Our second round for the 2020/21 series in January was part of the big BMW festival at Hampton Downs. The organisers had decided to make the weekend extra special by opening up the full international track. This is over four kilometres long and most of our Pirelli Porsche competitors hadn’t driven on the extended part of the track. This resulted in a few spins and off-course excursions as the drivers learnt all the new twists and turns during the Friday practice sessions.
We also welcomed some new drivers to our group and initially had 19 drivers registered for the round, although Geoff Short dropped out early because of unfinished gearbox repairs. We had some new Boxster entrants and a new car at the front of the field to add some great variety to the look of our series.
The close times within the Classes that we’ve grown used to were thrown into disarray by the new track format. Although, having said that, at the front of the field, new entrant Lochlainn Fitzgerald-Symes and Kris Bostock were only half a second apart in their Cup cars in the tussle for pole position. Lochlainn took the honour after only four laps, leaving a fast benchmark for the others to chase.
Marin Vujcich and Matthew Burton were also only half a second apart to top the 944 time sheets of the six strong 944 group. They established a good gap ahead of the others who were still trying to work out the quickest way around the tight and technical new section of track.
Scott Bradley was impressive in his new Boxster, posting a time quicker than a couple of the 944’s and putting himself at the front of the Boxster starting grid. After sitting out most of the Friday practice session with clutch problems, Daniel Angus had to try and feel his way around and learn as he qualified in his 944.
A spectacular tyre smoking start saw the blue Cup car of Lochlainn Fitzgerald-Symes leading the pack into turn one. While he was building a handy lead at the front we were treated to some great action from both the 944 and Boxster Classes. Matthew Burton established an early lead over the other chasing 944s and held onto to it until the chequered flag. But, behind him, Neil Dewar, Marin Vujcich and Jim McKernan were having a huge tussle over positions.
Poor Daniel Angus had to take to the grass and retire with yet another mechanical issue. The race looked settled when the last lap board was being shown, until the commentators picked up the sight of the leading Cup car of Lochlainn slowing dramatically at the sweeper that leads to the finish line.
Kris Bostock came around behind him and also momentarily slowed, thinking there might be an incident ahead. Kris eventually swept past the stricken car and was followed home by Conner Adam. Robert Dong was looming in the distance but Lochlainn’s car seemed to magically recover and he was able to finish in 3rd place. It turned out he’d had a minor fuel starvation issue but there was still just enough to get him home.
The Boxsters were still heavily involved in their battle and they were exciting and entertaining for us to watch. At the chequered flag it was the experience of Tony Houston that proved unbeatable and he led home Chris Taylor, Noel Simpson, Chris Barendregt and Scott Bradley.
Sunday morning dawned as another perfect day for racing and at 9am we saw our battle group assembled on the start line awaiting the red lights. This was a reverse grid start for the 944s and the Boxsters but a traditional start for all the Cup cars.
Lochlainn got another great launch from the front row and led into the first corner. Behind them on the grid we were surprised to see Daniel Angus still sitting motionless after all the rest of the pack had rocketed away.
Fortunately, he wasn’t hit from behind, because a snapped half-shaft had left him stranded. The quick-thinking marshals jumped over the safety fence and started pushing his car towards the gate that can be opened for these instances. We were spared a red flag or safety-car as the puffing marshals just managed to get his car to safety before the racing pack hurtled past that point at well over 200km/hr. It was turning out to be a miserable weekend for Daniel.
Lochlainn established a comfortable lead at the front of the field and we were waiting for a challenge from Connor Adam and Kris Bostock. Unfortunately there were wisps of smoke coming from Connor’s white car and after four laps we were disappointed to see him cruising back into the pits. It turned out to be a loose oil-line fitting and it was fixed before the next race, but his race was over.
Behind the Cup cars of Robert Dong, Struan Robertson, Steff Chambers and Dave Allison, was Matthew Burton who was establishing another lead over the pursuing 944s.
Once again, we were entertained by position swapping and hard racing from the rest. Peter Hardy was in contention this time, with his car repaired. Neil Dewar eventually took second place honours in front of Marin Vujcich and Peter Hardy. We were also watching Tony Houston threading through the Boxster reverse grid format to take the honours at the chequered flag from Scott Bradley in second and Chris Barendregt in third.
We thought we knew what to expect at the start of this race, but Connor Adam had other ideas. He launched his white Cup car beautifully from the second row and commenced battle with Kris Bostock and Lochlainn Fitzgerald-Symes. Despite the fastest lap being set by Lochlainn, Connor put on a faultless display at the front of the field and eventually came home first ahead of Lochlainn and Kris.
Mathew Burton was delighted to claim a clean sweep for the 944s for the weekend and behind him we were entertained again by tight groups of 944s and Boxsters. Marin Vujcich came through the reverse grid to seize second place in the 944 class and he was followed by a hard charging Neil Dewar and Peter Hardy.
Chris Barendregt claimed the first place honours for the Boxsters after a skilful drive. Tony Houston was unfortunately nudged out of second place into a spin and last place by an overtaking Cup car. So, second in the Boxster class went to Scott Bradley, with Chris Taylor third. Daniel Angus continued with his terrible run of misfortune and only managed to complete two of the 12 laps. Despite his frustrating weekend, Daniel was his usual smiling self and showed us all how to cope with such awful luck.
The day was completed by a lunch upstairs in one of the hospitality lounges. The Pirelli Porsche racers were joined by a large number of Porsche Club members who had turned out to either tour the track or do some faster laps in a track-day format. We took the opportunity to award Chris Taylor with the Driver of The Day trophy for his impressive efforts at the previous Taupo round. Congratulations once again Chris. It was wonderful to see so many new Boxsters out there competing and racing so closely. These cars can be put on the track for about $35k and are proving very popular with more cars about to make their debut this season. We now head to mighty Manfeild for our third round.