The weekend’s Highlands 101 race at Cromwell delivered the ultimate result for Mataura’s Inky (Ian) Tulloch and Nelson’s John McIntyre – finishing first Kiwi team home in a field overflowing with Australian GT competitors.
Adding more silverware to their 2015 season of endurance car racing using the German built SaReNi Reiter Camaro GT3, the wholly New Zealand based team were elated to finish with the lucrative title. It is the second successive time they have done so.
Against high specification GT cars contesting the only New Zealand round in the Australasia series, the team had to thread their car in to a mix of professional drivers for the three-hour race.
For team owner and driver Inky Tulloch, it was the overcoming of adversity in the early stages of the race that made the victory so much sweeter: “While we were surprised how much better the cars were at the track this year it was being competitive and coming back from losing so much time at the start of the race that made the win special.
“Consistency was a big factor at getting us that result too – keeping to our plan and working as a team. We were racing with the absolute very best cars and teams Australasia has to offer. The team, across our New Zealand campaign, has learned to expect absolutely every scenario.”
“That was our strength,” said driver John McIntyre “That we’ve now spent a season together as a team competing at endurance events – and dealt with so many scenarios. Even though it was our only event at Highlands for the year we still had a lot of learning to do in a little time. It’s a real commitment track and having a team that works so well together makes tackling the challenges so much easier.”
Of the 31 starters the team finished 14th overall, against a line-up that included race winners Shane van Gisbergen and Kark Quinn driving a McLaren 650S GT3. Many of the leading cars were of the later FIA GT3 specification, including the winning car, the Audi R8 Ultra of second placed Christopher Mies and Ryan Millier, plus the Roger Lago and David Russell Lamborghini, in fifth.
Adding a twist to the typical race start scenario at the starter signal the team’s second driver runs a pre-set distance to the car and has to remove a tethered ribbon before the car can leave.
“At the signal I did the run to the car, and even passed some people as I got closer. By the time I got to the car I had too much momentum and at the first grab missed the ribbon. Thinking I had the ribbon the team unfortunately gave the signal for Inky to go, as I reached for a second grab it was too late – the car was gone,” explained McIntyre.
Incurring a drive-through penalty a second handicap was delivered when, on cold tyres, Tulloch spun the car coming on to the front straight – narrowly missing the trackside concrete walling.
Then swamped by the faster GT cars muscling past it took a number of laps before Tulloch got a clear run to begin a quiet campaign and unleash the potential of the car.
The team elected to pit for the driver change on the 47th lap. Finding a problem with the in-car jacking system they pitted again shortly after for the tyre change and a fuel top-up.
“That ended up being a very smart decision later in the race and while I had to conserve fuel for a few laps it meant we were in a strong position for the finish – particularly when there were a few safety car periods. Not needing to pit in those latter stages meant we didn’t lose any further time and I could really press on – particularly with the fuel level being in our favour.
“We played out our endurance race tactic to get to the end of the race – being there to collect that first Kiwi title,” added McIntyre.
“We treated it like the endurance race that it was and were happy with the car – it was the strongest run we’ve had all season – it ran faultlessly from the first session right through to the end of the race – like a well-built German clock.”
Sunday’s result added to the 2015 North Island Endurance race the team won in July – collecting victories at both ends of the season.