GT rac­ing tak­ing off

Motor Equipment News - - DIESEL INDUSTRY NEWS -

GT rac­ing is tak­ing off, around the world, and now in New Zealand. Cool cars are a large part of the at­trac­tion – Fer­raris, Lam­borgh­i­nis, As­ton Martins, Porsches, Audis, even Bent­leys.

The World En­durance Cham­pi­onship, which takes in Le Mans, in­cludes GT cat­e­gories, and the Blanc­pain GT se­ries is big in Europe. Closer to home, the Aus­tralian GT cham­pi­onship is boom­ing – and it in­cludes one round in New Zealand this year, then two next year. Also in Aus­tralia, the Bathurst 12-hour race is now huge, with in­ter­na­tional driv­ers clam­our­ing for seats there.

In New Zealand, the GTs ap­pear mostly in en­durance rac­ing, which has steadily be­come a sig­nif­i­cant part of our mo­tor rac­ing land­scape. For some time there have been sep­a­rate en­durance se­ries – mainly for races about three hours long – in the North and South Is­lands, run­ning un­der dif­fer­ent rules. This year the two se­ries are run­ning to the same rules, and an of­fi­cial NZ en­durance cham­pi­onship will be staged as a one­off event in March.

The 2015 Mahin­dra North Is­land En­durance Se­ries has been run over three rounds, at Taupo, Hamp­ton Downs and Pukekohe. Triple NZV8 cham­pion John McIntyre and his ex­pe­ri­enced co­driver Ian “Inky” Tul­loch won the se­ries with two vic­to­ries and one sec­ond plac­ing in Tul­loch’s 8-litre Chev Ca­maro, pre­pared for rac­ing by a Ger­man com­pany.

The Kiwi en­durance races cater for a va­ri­ety of cat­e­gories, but the premier class is for cars rac­ing un­der FIA GT3 reg­u­la­tions. This seems to be a very suc­cess­ful for­mula, al­low­ing a big va­ri­ety of cars to com­pete on more or less equal terms. At Pukekohe McIntyre and Tul­loch took vic­tory by less than five sec­onds from a Fer­rari with less than half the en­gine ca­pac­ity of the Ca­maro.

Be­fore the Pukekohe race the Tul­loch team had to work till 2am to change the Ca­maro to meet noise re­stric­tions that had not ap­plied at the other two cir­cuits. Tul­loch started the race and en­coun­tered four safety car pe­ri­ods dur­ing his stint be­fore hand­ing over to McIntyre af­ter the half­way mark.

“Fact is, Inky stretched the car’s fuel out past where I could com­plete the race with­out need­ing to stop,” said McIntyre. “The one-stop strat­egy gave us the best chance at be­ing com­pet­i­tive at the fin­ish with­out need­ing to take risks.”

Need­ing to fin­ish ahead of the re­li­able and po­tent DeVeth-Smith V8 Su­perTourer (which is not a GT3 car) to take the se­ries ti­tle, the Tul­loch Motorsport team stuck to their race strat­egy de­spite a late safety car pe­riod that bunched up the field be­hind them.

In­creas­ing sun strike, plus the need to deal with slow cars strug­gling to make their way round the track, made the fi­nal part of the race ex­tra hard.

“It was a risk game I had to min­imise the odds on – so I dropped the pace to im­prove our chances of fin­ish­ing,” McIntyre ex­plained. The Fer­rari 430 Chal­lenge of Jono Lester and Graeme Smyth came sec­ond, while third went to Deveth and Smith.

“To­day was a hard-fought re­sult,” McIntyre said. “Get­ting the race win against such world-class ma­chin­ery while driv­ing such a spe­cial car was a real buzz. It was a tough se­ries with hard com­pe­ti­tion – and we over­came all of that as a team. En­durance rac­ing is here to stay and if you’re go­ing to be suc­cess­ful you have to have a good car and a good team.”

Driv­ers and fans alike re­ally like the GTs, McIntyre says.

“Any of the GT3-spec cars are cool – it’s the sort of thing to be driv­ing at the mo­ment re­ally,” he said. “Ev­ery­one who drives them loves them be­cause they just do ev­ery­thing right. Round the world it’s re­ally gain­ing a lot of mo­men­tum.

“Peo­ple see these cars in rac­ing games and on TV – as the elite and cars to as­pire to – and here we are, rac­ing them in their backyard. It is start­ing to get peo­ple’s in­ter­est – to see what they are at in the vir­tual world here in the flesh. It is def­i­nitely a new era of rac­ing here in New Zealand.”

Jono Lester, who also races GTs in Aus­tralia, started the fi­nal race un­der a sub­stan­tial hand­i­cap as the Trass Fam­ily Motorsport team’s GT3 Fer­rari 458 Italia suf­fered an en­gine fail­ure in prac­tice and they had to switch to their sec­ond car, a Fer­rari 430 Chal­lenge.

“We didn’t ex­pect the Chal­lenge

En­durance rac­ing can still be close – the McIn­tyre-Tullch Ca­maro leads a bunch at Pukekohe

The Lester-Smyth Fer­rari 430 Challenge runs side-by-side with the Bagnall-Arm­strong Audi R8 at Pukekohe

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