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By Stuart Owers

The final round of the 2019/20 Pirelli Porsche Championship was originally scheduled for Taupo during March, but as we know, the Covid crisis intervened and all our plans were cancelled. However, as the country began to emerge from the shut-downs and the restrictions were lift ed we fl oated the idea of going ahead with that fi nal round at Taupo. Aft er overwhelming support from the drivers the decision was made to lift  everybody’s spirits and forge ahead with the event. The plan for the weekend was to replicate the other successful one-day format we held at the same venue earlier in the season.

We had the practice, qualifying, a sprint race and two 30-minute enduros, all on the one day. We were also joined by over 30 road going Porsches from an enthusiastic Rennsport Gruppe, who were there for track laps. We were delighted to have some new drivers and some well-known faces returning to the Series for this round. Mike Baker travelled up on the Picton ferry to join in the fun aft er an absence of a couple of seasons. Dave Allison was there in his newly purchased 996 Cup car and Gerry Kessels was joining us with his good looking 944. Also rolling up to the grid was Connor Adam who was leasing Struan Robertson’s 997 Cup car and Rob Williams was back with his good looking 997. Connor is new to Porsches but a successful runner in the Toyota 86 series. Phil Jones was also looking to re-join the racing for this round but was side-lined early by mechanical issues. The points table from the rest of our season was showing some very close contests for class championships as well as the overall trophies. Only one point separated Brian McGovern and Robert Dong for the Pirelli Porsche Motorsport Championship, and it was also going to be very tightly contested for our Endurance Championship and the Club Championship.

The cold temperatures meant it took a while before tyre grip came up to normal and some representative times could be put down. The biggest group were the 944s in Class E and they have provided such intensely close racing all season. We watched Matthew Burton put in the fi rst of their top times but he was being matched each time by Marin Vujcich. Peter Hardy and Jim McKernan were close behind. It wasn’t until near the end of the session that Marin placed down a marker that was out of reach for the others and he secured pole position for the Class. The 996s were headed by the hard charging Cam McCormack with a brilliant time considering the uncooperative track surface. For the coveted front row spot, we watched a six way battle between Sean Kirkpatrick, Rob Williams, Rob Dong, Connor Adam, Mike Baker and Brian McGovern. At the end of the session it was Connor Adam who had his name at the top of the time sheets. Beside him on the front row was Brian McGovern and in the second row it was Sean Kirkpatrick and Robert Dong.

Race One
We were wondering how newcomer Connor would adjust to the starting technique of a 911 Cup car as they can be notoriously di ffi cult to launch successfully. As the starting lights went out it was Connor matching revs and clutch perfectly to lead the pack into turn one. Behind him, Sean Kirkpatrick had zoomed from the second row to follow him through. Brian McGovern would hound the back of Sean’s car for the entire six laps but couldn’t fi nd a way past. Connor Adam took the chequered fl ag and won his fi rst Porsche race. Behind them, Cam McCormack was ahead in the 996 Class and pressuring some of the 997s. The 944s were more spread out than in past races and were lead home by Matt Burton who also claimed the fastest E Class time. Marin Vujcich was second in front of Peter Hardy and Gerry Kessels.

Race Two
This was the fi rst of two 30 minute enduros. Each car had to make a compulsory pit stop for a class-specifi c time. The 997s had to stop for over two minutes, while the Class E cars had to do a stop-go. The question was, could Connor get another great start in these tricky cars? The answer was a definitive yes. He scorched away again, but this time he was followed into turn one by Brian McGovern. Cam McCormack was keen to get his name on the Endurance trophy so headed off as fast as he could and was putting in some great lap times. Unfortunately, his plans came unravelled when he got a puncture and was forced to make a second stop to change the tyre. The Class E battle was in full song with Matt Burton leading again over Marin Vujcich and Peter Hardy. Marin did claim the fastest lap time for Class E though. Jim McKernan had eyes firmly on the big end of season trophy, so he drove strategically to ensure he kept out of trouble but still scooped up enough points.  The pit stops mixed the field and scrambled some of the positions, but, at the chequered flag it was Connor Adam in first overall, Brian McGovern was second, followed by Sean Kirkpatrick and Robert Dong. Steff Chambers won the 996 Class and Matt Burton the Class E battle. Chris Barendregt secured Class D.

