By Stu Owers
The first round of our brand new 2020/21 season was held at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo. It followed the same successful one-day formula we pioneered at Taupo last season where we had two sprint races and a 30-minute mini-enduro.
We were sharing the event with the Rennsport group who were doing their normal track day event. It was gratifying to be able to welcome a whole bunch of new drivers and new cars and we were delighted to see the return of some familiar faces from the past. Several recently completed Boxsters were also there to have their maiden race debut. In all, 23 cars were entered for this round, the best number we’ve seen for a couple of seasons.
There was much to celebrate but the event was tinged with sadness for the drivers because of the recent sad passing of Steve Neville, a long time Porsche racing supporter and a two times Championship winner.
Qualifying: The Taupo track configuration is technical and demanding, but a few drivers got straight on the pace. At the front of the field, two series newcomers were vying for overall pole position in their Cup cars. Geoff Short and Kris Bostok were narrowly in front of Robert Dong, with Kris finally getting the honour of starting his first race on pole. Brian McGovern had swapped out his familiar 997 Cup car for his beautifully presented 996 Cup car and was the fastest of the four in this group. Matthew Burton posted the fastest time for the 944 S2 group just in front of Daniel Angus and a returning Neil Dewar. Chris Barendregt was the quickest qualifier in the new Boxster Class, followed by Tony Houston.
Race One: The race one start was chaotic. One competitor had a clutch issue and was rolling forward before the lights went out, but another competitor stayed stationery while the rest of the field frantically dodged left and right around him. Robert Dong and Mike Baker took advantage of the confusion as well as Steff Chambers who led the race from the front of the field. Further back Matthew Burton continued with the promise he showed during qualifying and he led home the 944 of Neil Dewar. Neil was returning to the series with his retro themed 944S, which looked very striking. Chris Barendregt also made good on his qualifying form and lead home the Boxsters in front of Chris Taylor and Scott Bradley.
Race Two: This time the start was clean and without drama. Kris Bostock held on to a narrow lead in front of a hard charging Robert Dong. Robert secured the fastest lap time for the race but wasn’t able to find his way through to the front. Brian McGovern led the 996 Cup cars home, followed by Steff Chambers. Behind them the 944 S2s were putting on a good display. This time Marin Vujich got the better of Matthew Burton to take the Class honours. The Boxster battle was won this time by Tony Houston.
Race Three: This race was one of our relatively new, 30 minute formats. Each class has a compulsory pit stop based on their earlier qualifying or race times. For example, the Boxsters have a pit lane drive through to perform, while the 944s have to stop-and go. The cars at the front of the field have to stop in the pits for nearly three minutes. It’s not intended to create a complete handicap system but it does mean if a driver can consistently do close to their best lap time, he should have a chance at winning outright.
The challenge for all the competitors is trying to do those consistently fast lap times whilst battling within your class as well as dealing with cars from a faster or slower class. It’s tricky stuff and experience in traffic counts for a lot. It takes strategic thinking and a good awareness of other vehicles to do well. After all the pit stops were done, Brian McGovern took the chequered flag and the outright win, followed by Kris Bostok and Robert Dong. Marin Vujcich did an amazing job of dealing with all the traffic and produced fast lap times to not only win the 944 S2 Class, but also take out 5th overall. Neil Dewar finished second in that Class in his new car. Tony Houston was the fastest of the Boxster Class, leading home Chris Taylor in 2nd place.
The day was concluded with an enjoyable dinner held at the track with nearly 70 people in attendance. The RennsportGroup joined our racers and their crews for a celebration of a long day of doing what Porsches do best. Congratulations to all our podium finishers and all their hard-working supporters.