By Stuart Owers
A race weekend at Taupo is always a very social occasion because most drivers and crew are staying away from home for a couple of nights and are keen to get together in the evenings. A final season ending round is even more reason for socialising and celebration and we had all been looking forward to it for weeks.
Planning the event was not without its difficulties and obstacles being thrown in our path. Our Race Committee Chairman, Chris Barendregt, bore the brunt of the issues that had to be sorted out. Almost all of the problems stemmed from the new ownership of the Taupo track and Chris spent a lot of time dealing with their last minute cancellation of our original booking and several other changes.
Despite that we had the biggest turnout of drivers we’ve had for many years. Long time competitor Dave Allison had his 944 finished and managed to make the entry, which was his first for this season, and we had a first time entry from Mitchell Hutchinson who is Steff Chambers son. Mark McCaughan was also joining us for the first time and we were even lucky enough to have Racing Ray Williams putting in an entry with a borrowed Cayman GT4. In total we had 27 cars which made for a colourful looking grid.
We designed this meeting to be a combined race and trackday event and Paul Miller had organised a capacity field of Club member’s road cars. The trackday participants had plenty of on-track time and had the bonus of being able relax in between sessions and watch the race cars intense action out on the track.
It was no surprise to see Robert Dong’s name go straight to the top of the timing monitor during the early stages of our 20 minute qualifying session. He had the only 997 Cup car at Taupo and was able to comfortably place himself in front on pole position beside a very fast Cam McCormack in his 996 Cup car. Ray Williams put his Cayman GT4 on the second row with Daniel Angus beside him in his beautifully presented 996 Cup car.
The 944 had five cars in it for this round and the fastest of them was Marin Vujcich followed closely by Matt Burton.
The Boxster pole was taken with an impressively quick time posted by Noel Simpson followed by Chris Taylor. Kelly McEwan was third fastest with Regan Scoullar less than a tenth of a second slower than Kelly. This was Regan’s best qualifying position of his season.
It was exciting to see such a huge field heading out for the warm up lap and lining up on the starting grid. As the start lights went out we watched Robert Dong struggling to get his car cleanly off the line which allowed Cam McCormack to seize the moment and lead the pack into turn one. This was a position he managed to hold onto for the entire race. Behind them we had another 25 cars jostling for position and looking for an advantage as they all squeezed through the first few corners.
They all got cleanly through and it looked like we were going to be in for an incident free race. Unfortunately the cooling system on Nick Cutfield’s Boxster had other plans.
It decided to empty its contents straight onto to Nick’s tyres resulting in him and another Boxster sliding off on turn nine and beaching themselves in the gravel.
The race was red flagged after one lap and the cars had to park out on the track waiting patiently while the track crews cleaned up the mess and rescued Nick’s car.
The Safety car got the race restarted. Cam McCormack set about confirming his race lead and in the process set the fastest lap time. Behind him Robert Dong was in cruise control. He had the Championship already sewn up and wasn’t about to take any risks. Daniel Angus put on a great display while competing with Ray Williams to win his (Cam McCormack has a slightly modified 996 and is in a different ) Brent Greer was constantly chewing at the heels of the Cup cars in his beautifully prepared and fast air cooled Carrera and he finished in fifth place.
The 944 contest was won this time by Marin Vujcich who had an entertaining and close race with Matt Burton. Their lap times during the race were almost identical.
Behind them Noel Simpson put in a dominant performance to lead home the 14 strong Boxster pack finishing five seconds in front of Chris Taylor and Regan Scoullar. Kelly McEwan was fourth followed by Tony Houston.
