Story by Stuart Owers
After suffering through three rounds of wet and changeable conditions we were finally being promised a sunny weekend for our second Pukekohe event for the “summer” of 2018. Steff Chambers was once again the clue to what was in store for us. Instead of a new pair of gumboots sitting beside her car, this time, there was a pair of jandals. For the weekend ahead we were going to need sun block and dry tyres, not raincoats and wets.
Our numbers were down for this event. Right from the start of the season several drivers had said they were going to be away for this round with business and family plans depleting our field down to 13 cars. During the Friday practice session we went down one more car as Conal Dempsey had a minor brush with some Armco, which, disappointingly, was going to prevent him playing a starring role for the weekend.
The race promoters had decided to mix things up a little and revert the track back to its original format which uses the full long back straight. The “new chicane” format has been in place for so long many of our drivers hadn’t had any experience on the old style track. Because of that some of the times varied between the cars more than they normally would. At the front of the field there was the usual exciting tussle between Michael Neville and Brian McGovern. This time though they were joined by Sean Kirkpatrick. All three drivers put in super fast laps under the magic one-minute mark. At the end of the session it was Michael who claimed the pole position with a stunning time of 57.8 seconds.
The two C class 996 Cup cars of Cam McCormack and Robert Dong also put on a good show with times being lowered throughout the session. In the end, it was Robert who put in a flying lap in the closing moments to claim the fastest time for that pair.
The class E pole position was seized by Tony Houston who used his experience on the old format track to record an excellent time that was nearly a second faster than the rest of the group.
As the revs rose on the start line and the lights went out we watched Brian McGovern get one of the best launches of his season but it was still Michael Neville who held a narrow lead after turn one. Most of the field got through the turns 1, 2, 3 complex without incident but Peter Hardy was caught out by his cold tyres and spun wildly.
That left him parked sideways after the fourth corner but fortunately he soon gathered it back together and took off in pursuit of the other class E cars. The spin must have provided some incentive to Peter, because after that, he put his head down and recorded the fastest lap for the E class. Out in front of that group was Tony Houston who went on to win the class with Struan Robertson second and Jim McKernan third.
It was exciting watching the close contest between the two 996 Cup cars of Robert Dong and Cam McCormack. They kept in close formation for most of the race but it was Cam who prevailed for the class win at the chequered flag.
At the front end of the field we were disappointed to see the intense battle between Michael Neville and Brian McGovern come to an end after Brian slowed and pulled into the pits. He had just experienced a hugely frightening moment on the back straight with his car sliding dramatically sideways at the slight kink. Later we discovered that a rear wheel was loosening itself and the car was trying to steer from the rear. So, this left Michael with a clear lead and the win over Sean Kirkpatrick and David Mackrell.
For the Sunday races the drivers were delighted to have over 30 Porsche club members turn out to watch the action. Their cars looked very stylish parked up on the grassy slopes overlooking the start finish line.
The start of the race saw another tightly packed group running down into the first corner with Michael Neville again leading the field and Brian McGovern in close pursuit, followed by Sean Kirkpatrick and David Mackrell. The front two soon split away and it was thrilling to watch the two cars playing a high speed chess game. Brian made a couple of convincing looking attempts at getting past Michael but the gate was closed.
Further back, Cam McCormack had put his 996 Cup car in front of the similar model of Robert Dong and this time he proceeded to stretch out a larger gap each lap.
Once again the E class contest was entertaining and fun to watch. Their start was a reverse grid format so, because Tony Houston and Peter Hardy had the fastest lap times of the weekend so far, they started from the back of the group. At one point the TV cameras caught the sight of Struan Robertson ploughing across the grass after the second corner.
We also saw Peter Hardy having his second spin of the weekend. The off track excursion didn’t seem to slow Struan down too much however and he still managed to finish the race only seven seconds behind the class winner Tony Houston. Jim McKernan would have been pleased with his third place finish and he was followed home by Peter Hardy and Steff Chambers.
After another close start between Brian McGovern and Michael Neville they led the pack away into the first turns. Just behind them David Mackrell managed a better start than Sean Kirkpatrick and he went on to hold onto that third position throughout the 10 lap race. The sight of Sean behind him must have given David the incentive to push extra hard because he managed to nail an excellent personal best lap time of 59.8 seconds.
Slightly further back, Cam McCormack and Robert Dong were having another close contest, with Robert initially out in front. However, the pressure from behind must have been slightly distracting for Robert because he made an uncharacteristic error and spun his car around. This let Cam through for another win in class C.
A reverse grid start for the class E cars meant another tough battle for the 944s of Tony Houston and Peter Hardy. There were no mistakes or spins from Peter this time and he lead Tony on a charge through the rest of the E class field to finish in front and win the class. The gap back to Tony was extremely close though, less than a second at the chequered flag.
At the very front of the field we were treated to another cat and mouse game between Brian McGovern and Michael Neville with Michael prevailing for his third victory of the weekend.
Brent Greer was forced to run some lonely races in his beautiful little Carrera but he would have been happy to take home the trophy for his class D victory.
Driver of the Day
We presented the driver of the day trophy at a lunch that was buoyed by all the Club members who had come along to support us. As usual, the trophy is awarded to the best driver of the previous round, which was Taupo. This time it was presented to Struan Robertson for his stunning drive in the wet and greasy conditions that we suffered down there. Struan was not only the fastest class E driver at Taupo but he also managed to overtake several of the class C Cup cars. Congratulations to Struan on a well deserved trophy.
Because the Pukekohe event was a round run by Speedworks, they kindly supplied trophies for each of the class winners at Pukekohe. These were awarded to;
- Sean Kirkpatrick, - Open class
- Michael Neville – B class.
- Cam McCormack- C class
- Brent Greer – D class.
- Tony Houston – E class.
Congratulations to all our class winners.
All the drivers left the track probably looking forward to a break from the busy start to the season. The Christmas holidays will be a welcome chance for them to do some much needed maintenance and recharge themselves before the Manfeild round in February.