By Stuart Owers
Only a few weeks after packing up their pit garages at Pukekohe, our drivers and crew were back setting up those same garages in preparation for round two of our Pirelli Porsche Series. This time the track was re-configured into its newer mode with turns five and six added along the back straight. The promotional company Speedworks were running the event as a high-profile round of the National Summer Series, and it was being televised on Sky, so the air was crackling with colourful flags, banners, team uniforms and tension.
With only 15 minutes allocated for qualifying most of our drivers went out and put in their hottest laps early in the session. Robert Dong was the exception. He waited until the chequered flag was in sight until he put in his best lap, just beating Struan Robertson for 3rd place on the starting grid. The front two places were filled by Sean Kirkpatrick and Brian McGovern. Jim McKernan was the quickest of the class E group, just bettering Tony Houston’s time in the Boxster.
All eyes were on the front row of the grid as the revs rose and the red lights slowly went on above the start line. When they flicked off, Sean Kirkpatrick’s car erupted dramatically off the line, slewing sideways and leaving two long black marks behind him with plenty of blue smoke. Brian McGovern got a fast and slightly less spectacular start but had to yield to Sean as they both went into turn two. From then on the cameras were transfixed with this battling duo. Brian entertained us and the TV audience with his persistent attempts to get past Sean. He dodged and weaved closely behind looking for every possible opportunity. Despite Brian getting alongside a couple of times Sean managed to keep calm and resist the mountain of pressure being heaped upon him. Behind the front two, Robert Dong and Struan Robertson were swapping places as they tussled over 3rd and 4th place. Both made a couple of small braking errors which helped the car behind to get past. Struan also managed to leave his recently repaired rear bumper sitting on the track. Fortunately, he was able to retrieve it after the race and with the help off lots of race-tape it was secured back in place.
Behind them Steff Chambers was circulating as the only entrant in the 996 class, then Chris Barendregt was putting in fast laps in his street driven Cayman. Jim McKernan was delighted to get the class E win with Tony Houston still adapting to the handling of his newly acquired Boxster.
Sunday morning dawned hot and fine, so the drivers were relieved to be able to leave their unused wet tyres stacked in the sheds. As the starting lights went out, Brian managed to narrowly win the drag race between him and Sean. Much to the disappointment of the commentators, Brian established a comfortable margin out in front and kept a consistent gap until the chequered flag. Behind the front two were Dong and Robertson, but they were also well spaced out and not giving the commentators anything to shout about. Luckily Marin Vujcich took up the responsibility of keeping us entertained. He started from the back row of the grid but fought his way past both Tony Houston and Jim McKernan to take the win for E class.
This time the start was the focus of attention, once again, but for different reasons. Both Sean and Brian were judged to have jumped away before the lights went out. Despite being a fraction trigger happy Brian lead the pack through the fast turn one and into the critical turns two, three and four complex that leads onto the back straight. Behind him Robert Dong and Struan Robertson were having a battle for the last of the podium places. With the race settling into a pattern, all seemed under control until Robert’s gearbox decided to misbehave and start sounding like a concrete mixer. Robert was forced to pull over to the side of the track which brought out the safety car. This bunched up the field and ruined Brian and Sean’s chance to try and overcome the five second penalty they were both given. Struan Robertson was the main benefactor and just had to follow the front two over the line to claim an official (adjusted) race win. Behind them, Marin took another well-deserved win in E class.
Driver of the Day
The first Driver of the Day trophy was awarded during the Sunday lunch break. This trophy is always presented for the previous event. The winner for the first round of the new series, held at Pukekohe, is Marin Vujcich. Marin is new to our championship and was persuaded to lease the 944 owned by Steff Chambers. Not only is he new to our series, he had never driven a 944 before and even though he has plenty of racing experience, had never raced at Pukekohe prior to the first round. Despite those impediments Marin went on to win all three of the class E races.