By Guy Stewart
This is the second year of the South Island Porsche series with our typical field made up of 991, 997, 996, 964, 911 and 944 models, with our first two races in Highlands and Teretonga. We then had a break that was filled by the SKOPE Classic at Ruapuna for the older 964, 911 and 944 cars, and then the South Island Porsches headed to Timaru for their third weekend’s racing.
My racing in the South Island Porsche series has involved my brother, Marcus, and my great friend Chris Fleury in their 964 RSR replicas and myself, in my 911 IROC replica chasing Cayman GT4s around these tracks, as the GT3s disappearinto the distance. Great fun. Chris Fleury is also the organiser of the series, so he is a very busy boy prior to the race weekends but still somehow manages to find time to organise BBQing for us or whatever else is required at the time.
The South Island Porsche Series is made up of a very cool group of guys (with Tim James coming south to join us for one round) and girls (Steff Chambers came south to join us for two of the rounds), where swapping stories of the day’s triumphs over dinner is a key part of the weekend and demonstrates the camaraderie that exists within the group.
As I understand it the South Island Porsche Series is the most southern race series in the world and we race at some of the most southern racing circuits in the world, while Teretonga is the world’s most southern FIA recognised track in the world, so the southern theme is reflected everywhere.
Alongside the drivers and tracks are our sponsors Michelin and Timaru Signs, who have been fantastic and extremely helpful, with both of them assisting me, and others, by solving issues that were well beyond what they signed up for but made my weekend’s racing easier.
The first round for the series was at Highlands, which is a fantastic track, and we are very lucky that Tony Quinn has developed this facility and took such effort in replicating some of the greatest corners in the world for us to try and master. There is no chance to rest at this track. At every other track in New Zealand there is a straight long enough for drivers to gather their thoughts and prepare for the next lap, but here you are either staring at concrete as you try to corner as fast as possible, or switching from throttle to brake to throttle for the whole lap…like I said, fantastic.
The weather for our weekend was changeable, in fact that sums up the weather for both weekends, and the qualifying at the SKOPE Classic which made for lots of guessing. Ultimately, my pit crew which was me, based my tyre choice on whatever was easiest to manage so I was typically on my DOT road tyres when the weather was misbehaving. Whenever I got this decision wrong I still had the fun of a tail wagging 911 to play with.
Teretonga is such a cool track. It is short, with lap times very similar to the original Pukekohe layout, and it rewards smooth driving with good lines, with the constant spectre of dirt filled tyre walls lining the edge of the run off area that seem very close as you turn your car into the first corner fast. This track can punish off track excursions hard.
Again we had lots of fun racing, with the unusual dramatic highlight of the weekend presenting itself when the Porsches driving in the “Rush Hour” one hour race were returning to the pits to find that our marquee had blown away in the wind and was now a pile of metal and canvas that our supporters had spent most of the hour struggling to ‘make safe’.
Then we had the SKOPE Classic which has a wide variety of marques, with the youngest Porsche eligible being the 996. The racing is always good and the crowd is fantastic and very engaged with the drivers and their vehicles.
I have been lucky enough to drive in some amazing events, with the highlights being a Bathurst 12 Hour, the Dubai 24 Hour twice and the Nürburgring 24 Hour on five occasions as well as a four hour there, but the SKOPE Classic is an original event that prides itself on being a family focused world class classic event. Here spectators can talk with the drivers about their cars, making it a very cool event that is completely accessible to everyone…particularly when you get to talk New Zealand racing icons like Howden Ganley, Jim Richards and Greg Murphy, and potentially mix it up with them on the track.
While the racing is very varied with saloons, sports and GTs, vintage, muscle cars, F5000, etc… it thrives on the ‘race within a race’ concept, and while winning is great there isn’t even a chocolate fish on offer so having a great battle with another driver is the goal. The best weekend concludes by pushing your car onto the trailer unscathed as I consider “rubbing is racing” as a stupid excuse for bad driving at the bronze driver level.
We had six Porsches in our pit at this year’s SKOPE Classic and had a great weekend of racing. One of the goals of the SKOPE Classic is to give drivers as much racing as possible, so as an example I entered two classes and was invited to join two invitational races, giving me 10 races over the weekend and one set of very dead slicks.
This year I got to take my daughter for hotlaps on the Saturday night, using my DOT ‘wet’ tyres for this to try and preserve what was left of my slicks for the next day. While I thought that drifting an old 911 was both impressive and fun she felt that I could have gone faster, which left me thinking that I might have created a monster.
The third round for the South Island Porsche was at the Timaru International Raceway where the dominance of horsepower tends to be diluted by the tight technical corners. The weather was great and once again there was lots of good racing. Our final round is at the end of March at Ruapuna.
I have raced at some very serious events where names like Bernd Schneider, Craig Lowndes and Sabine Schmitz (and Marco Schlep, who races with us in the South Island Porsche series after many years lapping at the Nürburgring most recently with Manthey-Racing) were using me as a chicane, but as I reflect on the past couple of months and the racing it contained it was fun, well organised and good competent racing with a great group of people driving a wide variety of Porsche models. Come south and join us.