Once again Robert couldn’t quite get his 997 cleanly off the line and we could see him wheel spinning frantically while the other cars dived around him. This set up a good battle at the front for a couple of laps between him, Daniel Angus and Ray Williams. Cam McCormack had the same plan as for the previous race and he started to settle into the lead. After only one lap the red lights were switched on again as Brent Greer’s Carrera suffered a broken strut and he was forced to coast to a stop. Once more all the competitors had to stop on the track and line up on the red flag control line and wait while the track crew recovered Brent’s car. After the safety car re-start Cam McCormack put his head down and set some impressive lap times as he stretched his lead out in front of Robert Dong, Daniel Angus, Ray Williams, Steff Chambers, Jim McKernan and Tony Patmore.
Behind them we were enjoying a good battle between the old rivals of Matt Burton and Marin Vujcich in their 944s until a small miscalculation from Matt allowed Marin to get away to win the with Neil Dewar second and Matt finishing in third in front of Mitchell Hutchinson and Dave Allison.
The Boxsters were entertaining as always. Noel Simpson had a fast and mistake free race to win the and get a firm grip on at least one handle of the overall championship winner’s trophy. Behind him, Kelly McEwan got one of his best results finishing in second place followed by Regan Scoular with another third place. Behind the top three were Chris Barendregt, Stephen Huipeng Fang, Grant Biggar, Chris Taylor, Mark McCaughan, Richard Norris, Nick Cutfeild, Tony Houston, Stephen Stokes, Guy Heaysman and Symon Thurlow, in that order.
This race was another of our popular 30 minute races. Each has a nominated compulsory pit stop time to even out the field although the Boxsters have to do a drive through instead of a stationary stop time. The format of the race means it’s vital to set consistent fast lap times that are close to your qualifying time, even though there is always a lot of traffic to deal with. For the past two of these races this season Daniel Angus has taken the outright victories and he was keen to chase down another one to make it a perfect three out of three.
In a repeat of the previous two starts Cam McCormack got off to a flier and led the first lap. Rob Dong had realised he needed to hustle and put in some better lap times if he was going to win the 30 minute race. He passed Cam and set off to try and get a cushion in front to offset the longer pit stop time he was levied with. In the process he set the fastest time of the race.
The usual battles developed and this time Marin Vujcich established an early lead over Matt Burton. Matt needed a good finish in this race to keep alive his chances for the overall Pirelli Porsche championship Cup.
Noel Simpson was also thinking about that championship trophy and was keen to get his other hand on the trophy to secure it for the 2021/2022 season. Noel established an early lead in his but was pursued by his close rival Chris Taylor.
The middle stage of the race is always confusing for spectators because of the pit stops but near the end of the 30 minutes the timing apps were showing Cam McCormack getting quickly back up to the top of the time sheets after his stop.
Robert Dong had dropped to about eighth position after his lengthy timed stop but also worked his way back up the field. Near the final stage of the race Robert’s car suffered a stuck throttle and we saw his car spinning on the final corner before the front straight.
He managed to restart but couldn’t get any better than fifth place. Daniel Angus was pursuing Cam hard for another victory but just couldn’t do it this time and finished the race in second place behind Cam. Marin Vujcich has always been a top performer in these races and this one was no exception as he brought his 944 home for a remarkable third place overall and a win.
Noel Simpson finished with a sensational result in fourth place overall as well as claiming first for the Boxster.
Warmest congratulations go to our very worthy winners. To win any of these trophies takes not only talented driving and racing skills but also the ability to overcome all manner of difficulties and obstacles. We’re proud of you all.
We had wonderful support through these Covid affected and disrupted times from many sponsors who have made our series possible. Special thanks go to Richard Norris from Rapid Dry Towels and Daniel Angus from Kensway who are both sponsors and competitors in our series.
Pirelli is our major naming sponsor and we are delighted to be supported by them financially as well as the very practical support we get each round from Continental Tyres Services in the form of Nathan and Steven at the track.
Of course we are also backed by the New Zealand Porsche distributor and its nationwide dealerships. They have been staunch and faithful supporters of ours now for many, many years.
Thank you to all of our wonderful supporters and we look forward to continue that partnership as we grow and develop into the future.
The planning for next season has already started and we’ll be able to bring you news of that soon.