Daniel Gaunt went to Manfeild last weekend with one aim – to win the 2009 New Zealand Grand Prix and become one of an elite group of drivers to have won the historic event twice
And on Sunday afternoon he did just that, fending off a determined Earl Bamber to cross the line first in his Tatuus-Toyota.
Gaunt stepped back into an open-wheeler for the first time in more than a year determined to write his name on the GP trophy for the second time (he won it at Teretonga, Invercargill, in 2007).
And he showed he had lost none of the rapport with Toyota Racing Series open-wheelers that saw him win the title twice.
Sunday’s 35-lap Grand Prix started in rain and the weather improved and the track got drier as it progressed.
Gaunt dominated in his VnC Cocktails/Mad Butcher-backed car, held off Bamber after a Safety Car period bunched the field, and went on to win by 3.049 seconds.
At the race start, TRS series leader, Mitch Cunningham, and Bamber chased him through the tyre spray and into the first corner.
Cunningham came out better in the wash, harassing Gaunt for five laps before falling back and being passed by Bamber.
Gaunt controlled the re-start after the Safety Car period, and opened a small gap over the Bamber.
Cunningham’s race went sour when he slid off the track and into the tyre barrier at the end of the start-finish straight on lap 20. He resumed the race but had dropped to last place.
Gaunt said he’d taken a gamble on car set-up and it worked. “It was fortunate we set the car up for drying conditions, and luckily that’s what it did in the race.”
But he had been ever conscious that Bamber was there waiting for him to make a mistake. “I had to push the whole time. Earl (Bamber) showed he had a car that was stronger in (wet) conditions (but) once it started to dry we managed to edge away and make it home.”
Going into the final at Pukekohe in two weeks’ time, Cunningham leads the series from Sam MacNeill (third in the GP on Sunday) and Australian Scott Pye.