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Coulthard wins Christchurch Porsche GT3 Cup round

 

Fabian Coulthard (Mitre 10 Mega GT3) was the man to beat at the second round of the 2006/07 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge season at Christchurch's Powerbuilt International Raceway at Ruapuna Park over the weekend.

The 24-year-old Aucklander, who won Australia's Carrera Cup championship in 2005 and moved to the V8 Supercar class across the Tasman this year, pipped defending series champion Craig Baird (CCS Hilite GT3) for pole position in qualifying in Saturday morning then won two of the three races to claim his first round win of the new season from Baird and fellow former kart star Jody Vincent.

The weather conditions at the annual Mike Pero Motorsport Series meeting could hardly have been more different over the two race days, with high temperatures driven by a hot north-westerly wind on Saturday and a southerly change bringing rain and single digit temperatures on Sunday.

Coulthard drew first blood on Saturday, leading the first race of the weekend, held in hot, blustery conditions on a slick greasy track, from start to finish.

The wily Baird replied with a classy win in the rain in the second race on Sunday morning but Coulthard made the round win his by getting the better of Baird in the reverse top six grid final.

Though it was the impressive Jody Vincent (Koken Tools Pak'n Save GT3) who jinked round slow-away pole sitter Jono Lester and led the 12 lap race final for the first three laps, Coulthard outdragged fellow third row starter Baird into the first corner and once past Vincent edged away to cross the line just over a second ahead of Baird, who in turn had built an eight second buffer on Vincent.

After the final race Coulthard acknowledged that the changeable weather had made it difficult, but stressed that it was the same for everyone.

"When it's hot it's hot, and when it's cold it's cold, you just have to adapt yourself and your car to the conditions. We were a bit unlucky with the weather, but overall you know, it's been a great weekend for us."

It wasn't too bad a weekend for Baird either, the three-time former New Zealand Grand Prix and 2 Litre Touring Car Championship winner and now two-time winner of the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship, never far from Coulthard in the first and third races and a clear winner of the second.

Jody Vincent also had every reason to be happy, after also claiming the third step on the round podium at the first round of the 2006/07 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship at Pukekohe's Pukekohe Park Raceway at the beginning of the month.

Of leading the final race for two heady laps he said;

"I got another good start - I seem to be getting off the line very very well - and to be honest, I didn't even know Jono (Lester, who started from pole position but who bogged down when the lights went out) had a problem. I had already planned to go round him so that line was already there."

And of being in front of Coulthard and Baird?

"It was good, " he said. "You learn a lot from being in front of guys like that because they are pushing you along and for me it is all learning which I am taking in and trying to improve with every race."

And what Coulthard and Bair's regular series frontrunner Matt Halliday (Giltrap Prestige/Karcher GT3)?

The A1Team.NZL driver had a weekend to forget after setting the third fastest lap time in qualifying then being forced out of the first race with a broken gearlever.

Though he came back to cross the line third in the wet second race, then inherit second place when Coulthard was given a 5-second time penalty for allegedly jumping the start, the 27-year-old Aucklander spun out of fourth place early in the third race and had to work his way back up through the field to cross the finishing line a hard-won fifth.

Young Jono Lester (Blackwoods/Paykels GT3) built on the solid base he created for himself at Pukekohe finishing sixth in the first and second race and seventh in the final.

Behind him Rob Steele (Plug Advertising/Solid Audio), Nick Gordon (Zintel Communications GT3), local man Paul Kelly (Paul Kelly Motor Company GT3) and Connel McLaren (Frank Casey Suit Hire) comprised a mid-field battle pack with Gordon forced out of the first race but enjoying two strong races on Sunday to get the best of Steele and Andrew Bagnall (Holiday Shoppe) in the first one, and Kelly, Steele and McLaren in the final.

This season the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship series is again one of the lynchpins of MotorSport New Zealand's premier Mike Pero Motorsport Series programme with seven rounds alongside the Parker ENZED NZ V8s Championship, Toyota Racing Series, Nicibo Production Racing Series and new MINI Challenge.

Each weekend there will be three Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge races, one on Saturday and two on Sunday. Traditionally the third and final race has always been over a longer distance, and this year that format will be enhanced by reversing the grid for the top six starters.

