Story by Stuart Owers
As I arrived at Pukekohe Park I noticed that the huge leafy trees on the banks of the famous track were tinged with yellow. Their seasonal changes were perfectly in sync with our Pirelli Porsche Championship as we were also preparing for the final round of our racing season.
There were also other seasonal changes. We were about to welcome a new entranAt and driver, Gerry Kessels and but miss the presence of the very likeable Adrian Redding. Adrian withdrew from this last round because of business commitments.
Right from the first laps it was clear that the pole position battle was going to be between Paul Kelly and Conal Dempsey. They traded fastest laps and progressively dropped into the 1.06 category. Conal finally managed a very fast 1.06.0 to snatch pole from Paul, who waited until the last lap to put in his best time of 1.06.4.
Behind them was a hard charging Kevin Etches followed by Sean Kirkpatrick.
The usual 996 battles were enlivened by the presence of Brian McGovern, who had brought his older car out of retirement and Cam McCormack, who had had enjoyed the Hampton Downs round so much he was re-joining us to continue the battle.
Brian McGovern quickly got used to the very different characteristics of the 996 to set the fastest time of that group, even though he was officially listed as a Class B runner. Brian made that very sporting decision to put himself in Class B in order not to upset the season long battle for points in the C Class.
The Class E battle was as intense as always. Tony Houston prevailed as the pole sitter for that class with Neil Dewar close behind him.
The start saw Conal Dempsey getting away uncharacteristically slowly which allowed Paul Kelly to lead into the first corner. Kevin Etches had a perfect wheel spinning start and followed the first two cars closely. Behind them our eyes were drawn to the race between Brian McGovern and Cam McCormack. Cam initially had the lead over Brian but constant pressure saw the two cars switch around as both cars dropped into the 1.10 second category. Missing from that group was Robert Dong. His 996 was still sitting in the pit garage with the gearbox on the floor and the clutch in many pieces.
Brent Greer and Phil Jones continued to keep each other entertained by keeping the front runners in sight.
Class E had their own battle going on but Tony Houston showed why he was the points leader with a firm grip on their race and also the fastest lap time for that class.
At the front of the field we watched Conal overcome his slow start to slip past Paul Kelly and pull away for an eventual five second lead at the finish. Kevin Etches made up the podium places for the fastest three cars.
The Class C battle was officially won by Cam McCormack (Brian was listed as class B) and Tony Houston took the chequered flag for Class E in front of Neil Dewar, Steff Chambers and new entrant, Gerry Kessels.
This time the starts at the front of the group were a lot more even, but pole sitter Conal Dempsey led into the first corner with Paul Kelly and Kevin Etches hotly pursuing. The order was set for that battle with the finishing positions unchanged at the end. Although, the official results showed Conal Dempsey being moved back to third place because he was parked in front of his grid position during the start procedure. This gave Paul Kelly the official win with Kevin Etches second.
Further back we were able to watch a great battle amongst the 996s with Brent Greer included in that group as the only air-cooled car of the race. This time they were joined by Robert Dong whose crew had worked long and hard to sort out his clutch issues. Brian McGovern eventually crossed the line in front of Cam McCormack, followed by Robert Dong, Brent Greer then Phil Jones.
The Class E group were also putting on a show for their traditional reverse grid race. Tony Houston prevailed once again but was pushed hard by Neil Dewar, both drivers recording an almost identical fastest lap.
The final race of our season started with an empty grid position where Brent Greer’s car should have been. Unfortunately, a fuel injection issue had forced Brent to make the decision to leave his car parked in the garage.
The front three of Conal, Paul and Kevin looked evenly matched for the first few corners until Conal’s tyres started to build heat allowing him to move relentlessly away from the other two. Kevin was tirelessly pursuing Paul Kelly until Paul, with the championship in mind, decided to play it safe and didn’t fend off Kevin’s passing attempts any longer. The race finished in that order with Sean Kirkpatrick in fourth place.
The 996 race was again looking close between Cam McCormack and Brian McGovern until after just three laps we were suddenly left wondering what had happened to Cam. It turned out Cam’s 996 had snapped some suspension pieces while at high speed on the back straight. The whole RH front wheel assembly was dramatically torn away but fortunately Cam was able to guide the car to the side of the track without incurring further damage.
Behind Brian were Phil Jones and Robert Dong swapping positions back and forth for the entire race.
The Class E 944’s were also locked in their own battle after their reverse grid start. This time Neil Dewar managed to get in front of Tony Houston and stay there to record a class win.
Speedworks supplied trophies which were awarded to the winning drivers from each class for the Pukekohe round just completed, but we also managed to finally award the trophies from the very first round we ran at Taupo, which were presented during the Saturday lunch break.
Trophies for Taupo went to Sean Kirkpatrick, Paul Kelly, Brian McGovern, Robert Dong, Dave Allison and Tony Houston.
For the final Pukekohe round, Speedworks trophies went to Sean Kirkpatrick, Paul Kelly, Kevin Etches, Cam McCormack and Tony Houston.
The Driver of the Day award for the previous round at Hampton Downs was awarded to Kevin Etches for his outstanding driving performance when he was competing so strongly against later spec cars.
The driver of the round award for Pukekohe went to Brian McGovern for so successfully making the switch from his 997 to the 996 Cup car.
Our two major championship trophies were won by Paul Kelly (New Zealand Pirelli Porsche Champion) and Tony Houston, (Porsche Club of NZ Pirelli Race Series trophy.)
Huge congratulations to both those drivers. They have both been consistent winners throughout the entire series. These trophies will be re-presented formally at our annual awards dinner.
It gives the race committee great pleasure to announce our individual class winners.
|Open Class||Sean Kirkpatrick|
|Class A||Paul Kelly|
|Class B||Brian McGovern|
|Class C||Brent Greer|
|Class D||Jim McKernan|
|Class E||Tony Houston|
Congratulations to our class winners who have put so much time and effort into their racing. The trophies will be presented to these worthy recipients at our awards dinner. For those drivers who won a class in our series, we all know how much commitment, skill, perseverance and determination it took to do it. We’re proud of you all and your achievements.
It’s wonderful to look back on a season in a national championship that took our racing through the country all the way to Invercargill and back. For those hundreds of racing miles there were only a couple of incidents that had to be dealt with by officials. The rest of our hard and spectacular racing was clean, fair and incident free. There was not only some highly memorable racing duels but also some great inter-team assistance in the pits when help was needed.
Behind the scenes saw a huge time commitment from people like Phil Jones, Tim James, Brent Greer and Brian McGovern who put in countless hours to organise sponsorship, driver participation, trophies and logistics, along with many other time consuming tasks. With the ongoing assistance and guidance from these guys, the future of our series is looking strong. Talks and planning are already underway for an even bigger and more exciting 2018/19 Championship.
Special thanks also go to our sponsors for their support, without them none of this would have been possible. Thank you so much for your involvement.