This was the first time the Race Series had been to Pukekohe this season. We had run the car here in the Mahindra 1hr Endurance race in June 2015 when we were shaking the car down. We ran it then with the standard engine. Additionally we had run a test day here in August.
Friday was a mix of rain and fine, but we got a few runs in on ex Taupo tyres, then bolted on some less worn ex Hampton Downs Tyres to check car speed and handling.
Qualifying on Saturday morning saw us nail a 1.08.02 – only 2/100ths outside our breakout time – to put us on pole. The other top drivers have all moved forward and were very close behind me with their lap times so it was looking like it would be a weekend of close racing…and it was.
Andre Mortimer had posted a 1.08.2 and was beside me on the front row of the grid and had a great start leading me into turn 1 (note the recurring theme here – we need to do better with our starts) so with Rob Berggren and Warwick Mortimer hard on my tail I set off to try to get past Andre. Pukekohe is a track full of character with a lot of big bumps and off camber seal patches and corner entries, and a lot of unforgiving concrete walls close to the track edge. We touch 244km/hr (a little over 150mph)on the back straight and a similar speed at the end of the front straight as you hit the bumps on the approach to the scarily fast turn 1. The other exciting piece is coming over Ford mountain at the entrance to the front straight – get it right and you are rewarded with a fast lap time – get it wrong and you plant yourself in the concrete wall.
Lap 4 I was hard on Andre’s bumper and got a good exit out of Castrol. I slipstreamed him up the back straight and managed to slingshot out from behind him just before the braking point into the complex at the end of the back straight and we took the lead.
Race 2, the reverse grid, saw me last out of pit lane, 5 secs behind Andre and Rob. As always these are exciting races trying to pass everyone. Warwick made me work extremely hard to get past him – he is a master at making his car as wide as the track – Rob had an unfortunate spin that saw him kiss the wall, leaving Andre between me and another win. Since Dane drove his car Andre has certainly picked up the pace and it is very hard to get past him, but we did on the last lap to place first in class. Unfortunately our GPS had failed so I had no lap times on my dash so broke out twice during this race for some more points to be taken off me.
Race 3 was a repeat of Race 1. Rob had his car repaired and going again so it was a full grid, and another win to the Buro BMW GT2.