Pukekohe's Pukekohe Park Raceway hosted the first round of the 2006/07 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Championship over the November 4/5 weekend with subsequent rounds this weekend at Powerbuilt International Raceway at Ruapuna Park, in January at the new, extended Taupo Motorsport Park at Taupo, February at Feilding's Manfeild Autocourse, March at Timaru International Raceway and Invercargill's Teretonga Park then it is back to Pukekohe Park Raceway in April for the grand final at the Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting.

An undoubted highlight this season will be the January 19-21 2007 meeting at Taupo where the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Championship will be one of the categories supporting the inaugural New Zealand A1GP World Cup of Motorsport round.

2006/07 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Championship Rnd 2 Powerbuilt International Raceway at Ruapuna Park Christchurch Fri/Sat/Sun Nov 24/25/26 2006

Qualifying

1. Fabian Coulthard 1.25.489

2. Craig Baird 1.25.752

3. Matt Halliday 1.26.035

4. Jody Vincent 1.26.870

5. Jono Lester 1.26.870

6. Kevin Bell 1.27.284

7. Graeme Cameron 1.27.530

8. Rick Armstrong 1.27.652

9. Nick Gordon 1.28.127

10. Andrew Bagnall 1.28.534

11. Rob Steele 1.28.568

12. Connel McLaren 1.28.845

13. Jonathan King 1.30.692

14. David Mackrell 1.30.736

15. Paul Kelly 1.32.784

RACE 1 (8 Laps)

1. Fabian Coulthard 11.39.754

2. Craig Baird +1.733

3. Jody Vincent +11.453

4. Kevin Bell +14.470

5. Rick Armstrong +16.569

6. Jono Lester +20.376

7. Graeme Cameron +21.430

8. Andrew Bagnall +24.997

9. Paul Kelly +29.833

10. Rob Steele +31.354

11. Connel McLaren +36.804

12. David Mackrell +58.329

13. Jonathan King +58.717

14. Nick Gordon +1.52.19

15. Matt Halliday +1 lap

RACE 2 (8 laps)

1. Craig Baird 12.42.712

2. Matt Halliday +1.611

3. Fabian Coulthard +5.458

4. Jody Vincent +9.682

5. Kevin Bell +10.236

6. Jono Lester +21.216

7. Graeme Cameron +27.298

8. Nick Gordon +30.411

9. Rob Steele +32.921

10. Andrew Bagnall +35.402

11. Connel McLaren +37.707

12. Jonathan King +1.26.489

dnf: Rick Armstrong

dnf: Paul Kelly

RACE 3

1. Fabian Coulthard 17.27.178

2. Craig Baird +1.225

3. Jody Vincent +8.290

4. Kevin Bell +8.970

5. Matt Halliday +17.535

6. Rick Armstrong +20.390

7. Jono Lester +30.775

8. Nick Gordon +33.152

9. Paul Kelly +46.669

10. Rob Steele +47.751

11. Connel McLaren +47.751

12. David Mackrell +1.07.247

13. Jonathan King +1.17.300

14. Andrew Bagnall +1 lap

Points after Rnd 1 of 7

1. Craig Baird 201

2. Fabian Coulthard 186

3. Jody Vincent 174

4. Matt Halliday 159

5. Ross Rutherford 150

6. Dean Cockerton 147

7. Graeme Cameron 132

8. Jonathan Lester 120

9. Nick Gordon 98

10. Paul Kelly 96

CALENDAR

Rnd 1 Nov 3-5 2006 Pukekohe Park Raceway Pukekohe

Rnd 2 Nov 24-26 2006 Powerbuilt Tools International Raceway at Ruapuna Park Christchurch

Rnd 3 Jan 18-21 2007 Taupo Motorsport Park Taupo

Rnd 4 Feb 16-18 2007 Manfeild Autocourse Feilding

Rnd 5 Mar 2-4 2007 Timaru International Motor Raceway (Levels) Timaru

Rnd 6 Mar 9-11 2007 Teretonga Park Raceway Invercargill

Rnd 7 April 20-22 2007 Pukekohe Park Raceway Pukekohe (Placemakers V8 Supercar meeting)



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