New Zealand Endurance 3-Hour Champions Jonny Reid and Sam Fillmore have started their title defence off in perfect fashion, taking victory in today’s Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series 3-Hour at Hampton Downs.
The victory didn’t come easily for the pair, with a late challenge from Ant Pedersen on Reid bringing the Mercedes-AMG GT3 within half a second of the leaders with just 20 minutes to run.
An untimely puncture for Pedersen saw him forced to retreat to the lane, but drying track conditions meant a switch to slicks was in order.
Reid also made a late stop for this change, returning to the lead over the Mercedes by some 23 seconds, which he held until the chequered flag. The Pedersen duo of Ant and Paul still retained second.
The podium was completed by Glenn Smith, Gene Rollinson and John De Veth, with Rollinson managing a pass on Heremana Malmezac for position in the final 15 minutes, on the drying track.
It was Rollinson who brought the car home in a flying stint, making up quick time to hunt down the Porsche and pass. Their podium was made more impressive by the fact they ran with no windscreen wiper, making following closely a tough ask until conditions improved.
Unlike the two ahead, they didn’t make the change to slicks late on, running the entire three hours on the tyres they started on.
A commanding second half of the race for the Hamilton Asphalts Nissan GTR of Chris van der Drift and Lance Hughes saw them shoot up to fourth right in the final minutes, with a pass on Malmezac.
They were the first in the field to switch to slicks, a wise decision that saw them quickly putting four to five seconds per lap on the field. Setting the fastest lap in the race immediately after making the change justified the decision, which ultimately rewarded them with the strong result.
The Porsche 991.2 Cup pairing of Malmezac and Jono Lester held on for fifth, and were once again extremely quick.
Lester’s first stint behind the wheel was one which you could only expect of the Elite driver, dominating off pole to pull well-clear of the field, even having a lap over the field at one point.
They were hurt by the races only Safety Car, which came when Wolfbrook Motorsport’s new Audi R8 GT3 came to a halt with a broken axle.
The car had also been in the wars during the driver switch for Steve Brooks to Bill Riding, with a brief fire breaking out at the rear of the car and needing to be extinguished.
On the restart, Malmezac would pull away, only to run off at the sweeping right-hander to sacrifice the lead.
His loss was Reid and Ant Pedersen’s gain, the duo sneaking by to take the top two positions.
In the final hour, as the sun finally began to shine, the battle was close upfront, with the Mercedes bridging the gap to the Audi R8 LMS Evo 2 and looking a real possibility for the pass, until their puncture halted the charge.
While the leaders, with the exception of the McLaren, all made their tyre changes in the final 30 minutes, Malmezac remained out looking to make ground.
The burst of sun and quick-drying track made the difference, however, ultimately seeing them finish fifth.
Christina Orr-West and Bree Morris (Mercedes GT4) were sixth home, putting in an impressive 137 laps to finish 10 off the lead. Their result, and the DNF for Brooks and Riding, meant they took out Am/Am honours for the race, and also topped Class 3 as it’s sole competitor.
They too made a late stop for a tyre change, which proved effective with Orr-West able to set some incredible lap times.
The eighth and final car, that of Tom Alexander and Francois Beziac, was unable to make the start following damage sustained in the morning’s 1-Hour
- July 10, 2023