Pirelli Porsche Race Series – Round Two
By Stuart Owers
Our Race Committee Chairman, Chris Barendregt, managed to book another popular one-day meeting for us for our second round of the series at Hampton Downs. Practice was on the Friday and racing was going to be on the Saturday, which meant we wouldn’t be able to hold our traditional Sunday lunch, so Steff Chambers, Robert Dong and Adrian Redding generously put on a BBQ for drivers and crew at the track on Friday evening. The schedule for Saturday was; qualifying, then two ten lap races and a 30-minute race. It was a busy day.
Joining us for the first time, for his first ever race, was Chris Young. Chris had done plenty of laps around Hampton Downs during track days, but this was going to be his first attempt at side-by-side racing. He was leasing a 944 from the team at LG Racing in Te-Awamutu.
After a week of heavy rain and blustery winds we were all surprised to see a dry track on Saturday morning. The competitive part of qualifying started while the cars were still parked in the pits. With a field of 29 cars, it was going to be difficult finding space out on the track for a “clean” lap. The problem was the same whether you were driving a 911 Cup car or a Boxster. So, the experienced drivers positioned themselves out in the pit lane early waiting for the green light in order to get at least one fast lap on the timing screens before the traffic clumped up into groups.
Once the session started there was an intriguing three-way battle at the top of the field for the outright pole position. Tony Austin and Andrew Whittaker set the early pace with Regan Scoullar waiting until near the end before putting in his best time. By the finish of the session Tony Austin had secured the pole with Regan Scoullar beside him on the front row. Andrew Whittaker and Struan Robertson filled the next row.
Fastest of the 996 Cup cars was Cam McCormack who was only slightly behind some of the 997 Cup cars. Daniel Angus qualified next fastest followed by Steff Chambers in her modified 996 (Open Class), then Robert Dong and Jim McKernan. Marin Vujcich was the quickest of the 944s ahead of Adrian Redding and Chris Young.
The Boxsters didn’t disappoint us, after we predicted some very close times. Once again it was last year’s champion Noel Simpson who stamped his authority on the front of the field with a very sharp time, but the order behind him was a little different to what we expected. Rhys Warren had returned to race with us after missing a lot of rounds and he put himself into second place behind Noel. He was followed by Steven Huipeng Fang, then Grant Biggar and Kelly McEwen.
Showing a lot of promise for just his second round with us was Neville Chandler who secured a commendable 7th place on the Boxster grid.
Our big field of Porsches rolled around to the starting grid with 29 hearts pumping quickly, plus my own heart pumping hard in the commentary booth, waiting for the lights to go out for the start. To my horror we had another incident of a front row car stalling as the race started. The last row of cars would be doing around 120km/hr by the time they reached the first grid spots so the potential for a huge crash was very real. To the credit of all the other drivers everyone managed to avoid the stationary car and the race got under way. The jumbled start unfortunately resulted in a turn-one incident which sadly put David Mackrell and Rhys Warren out for the rest of the weekend because of damage to their cars. The race was red flagged before a lap had been completed so the cars were re-formed on the grid to start again. The re-start was, thankfully, without incident. We could then sit back and enjoy an intense four-way battle at the front of the field between Austin, Whittaker, Scoullar and Robertson. The ultimate victor was Regan Scoullar who put on a thrilling display chasing Tony Austin hard for most of the race, until he eventually found a way past.
Behind them the Boxsters were putting on their usual display of close and exciting racing. Noel Simpson won with a comfortable margin in the end, but behind him Kelly McEwan was impressive. Kelly forged his way through the field from 5th to 2nd place at the finish. He was followed home by Grant Biggar for a well-deserved 3rd, which was Grant’s personal best result in the Class.
Another ten-lapper was in store, and we were all hoping for a cleaner start at the front of the field. This time, clearly because my fingers had been crossed for several minutes, we got the clean start I’d been wishing for. Another intense battle ensued between Tony Austin and Regan Scoullar. The two cars and the two drivers seemed evenly matched, so it was exciting to watch as they raced almost bumper to bumper. Once again Regan got the upper hand and he took the chequered flag in front of Tony, with Struan Robertson finishing in 3rd overall.
Cam McCormack comfortably won the 996 Class again, this time in front of Robert Dong then Daniel Angus.
Marin Vujcich claimed another 944 Class win followed by Adrian Redding and Chris Young.
The Boxsters were exciting to watch, just as we expected. Noel Simpson increased his points lead in the Class by securing another first place followed again by Kelly McEwan and this time, Chris Taylor, who was only a quarter of second behind Kelly.
This was our 30-minute race where every car has to visit the pits within that 30 minutes. The Boxsters only have to drive through the pits but the other classes are allocated a time for which the car must be stationery. The longest pit stop was for the 997 Cup cars. The time was intended to even out the competition and allow the different classes a chance at overall line honours.
To my relief we had another good start with everyone getting away cleanly. The intense Scoullar versus Austin 997 battle resumed at the front of the field and we thoroughly enjoyed lap after lap of hot and close pursuit.
Some drivers had the tactic of getting their pit stop out of the way early. Some gambled on the prospect of a safety car intervention which would have given them an advantage. Others used the stop as a tactic to disconnect themselves from a tight battle which may have been preventing them from setting their fastest lap times.
The only small downside to this style of race is that pitstops make it hard for the casual observer to know who was leading the race. It’s only until the last few laps that it becomes clear what the result might be.
Once again, a delighted Regan Scoullar took the victory at the front of the field. This time he was followed home by an equally delighted Daniel Angus who always seems to do well in this race format.
Steff Chambers was third with Cam McCormack fourth. In fifth place was another 30-minute specialist, Marin Vujcich in his 944.
The honour for being the first Boxster home went to Chris Taylor, who was followed in by Noel Simpson, Kelly McEwan, Grant Biggar and Neville Chandler.
Driver of the Day – from Manfeild
The Club organised a hospitality suite above the pit garages for supporters and Club members to gather together to watch the racing. We were fortunate to be joined there by our newest Pirelli Porsche Race Series sponsors, Sotheby’s, represented by Scarlet Wood and Patrick McAteer. We asked Scarlett and Patrick to present the Driver of the Day award from our previous round at Manfeild.
This was an unusual presentation because, for the first time I can recall, we broke with tradition and it was presented to two drivers. After one of the most entertaining and exciting races I’ve ever seen in the Boxster Class it would have been unfair to single out just one driver. So, both Chris Taylor and Noel Simpson were awarded Driver of the Day for Manfeild because of their magnificent race three battle.
Huge thanks go to Brent Greer who put in a lot of extra work, after we asked him to make us an additional trophy especially for this unique situation.
Chris and Noel were also presented prizes from another one of our valued sponsors, Rapid Dry Towels, – represented by Richard Norris.
Richard also generously donated some of his product to race organisers to be gifted to the volunteers, officials and marshals who ran the event for us. Thank you, Richard and Rapid Dry Towels, for your generosity.
Congratulations once again to Noel Simpson and Chris Taylor for your well-deserved awards.
Our next round will be at the magnificent Highlands racetrack in mid January. This will also be the first round of the summer premier series so it should be a colourful occasion.