Scott O’Donnell and Allan Dippie, driving a Porsche 997 Cup S, snatched a dramatic victory in the opening round of the ASKO Endurance Three Hour Series at Teretonga Park Invercargill on Saturday. The team did nearly a complete lap with the bonnet up early in the race after an unintentional nudge with another competitor broke their bonnet pins, yet they managed to come back from multiple laps down to steal victory from the George & Angus McFarlane Porsche 997 Cup R who punctured whilst leading the race a heartbreaking 2 laps from the end.
The 3hr race drama started during testing on Friday when Inky Tulloch slid off a wet Teretonga track and had a hard hit with the unforgiving circuit walls. The magnificent SaReNi Camaro was heavily damaged and although Tulloch was uninjured, the car was immediately ruled out of the weekends racing. In true southern style and with all teams looking to maximize their points opportunities and chances of qualifying for the NZ Endurance Championship, the Tulloch Motorsport team headed away to dig their older Integra out of the barn to at least score the bonus points for starting the 3hr race.
The stunning Audi R8 LMS Ultra of defending Series and NZ champion Andrew Bagnall & Rick Armstrong snatched pole position after the two wet qualifying sessions ahead of the Falcon V8 Supercar of Matt & Dwayne Carter. However qualifying was also interrupted as the V8 SuperTourer Commodore of Simon McLennan & Richard Moore found the gravel trap and was resultantly bumped back from grid position 3 back to position 6 for the race start, for causing a red flag in qualifying.
That was just a start of how dramatic the weekend would be for teams and it continued from the very first corner of the race. Although the thumping Cater/Carter V8 Supercar won the front row drag race into turn One, it was the McLennan/Moore SuperTourer that drove around the outside of everyone to go from sixth to first as the field came out of the notorious Teretonga turn One sweeper for the first time.
More drama ensued on lap 2 with a coming together between the Bagnall/Armstrong Audi and the Cater/Carter V8 Supercar which resulted in both cars off track and the Audi looking to have suffered suspension damage as it ground its way back to pit lane.
The first 20 minutes also seen the demise of two of the Class 1 (3501cc+) favorites with the Corvette C6R of Bruce Davidson & Dave Garden the first to suffer engine damage, quickly followed by the Supra powered Toyota 86 of Craig & Scotty McDermid succumbing to similar issues. Great work by the International Motorsport team seen them repair the Audi only losing about 20 minutes, however soon after rejoining the race it was again off track, this time making reasonable contact with the unforgiving circuit walls and forcing it to join the growing list of retirements with merely 30 minutes of the race gone.
The McLennan/Moore SuperTourer lead the entire first half of the race and when the Barry Moore/Rob Gjaja/Tim Mackersy Honda Civic lost a wheel just before the half way point it looked like a masterstroke as the M2 Motorsport team pitted during the resulting safety car for their only scheduled stop. However in similarity to the rest of the race drama the SuperTourer’s battery had failed and the team also lost laps while this was replaced.
The lead then swapped between the Cater/Carter V8 Supercar and the McFarlane/McFarlane Porsche however both had struck issues, the Carters with a puncture and the McFarlane’s with a fuel issue. Meanwhile the McLennan/Moore SuperTourer had snuck its way back towards the top assisted by another two safety car periods in quick succession, the first for the Porsche 997 GT3 of Sam Fillmore & Danny Stutterd who had a high speed trip to the gravel trap after a puncture. Soon after the race resumed it was the John Wadsworth & Warren Croft MRX built Chevy Cruise that slipped off the circuit near the hairpin and was another car heavily damaged against the nasty Teretonga tyre walls. The shunt was severe enough for the diff to puncture the fuel tank resulting in a spectacular but thankfully short fire to run salt into the wound for this car on debut.
The race finally seemed to be settling down and it was looking to be a great battle between the McFarlane/McFarlane Porsche and the Cater/Carter V8 Supercar as they swapped for the lead and with each intervention the safety car helping the SuperTourer claw back the lost laps. However the twists were far from finished as the Fillmore/Stutterd Porsche rejoined the field but lasted less than a lap before the steering rack broke and the safety car was again required to extract it from a gravel trap and into final retirement. Through all this the McLennan/Moore SuperTourer had regained the lead and was in a great battle with the McFarlane/McFarlane Porsche with the Supercar not far behind. However when the Cater/Carter V8 Supercar punctured it looked like leaving just a two horse race, yet the twists never seemed to stop and the McLennan/Moore SuperTourer was soon in trouble as the left rear wheel come adrift with broken wheel studs. Although they car made it back to the pits, this effectively eliminating the car from the race however in a strategic move they managed to cross the finish line to still score valuable championship points.
Another puncture late in the race for the Cater/Carter V8 Supercar looked like the final twist that had all but gifted the race win to the McFarlane/McFarlane Porsche and this also let the Dippie/O’Donnell Porsche, who had been steadily making a comeback after its early race altercation, just sneak past the Supercar and up into second place. However in a final & heartbreaking twist the McFarlane car punctured with a mere 2 laps to run and after a stop to change the offending tyre dropped them to third letting the Dippie/O’Donnell Porsche slip through to snatch the race victory in what was a highly dramatic race finish.
After a roller-coaster race for all the teams, the top 3 cars eventually all finished on the same lap, although a few ahead of the fourth overall but Class 1 (3501cc+) winning RX7 V8 of Hamish Frew & Darryl Barrett and then the quiet achieving Integra of Inky Tulloch & John McIntyre who were handsomely rewarded for their efforts with a fine fifth outright and the Class 2 (2001-3500cc) win.
Graeme Rhodes & Paul Rickerby finished sixth overall and second on Class 1 in their RX7 V8, ahead of the Class 2 podium cars of Shane Helms (BMW M3 Turbo) and Jim Wallace & Stephen Grellet (Seat Leon Supercopa) who finished one place and one lap apart in seventh and eight respectively. Ninth overall was the McLennan/Moore SuperTourer who limped across the line a place ahead of the only team to have a drama free weekend with the ever reliable Peugeot 106 of Ken Sinclair & Mike Ham, who claimed an outstanding tenth overall and Round One class honors in the Class 3&4 (0-2000cc).
The series now moves to Powerbuilt Ruapuna, Christchurch on 3 October before the Series Grand finale at Levels Raceway, Timaru where the overall 3 Hour Series champion will be awarded the South Canterbury Toyota Cup.
The series is supported by naming sponsor ASKO Appliances along with series sponsors Mobil 1, Armstrong Prestige, Carters Tyre Services, Hagley Windows and doors and Pacific Invoice Finance thanks to whom there is a significant prize money pool of over $30,000 to pay out to series competitors. There is also a magnificent Norm Sinclair original painting valued around $10,000 and a set of new Michelin tyres, that will both be given away as a spot prizes and again giving the series NZ’s biggest prize and prizemoney package.”
There are still entry spots available for the 3 hour race at Ruapuna and due to the high attrition rate at the season opener, there is still a high chance the latecomers can still qualify for the prestigious NZ Endurance Championships. For more information on the South Island Endurance Series, entries, or to be added to the South Island Endurance Racing Drivers Club’s e-mailing list, please contact Chris Dunn via e-mail at email@example.com ph 021-107-9293. Club information can also be found on facebook at www.facebook.com/sierdc, for more information on the series sponsor ASKO, please visit www.asko.co.nz