Sam Fillmore and Johnny Reid (Audi R8 LMS Evo GT3) have narrowly won the opening race of the 2022 Three-Hour Carter’s Tyre Service South Island Endurance Series from a hard-charging Andrew Fawcett/Daniel Gaunt (McLaren 720S GT3) at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park in Christchurch on Saturday.
After three hours of racing there were just 1.629 seconds between the two cars with the recently crowned North Island series champions, Paul and Ant Pedersen (Mercedes Benz AMG GT3), third and Shane Helms/Greg Murphy (Renault RS01 GT3) in fourth.
“What a great race with a great field of cars, it was so much fun,” commented Fillmore.
“In testing on Friday, we knew we were on the pace and that we had a good car.”
Second-placed Fawcett and Gaunt initially led from pole position only to lose time after being spun around early in the race.
“I think we were 30 seconds down at that point,” Fawcett said.
“I couldn’t get the car restarted and it took a while to get going.
“We managed to fight back so pretty happy to get on the podium.”
With one of the best fields assembled for the three-round series, it was always destined to be a close and action-packed event.
First it was the Nissan GTR Nismo GT3 of Lance Hughes/Chris Ven Der Drift that led the field for nearly half the race until the compulsory pitstop and driver changes started taking place which saw a change in most of the top 10 positions.
Later their charge came undone with a steering issue with just 35 minutes remaining.
The second Nissan GTR Nismo GT3 of Rhys Gould/Gene Rollinson had already retired out of the race along with 2021 Three-Hour champions, Scott O’Donnell/Allan Dippie (Porsche 991 GT3R) with a gearbox issue.
Also retiring near the halfway mark was the Brabham BT62 of series sponsors Dwayne Carter/Matt Carter after a wheel came loose damaging a radiator.
This brought about the only safety car intervention and a flurry of pitstops. Emerging in the lead was Johnny Reid in the Audi chased closely by the Daniel Gaunt in the McLaren.
Having set a new lap record, Reid pitted a second time for necessary fuel and tyres with 50 minutes remaining while Gaunt did the same with approximately 30 minutes remaining.
At this stage there was a 13 second lead with Gaunt closing each lap.
“We were hanging on for dear-life at the end,” said Reid.
“We had a front tyre that was losing pressure each lap so I was just counting down to the chequered flag, talking to the team and managing it as best as we could.”
“We went longer in that second stint and obviously had fresher tyres in the end,” commented Gaunt who set a new lap record late in the day of 1:19.414.
“I think we had the pace today., Andrew (Fawcett) did a stellar job to claw some time back and put us in the hunt.
“Had we had another five laps then it could have made a difference.”
Five separate Class titles were also at stake with Fillmore and Reid winning Class 1 (GT3). Six Class 2 (GT type) cars finished sixth through to 12th overall with Heremana Malmezac/Jono Lester (Porsche 991.2 GT3 Cup MR) first in Class from Marco Schelp/Anthony Leighs (Porsche 997 Cup S).
“This is amazing,” commented Malmezac.
“First in Class is really great. Jono (Lester) did most of the work and the team has also done so well,”.
Marco Giltrap/Simon Evans (Porsche 718 GT4 Clubsport) stayed out of trouble to win Class 3 (3501cc and over, including FIA GT4 spec cars) while Grant Askew/Cole Askew (VW Golf GTi TCR) won Class 4 (2001-3500cc).
All five Class 5 (0-2000cc) cars finished with Ben Silcock/Andre Simon (Honda CRX 2.0) beating home Terence Phillips/Darryl Phillips (Honda Civic 2.0).
Glenn Smith/John DeVeth finished fifth overall and won the Michelin AM/AM Trophy from Hayden Knighton/Kane Lawson (Mercedes Benz AMG GT3) and Marco Schelp/Anthony Leighs (Porsche 997 Cup S).
Drivers and teams now have a three-week break before resuming the competition at the second round at Teretonga Park in Invercargill 24 September 2022.