By Stu Owers
The final round of the 2020/21 season was held in Taupo and there were many reasons to be looking forward to it. The tight and technical Taupo track is one of the best “driver’s” circuits in the country and we were going to be joined by the Rennsport group who were sharing the day with us. This was a Pirelli Porsche/Rennsport exclusive day with no other classes competing. The concept is the same as we pioneered recently and it gives our driver’s maximum track time during the one day event.
The three races for the Pirelli series drivers were interspersed with the different classes of the Rennsport group with a big allocation of time to get in lots of laps.
At stake for the racing drivers were the Porsche Motorsport Cup, the Pirelli Porsche Club championship, the Endurance Trophy and all the class awards. After the Hampton Downs round we still had many drivers still in contention for these three major trophies and several of the class championships were also still undecided and up for grabs.
One of the other features to look forward to was our end of season dinner and trophy presentation which is held at the Taupo track on the Saturday night after all the on-track action has finished.
Despite a gloomy forecast most of the rain had passed through overnight and the track was dry by the time 23 of our Pirelli Porsche race cars rolled out for their qualifying session early on Saturday morning. Connor Adam (997 Cup Car) immediately stamped his authority on the proceedings with an excellent pole time of 1.31.5 which, remarkably, he set very early in the session.
Kris Bostock and Robert Dong were trading similar times to each other as they competed for the other front row position, with Kris finally setting the better time and relegating Robert to the second row. Rejoining us for the season finale was Brent Greer who was fourth fastest, followed by Struan Robertson and Andrew Whitaker.
Brian McGovern in his 996 Cup Car was also back with us after missing a few rounds and he set a fast benchmark time for the 996’s ahead of Stef Chambers and Phil Jones.
Behind the cup cars, Marin Vujcich was at the head of the remaining 13 cars. He was the quickest of the 944 and Boxster group by a remarkable two seconds. Matt Burton and Peter Hardy were the next fastest and they were followed by Scott Bradley and Chris Barendregt in their Boxsters.
As we watched Kris Bostock scorch off the line and lead the field towards the first corner, we saw Andrew Whittaker sitting stationery on the grid. All the rest of the field poured around him and tried to avoid each other as they weaved about. The first part of the lap was chaotic as some cars had gained places from all the confusion and others had slipped back from their starting positions. Marin Vujcich was one of those who were shuffled back and Neil Dewar was tapped into a spin. At the front we watched Connor Adam stalking Kris Bostock for a couple of laps until he found a way to ease past. Behind them Brent Greer was matching lap times with Kris and kept the pressure on for the entire race, eventually crossing the finish line only a quarter of a second behind for third place. Andrew Whittaker managed to get his car rolling and worked his way back up to sixth place behind Robert Dong and Struan Robertson. Behind the Cup cars the Boxsters and the 944s were providing great entertainment, as we’ve come to expect. In previous rounds the 944s have been quicker than Boxsters, but the twisty Taupo layout suited the Boxster’s mid-engined configuration and both classes were setting similar lap times. Matt Burton, in his 944, eventually took the line honours for this large group, followed by Marin, Peter Hardy, then the first of the Boxsters driven by Scott Bradley. He was hotly pursued across the finish line by Chris Taylor, who was only half a second behind. Noel Simpson took the third place for the Boxster class, followed by Jim McKernan and Daniel Angus in their 944s.
This time, Connor Adam managed to get the better of Kris Bostock as the lights went out and he established a commanding lead early on. Kris drove himself into a secure second place and was able to watch the other Cup cars fighting for position behind him. Eventually, Struan Robertson forged his way to a well earned third place with Andrew Whittaker, Brent Greer and Robert Dong behind him. Brian McGovern had a comfortable win over the 996 Cup cars of Steff Chambers and Phil Jones. Once again, Marin Vujcich got off to a slow start but it gave us plenty of entertainment as he stalked and passed Peter Hardy, Neil Dewar, and then Matt Burton. Matt wasn’t content to let Marin drive off into the distance, so he pursued him hard for the remainder of the race with the gap between the two cars growing and closing repeatedly. The Boxster boys gave us their usual tight and exciting racing. At the start they were four wide at the first couple of corners and this style of determined duelling went on for the entire race. At the chequered flag we saw a delighted Chris Taylor take a well earned win, followed by Tony Houston and Scott Bradley. If you haven’t been to the track and watched these guys racing, you need to come and see them in action next season.