Race Three
This was another 30 minute enduro, but this time without Peter Hardy who had struck clutch or gearbox issues at the end of the previous race and was forced to watch from the side-lines.  We held our breath as the start lights went out as, once again, the field surged away behind Connor Adam who managed another great start. This time Brian McGovern was hot on his heels and shadowed him closely until the pit stops split the pair.

Brian put in the fastest lap and a close finish looked promising. Cam McCormack was back in scorching form, thanks in part to a set of tyres lent generously by Phil Jones. We were also intrigued by the 944 contest. Matt Burton held a slender lead over Marin Vujcich for the first part of the race, but the constant pressure from Marin eventually took its toll and Matt had a big spin coming out of turn five. 

At the chequered flag the overall winner was Connor Adam, followed by Brian McGovern. Cam McCormack managed a remarkable third overall. Class E was won by Marin Vujcich, with Matt Burton second and Jim McKernan third. It was exciting to see Brian McGovern doing smokey donuts after the chequered flag to celebrate winning the Pirelli Porsche NZ Motorsport Championship. After many seasons finishing in the runner-up position, he can finally call himself a New Zealand National Champion.

Prize giving and dinner
After a cold winter’s day full of colourful action on the race track it was fun to head up to one of the hospitality suites to relax and have pre-dinner drinks. It was also a great atmosphere to present our winners with all the end of season trophies. There were over 80 people there for a warm celebration of a great season of hot Porsche racing and action-packed times. The prize giving began by acknowledging the hard work and huge hours put into this event by the main organisers, Brian McGovern, Phil Jones and Nigel Cagiou, from the Rennsport side.

The event can only be judged as a huge success and it was solely because of the work put in by these three dedicated people. The strength of the applause and cheering for these guys was touching and it showed how much everybody appreciated the fantastic event they’d put in.

Our prize and trophy winners were; Manfeild Driver of the Day; Matt Burton. Taupo Driver of the Day; Connor Adam. Most Improved Trophy; Daniel Angus. Ladies Racing Trophy; Steff Chambers.

Class winner trophies; Class E Jim McKernan, Class D Chris Barendreght, Class C Steff Chambers, Class B Robert Dong, Class Open Sean Kirkpatrick. Endurance Championship Winner; Marin Vujcich. 2nd. Cam McCormack 3rd. Steff Chambers. Pirelli Porsche Club Racing Champion Jim McKernan (Runner up – Marin Vujcich) Pirelli Porsche NZ Motorsport Champion Brian McGovern (Runner up – Robert Dong). Our warmest congratulations to all our worthy winners. So, our 2019/2020 season closed on an incredibly high note. There were so many positives to come out of the last event. We did a range of testing on several Boxsters to start the ball rolling on this very promising, low cost, Class.

We tried the one-day endurance format again and had a resoundingly positive response from the drivers and we incorporated a huge number of Club members with their road going cars for the track day portion. Plus, we had a great gathering of Club members for the dinner.

Once again, a huge thanks to Brian, Phil and Nigel for making the day such a massive success. Also, enormous thanks go to Brent Greer for producing his magnificent trophies. The Driver of the Day trophy is always sought after and the new Endurance Trophy is nothing short of spectacular.

We couldn’t have done all this without the ongoing support from our series sponsors. Pirelli, Porsche Official Centres, Dempsey Wood, Continental Cars Tyre Centre, Castrol Edge, and Actibush Ltd.

Our prize and trophy winners were:Manfeild Driver of the Day; Matt Burton Taupo Driver of the Day; Connor Adam 

  • Most Improved Trophy; Daniel Angus
  • Ladies Racing Trophy; Steff Chambers
  • Class winner trophies; 
  • Class E Jim McKernan, Class D Chris Barendreght, Class C Steff Chambers 
  • Class B Robert Dong 
  • Class Open Sean Kirkpatrick
  • Endurance Championship Winner; Marin Vujcich. 2nd. Cam McCormack 3rd. Steff Chambers 
  • Pirelli Porsche Club Racing Champion Jim McKernan (Runner up – Marin Vujcich) Pirelli Porsche NZ Motorsport Champion Brian McGovern (Runner up – Robert Dong). 

Our warmest congratulations to all our worthy winners.