Canterbury drivers Paul Kelly and Kevin Bell took victory in the opening round of the ASKO Appliances South Island Endurance Series at Teretonga Park in Invercargill on Saturday
After a race full of intrigue the duo brought their Porsche GT3 across the line 53.648 seconds ahead of Scott O’Donnell of Invercargill and Simon McLennan of Wellington in a similar car. The two cars had been involved in a fascinating battle as their fortunes ebbed and flowed throughout the 3 Hour race.
Kelly and Bell were thrilled with the win. ”There were a couple of issues with lapped traffic but we got there in the end. The car was great.” Meanwhile O’Donnell said the race had been “neck and neck.”
“They had a tyre drama and we had a fuel rig problem.”
Kelly and Bell had qualified fastest and led away at the start from the O’Donnell/McLennan car. The Cantabrians held the lead until they pitted for fuel and a driver change just before the two hour mark. They resumed in the lead but were quickly swallowed up by McLennan/O’Donnell who had already pitted.
However when the new leaders required another pit stop soon after, Kelly and Bell moved back into the lead.
The drama continued when, with fifty minutes remaining, the Kelly/Bell car came into contact with a slower vehicle and was forced to pit to change a damaged tyre and wheel.
O’Donnell and McLennan reclaimed the lead and a tense chase began, the margin continually changing as the cars dealt with the slower traffic.
However due to a refueling problem the O’Donnell/McLennan car required another stop, handing the lead back to Kelly and Bell with less than twenty minutes to go.
O’Donnell and McLennan recovered to finish second with Brent Esler and Andy Neale of Christchurch third in a BMW M3 GTR. Defending series champions Allan Dippie and Grant Aitken were fourth in their Porsche GT3 followed by Paul Rickerby/Graham Rhodes of Christchurch in a Mazda RX7 and Alexandra duo Bruce Davidson and David Garden in a Chev Corvette.
Father and son team Mike and Seadon Baker had featured prominently in a Porsche GT3 but a late pit stop dropped them to eighth while Dean Perkins and Grant Silvester had run well up the order in their Ford Falcon but had steering column issues which dropped them to tenth at the finish.
Retirements from the race included Arron Black and Warren Good of Dunedin in a BMW E46, Patrick Heagney/Tony Head (Toyota Altezza), Gary Cliff & Hayden Knighton of Christchurch who had a clutch problem in their Porsche and Timaru crews Michael Driver/Jarrod Parmenter plus Scott and Craig McDermid. The John Wadsworth/Warren Croft Holden Commodore also left the track at one stage. The race featured a safety car period and two red flags due to relatively minor incidents.
By virtue of their victory Kelly/Bell took the GT Class while Rickerby/Rhodes sealed Class 1 (3501cc & over). Esler and Neale claimed Class 2 (2001-3500cc) while Steve Parker/Matt Jackson of Timaru took out Class 3 & 4 (0-2000cc) in their Honda S2000.
Stuart Black of Dunedin had earlier won the ASKO Appliances One Hour Race in his Toyota Starlet. Dougall MacGibbon of Nelson was the fastest qualifier in his Toyota Starlet but Black reeled him in early in the race and took the lead. The duo ran at the head of the field until MacGibbon pitted, a blown diff sidelining him.
Black continued on and cruised home letting Grant Molloy of Invercargill in a Mitsubishi Mirage carve into his lead over the final laps but he was always safe.
Black crossed the line 2.241 seconds ahead of Molloy. Jamie and Lee Hodgins of Dunedin in another Toyota Starlet finished third, the only other car to complete 44 laps. Invercargill drivers Jeremy Dawson and Bradley Dawson and Christchurch driver Marc Denton completed the top six in a race that saw conditions range from wet to dry.
Black was delighted with his win. “It’s the first thing I’ve ever won. His drive was characterised by some good passing moves around the outside of the loop, a brave move at the best of times. It was way better two widths out and everyone played into my hands, staying on the inside,” explained Black.
The ASKO Appliances SI Endurance Series now moves to Christchurch’s Powerbuilt Ruapuna on Saturday 1st October, with the Series Grand Finale at Levels Raceway in Timaru on 15th October.