Tulloch Motorsport beats Smeg Racing to win dramatic Taupo 3 hour enduro
John McIntyre and Simon Gilbertson have won the opening three-hour race of the 2016 Mahindra North Island Endurance Series, ahead of Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson, in what will be remembered as one of the craziest races of New Zealand endurance history.
The race commenced with an unprecedented 2 hour and 28 minute caution period, as the thick low-hanging fog that covered the entire circuit was deemed too dangerous by officials to compete in. The safety-car period was so long that officials had to cycle through two different safety cars during the time.
The race under safety car became a battle of losing the least amount of time relative to rivals in the pits. Among the first of the leaders to pit were Smeg Racing and Tulloch Motorsport. Their strategies saw their two cars emerge as the biggest threats to win the race later in the day.
For chief rivals Trass Family Motorsport and International Motorsport, their later pit stops buried them in the field among the traffic.
With 32 minutes left in the race, the fog cleared sufficiently enough that officials declared the track safe to compete on, leading to the race's restart — Simon Evans leading in the Holden Commodore he utilized to win the 2015–’16 NZ Touring Car Championship, with John McIntyre right behind him in the SaReNi Camaro GT3 that he and Inky Tulloch used to win the New Zealand Endurance Championship.
As the race went green for the first time, what unfolded at the front was a fierce battle for first, and another battle for third between the Camaro GT3 shared between Glenn Smith and John De Veth, and Tim O'Connor and Craig Innes' Ferrari 458 Challenge.
While McIntyre glued himself to the back of Evans, the O'Connor/Innes 458 took several stabs at snatching third off the SBT Motorsport Camaro — peaking when the pair ran side-by-side through Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park's interior corners.
Simon Evans/Gene Rollinson
With 27 minutes to go, McIntyre made his pass on Evans to claim the lead — only for Evans to take back the position as the pair started to get baulked by traffic. The traffic provided some on-track refuge for Evans, but with time ticking over, McIntyre made one final move. After overlapping with Evans exiting the final corner with 23 minutes to go, he took the lead under brakes into turn one.
With 15 minutes to go, the foggy conditions returned, and the race was suspended under safety car once again. This time, it was for good; ensuring victory for McIntyre and Gilbertson under caution.
The cars in third and fourth place had also changed, as Jonny Reid and Trass Family Motorsport scythed through the field — and the SBT Motorsport and O'Connor entries — to take over third and fourth behind the combination of Evans and Rollinson. Smith and De Veth's wound up fifth, with O'Connor rounding out the top six.
The series now heads to Hampton Downs for round two of the three-round season.
Report courtesy of our friends at Velocity News