This was a thirty minute race which had a compulsory timed pit stop for all the cars, except the Boxsters who had a pit drive-through instead of a timed stop. The stop time for each class is based on the best lap time from the fastest car in each class. Those stop times ranged from 44 seconds for the 944s up to 3minutes and 40 seconds for the fastest Cup cars. On the warm-up lap we saw the sad sight of Brent Greer being pushed back into the pits. His brand new CV joint had exploded as he first put the power on. The grid spot reserved for Andrew Whittaker was also vacant as Andrew had withdrawn because of a gearbox issue. At the start of the race Connor Adam got another great start and did a vanishing act. He established a comfortable margin to all the other Cup cars as he tried to put in consistent fast lap times. There was a wide variety of strategies for the pit-stops and drive throughs. Struan Robertson was the first car to roll in for his timed stop. Other drivers might have been gambling on a safety car intervention because they left their stops until much later in the race. The last car to come in was the race leader, Connor Adam. He emerged from the pits back into the race to lead home Kris Bostock and Brian McGovern to the chequered flag. That top three were followed by Stef Chambers, Robert Dong, Marin Vujcich, Struan Robertson and then Phil Jones. Tony Houston was the first Boxster home, followed by Chris Barendregt and Scott Bradley. After the chequered flag fell and all the cars rolled into the pits, I was up in the control tower doing the final paperwork when I heard a roar of excited cheering and yahooing as crews and drivers realised the significance of the final race positions and their place in the overall championship. The biggest celebrations were from Robert Dong and Neil Dewar. Robert had just won the Endurance Cup and the Porsche Motorsport trophy, and Neil had just secured himself the Pirelli Porsche Championship title.
The Taupo track staff made an excellent job of setting up one of their large corporate areas as a dining venue and there was plenty of conversation and laughter from over 80 people as they sat down for dinner and drinks.
At the presentation the awards were as follows;
- Class Open A winner; Lochlainn Fitzgerald-Symes
- Class Open B winner; Steff Chambers
- Class A winner; Kris Bostock
- Class B winner; Robert Dong
- Class C winner; Dave Allison
- Class D winner; Tony Patmore
- Class E winner; Neil Dewar
- Class F winner; Scott Bradley
- Enduro Trophy Winner; Robert Dong
- Pirelli Porsche Motorsport Championship Winner; Robert Dong
- Pirelli Porsche Club Championship Winner; Neil Dewar.
Congratulations to all those worthy champions, but also, we must pay tribute to all their class competitors who were trying very hard not to let them win those treasured trophies. It’s a special moment in any competitive racing driver’s life to win a substantial trophy and all the competitors know how hard this is to do. It takes great sacrifice and determination to consistently win these races. There is a huge amount of background work and preparation that goes into each race weekend with dozens of small but important details to get right before the flag even drops on the first race. It’s a great lesson in problem solving, and often over-coming disappointment. All of this season’s drivers will have learnt a lot about themselves and how to cope with all the pressures competitive racing piles onto them. You also need help from many different areas. You cannot do this on your own. There is also a lot of fear and anxiety to conquer and deal with. This is character building stuff that puts many of life’s other stressful situations into perspective. If you can handle an adrenaline soaked, heart-pounding start of a Pirelli Porsche race, you can handle anything else life throws at you. There were some genuinely moving acceptance speeches at the prize giving, but the common theme was how much every driver had enjoyed the support and friendship from the other drivers and support crews. So, to all of the drivers in the class of 2020/21, not just the champions, we’re proud of you all.
Congratulations to each and every one of you. You will remember this season and the friends you have made for the rest of your lives.
The series our driver’s value so much wouldn’t be possible without the support of our generous sponsors. Please do all you can to support; Pirelli Tyres, Kensway, the Official Porsche Centres and of course, Continental Cars Tyre Centre.