V8 SuperTourers' sprint champion John McIntyre and co-driver Jono Lester secured third place in both of the long distance races which comprised the inaugural V8 SuperTourer endurance event in Taupo on 2 September.
McIntyre and Lester, supported by impeccable teamwork from the John McIntyre Racing crew, turned their starting positions of sixth in race one and 13th in race two into two hard-fought and well-deserved third places in the #47 Blackwoods Protector Falcon.
Team-mates Steve Richards and William Bamber in the #556 CRC Motornews.co.nz Falcon also improved on their qualifying positions to finish the two 56-lap races in seventh and ninth respectively.
"Overall it was an excellent weekend for John McIntyre Racing," says McIntyre, the team's owner and lead driver, from Nelson.
"The speed with either car wasn't quite there, but they were reliable and strong, we had solid race pace and our young co-drivers did a great job. With #47, we definitely had the fastest crew, who changed both right hand tyres during our pit stop in less time than it took for me and Jono to swap places.
"We really nailed the race strategy and I'm delighted with the overall results."
Lester, the 22-year-old international race driver formerly of Palmerston North and now residing in Auckland, was rapt to finish his first event with JMR so well.
"I was quietly confident we could get a better result than our qualifying times indicated and it's terrific to then secure two podium finishes. The last few laps of race two when John was battling with Richard Moore for third place were really intense."
The endurance event format saw V8 SuperTourer teams complete two 60 minute practice sessions on Saturday, then there were separate qualifying sessions for co-drivers and lead drivers. Originally scheduled to be 60 laps each, the two races on Sunday were shortened to 56 laps each when officials reviewed likely fuel usage versus tank capacity. Each driver had to start one race each with the start order determined by relative qualifying times.
JMR's strategy saw McIntyre and Richards start the first race – McIntyre gridded up sixth, Richards ninth.
By the time Richards pitted on lap 32 he was up to fifth before handing over to 18-year-old former Suzuki Swift Cup champion William Bamber in his first-ever V8 touring car race. Around the usual re-shuffling of race order once all the pit stops were complete, Bamber took advantage of the opportunity to pass a number of cars to bring the #556 JMR Falcon home in seventh place.
"You couldn't ask for a better introduction to V8 SuperTourers," says Bamber, formally of Wanganui and now based in Auckland. "Driving with Steve, with his massive experience and two Bathurst wins, it's been brilliant."
Meanwhile, now in the lead, McIntyre held off pitting until the last possible lap and was able to take advantage of the safety car being called out on the same lap. With tyres holding up well, McIntyre was delighted to see Lester do a great job to wrap up the race with third place behind the pairings of Jack Perkins and Nick Cassidy, and Scott McLaughlin and Jonathan Webb.
Lester said: "John made my job really easy and I just drove nice and straight to bring it home."
After the lunchtime break and a refuelling interval, Bamber and Lester gridded up in 11th and 13th respectively.
Bamber explains what came next. "Everyone went wide into turn one and with Jono behind me, we took an inside line. Then Andre Heimgartner's engine blew right on the corner and several were caught up in that, so we both improved seven places coming out of turn one!"
McIntyre praised the young co-drivers. "They both showed really good judgement and Jono really set us up for another podium with #47 with the way he came through the first part of race two. Again we were in the lead when we pitted. When I came out, I was determined to catch Richard Moore just in front of me – I had to think about balancing pace against how much fuel was left, so to finish with a second podium position was excellent."
Finishing race two in ninth, Richards comments: "We have little improvements to make – the race pace is not quite there in order for us to get both cars in the top three, but to finish the weekend with both cars damage-free, Jono and Will doing a great job and really good teamwork, we're in a strong position looking at the final two enduros this season."
Next up for the team is a similar endurance race format at Pukekohe Park Raceway over the weekend of 26-28 October, then the season finale in Christchurch 23 to 25 November.