quickest of the earlier model Cup cars and she asserted herself in front of Anthony Lyons, Phil Jones and Dave Allison. But, Steff has a modified and more powerful 996 (so is in a different class) which meant Anthony Lyons did a remarkable job qualifying as the fastest of the standard cars after not racing with us for so long.
Tony Patmore added some unique variety to the field and was pedalling his magnificent looking 964 around in flamboyant fashion. As we’ve come to expect, and look forward to, there was a tight contest amongst the 944s and Boxsters. Matthew Burton eventually topped the time sheets for his 944 group, followed by Neil Dewar and Daniel Angus, then Jim McKernan. It was a relief to see Daniel Angus finally complete a session without the mechanical dramas that plagued his previous weekend at Hampton Downs.
The Boxster boys were all posting similar times to each other, but the experienced Tony Houston got in the fastest lap, followed by Chris Barendregt, then Noel Simpson, Scott Bradley and Chris Taylor.
As the lights went out we were treated to the sight of a close drag race from the front two rows. Connor Adam got a great start and was followed into the first corner by Andrew Whittaker. An intriguing battle of cat and mouse ensued but after a couple of laps Andrew managed to slip past and hold his lead until the end. Brent Greer was shadowing these two until mechanical disaster struck and he was forced to pull over and park his car. Fortunately, Brent was able to coast well off the track to a safe spot which meant the racing could continue without a pace-car intervention.
Behind the front pair, Rob Dong and Struan Robertson were locked into a race-long contest with Robert crossing the finish line less than half a second in front of Struan.
Keith Miller tried to launch his Cup car off the line in third gear, so after a disastrous start he made a brilliant job of fighting his way back through the field to finish fifth overall and just 20 seconds behind the similar car of Struan Robertson. The 944s were exciting to watch as always. On pole position for that class was Matt Burton. Matt was obviously so impressed by Keith stalling in front of him, he also tried to start the race in third gear.
All the cars behind him managed to swerve around him and avoid the potential carnage but it meant Matt started dead last. When he finally got the engine re-started he set about forging his way past the cars in front of him and, remarkably, eventually crossed the finish line less than half a second behind the class winner, Neil Dewar. Behind this drama, the TV cameras were continually drawn to the sight of the Boxster squadron zooming and strafing each other. Many times we held our breath as we watched them go three wide into the corners. There was even a TV slow-mo replay of one of the Boxsters looking remarkably like a drift-car as it exited Higgins corner. Tony Houston eventually crossed the line first for another Boxster victory, followed by Chris Barendregt, then Scott Bradley, Noel Simpson and Chris Taylor.
Brent Greer had a very late night trying to fix a half shaft issue. He was able to replace the broken parts because Rob Dong had come to his rescue by generously lending him his car’s spares. Brent finished the repairs just in time to get his race overalls on to make the early morning start. At lights-out another close drag race ensued at the front between Connor Adam and Andrew Whittaker.
This time Andrew had the upper hand and he lead into the first corner, but was closely shadowed by Connor. Brent Greer also joined the fray with his freshly repaired car. The front two had a memorable battle with the lead changing a couple of times, until Andrew managed to hold onto a tiny gap at the front to cross the line as the winner of race two, with Brent Greer third. Robert Dong and Struan Robertson had another battle, but this time Robert finished with a more comfortable gap, two seconds ahead. Steff Chambers had a wild moment at the hairpin and found herself parked facing the wrong way and having to restart her 996 and then try and catch up again. This left Anthony Lyons leading the 996s in front of Phil Jones until Phil also had a spin. Phil gathered his composure very quickly and went after the other 996s. Despite that, he eventually finished second in class behind Anthony Lyons and in front of Dave Allison.
The 944s and Boxsters had a reverse grid start which always gives us some even more exciting racing than their scratch races. We watched Jim McKernan hold onto the lead for many laps until he made a tiny error and was pounced on by Neil Dewar and Matt Burton. Neil was pursued hard by Matt but held his nerve and crossed the line first for a well deserved 944 class victory.
There was even more excitement from the Boxster boys after their reverse grid start. Chris Barendregt was looking like a potential winner until he also found himself pointed in a direction that wasn’t helpful to his race position. He got going again but slipped back to last place in the process. Tony Houston used his race experience to work his way up into first place in class and, after much squabbling for track position, he was followed home by Noel Simpson, Chris Taylor and Scott Bradley.
Another close drag race ensued from the front row with Connor Adam getting the slightly better run and holding the inside position into turn one. However it wasn’t long before Andrew Whittaker used his horsepower advantage to outrun the Cup car down the back straight to seize the lead, a lead he was able hold onto until the chequered flag.
Brent Greer put in another highly credible performance to finish in third overall and matched the best lap times with the front pair. Our attention turned to the usual Dong v Robertson battle. This time Struan took the lead after Robert ran very wide after coming out of turn one and Struan held on to take a swag of points for that race.
Anthony Lyons took another well deserved 996 win over Dave Allison, and also the modified car of Steff Chambers, but we had the unfortunate sight of Phil Jones limping his 996 into the pits early with a puncture from debris left on the track from an earlier race. The 944s started their reverse grid race and this time Neil Dewar took the lead relatively early and held it until the end, despite having to fend off a determined Matt Burton.
The Boxster race threw up some less predictable results. Scott Bradley was delighted and excited to finish the weekend by taking the class win by a tiny margin over Chris Taylor, with Tony Houston only a couple of seconds back in third place. Chris Barendregt had another moment where his tyres didn’t accept the ambitious cornering speed demanded from them and it resulted in another wild slide. He eventually finished behind Noel Simpson.
We were delighted to be joined at Manfeild by a large contingent of Wellington region Porsche Club members who were able to watch all the fun out on the track. They also joined us for lunch on Sunday, which is where we announced the driver of the round award for the previous meeting at Hampton Downs. This went to Matthew Burton for his achievement of three race victories after intense competition from his fellow 944 racers.
The trophy was presented by Brent Greer who, for many years, has hand crafted these magnificent trophies for us. The round at Manfeild was covered by Spark Sport TV and you can watch two of our three races on-demand if you subscribe to their channel.