Aucklander’s dominated the opening round of the ASKO One Hour Endurance Series at Teretonga Park in Invercargill on Saturday by filling all 3 podium positions, with Hugh Gardiner’s Porsche 997 GT3 leading home the Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Neil Foster and the Porsche 997 GT3 of Sam Fillmore & Australian Danny Stutterd, these teams scoring first blood in both the highly competitive ASKO Series and the race to qualify for the NZ Endurance Championships.
Gardiner, also the race winner last year, had qualified fastest in his Porsche 997 GT3 and led the large and impressive field away. The race was punctuated by two early safety car periods within the opening 10 minutes as competitors negotiated their way through the treacherous damp conditions and spray. However Gardiner was soon was relegated down the field as he served a drive through penalty for passing under the yellow flags. Luckily for Gardiner the second placed car of Stutterd/Fillmore also received a drive through penalty, briefly handing the race lead to the impressive Honda S2000 turbo of Steve Parker/Matt Jackson who were reveling in the early damp conditions.
With all competitors required to undertake a compulsory pit stop during the race, and the track quickly drying out, it was Gardiner who was the first of the front runners to move from wet tyres to slicks in a bold move that proved decisive and allowed him to begin to claw back his deficit. With his early move to slicks and the remainder of the race being safety car free, this allowed Gardiner to carve his way back up the race order as his main competitors also all eventually moved to slick tyres. Gardiner came with one tenth of a second of the existing Teretonga One hour lap record and eventually finished one lap ahead of the Foster Audi R8 who managed to hold off the recovering Fillmore/Stutterd Porsche. The remainder of the top 6 positions were also filled with cars from the glitzy GT class, with Danny Whiting’s Porsche 991 GT3 coming home fourth with Tim O’Connor’s Ferrari 458 fifth, and the top 6 rounded out by Series regular Phil Hood’s Porsche 997 GT3.
Prominent retirements included the Porsche 996 GT3 of Barry Moore and the super quick AE86 V8 of Chris Henderson who had unrepairable alternator issues during qualifying, but did a solitary one lap in the race to ensure he received the championship points on offer for actually starting the race.
Gardiner took the GT class from Foster and Fillmore/Stutterd while Brian Scott’s Corvette C5 took victory in Class 1 (3501cc and above) after a faultless drive ahead of the Nissan Skyline GTR of Johnny Waldron and female competitor Vicki Curzon who shared the Super 6 spec Holden Commodore with husband Derek home just one overall position ahead of the Mike Paterson/Brent Hill Mercedes E430.
The extremely competitive Class 2 (2001cc-3500cc) was won by Pat and Ryan Heagney of Blenheim in a Toyota AE86 Turbo who finished in an impressive ninth place overall from the Parker/Jackson S2000 and Mike Driver who was having a troubled run but still managed a solid result in the Seat Leon Supercopa.
Class 3&4 (0-2000cc) was taken out by Grant Aitkens Toyota 86 just one place overall ahead of defending class champion Gary Pontings Honda Civic with Marc Dentons BMW 320i, after class favourite Stu Black’s Toyota Starlet suffered a big engine failure on lap 2 of qualifying.
The next round of the three round series takes place at Powerbuilt Ruapuna in Christchurch on 3 October.