Lots to play out at Carters Tyres Endurance Series finale
Everything is on the line as the Carters Tyres SI Endurance Series readies itself for this weekend's Grand Finale at the Timaru International Motor Raceway. The tight and twisty nature of the Levels circuit always produces close and exciting racing and expect nothing less for 2016. With an amazing 14 teams that still have a mathematical chance of taking out the overall 3hr Series victory, spectators & fans can be assured that teams will leave absolutely nothing on the table as they fight it out for Series honours, pride and prizemoney as the Carters Tyres Endurance SI Series comes down to the wire.
The 2016 series has provided some incredibly fast and exciting racing to date, with the last 20 minutes of Round Two at Ruapuna having the crowd on their feet. The striking Carters Tyres Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 of Dwayne Carter/Shane Hodgson snatched the win by a mere 1.2 seconds from the sleek Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 of current North Island champions Sam Fillmore & Danny Stutterd. With a first and a second placing in the bag so far for the TFM Ferrari, can the current North Island champions be the first team to ever take the double and win both the North & South Island Series in the same year. They have a 13 point lead heading into the finale, but with the narrow points system and quick-fire 3 round Series their championship lead is described as slender at best. Paul Kelly (Porsche 997 Cup) will again team up with Porsche legend Craig Baird who will fly back to Levels after competing in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race. Kelly, a previous multiple champion of the SIERDC Series, has been proving that a well driven Porsche Cup car can still foot it with the FIA GT3 spec cars in the Series and after taking a pair of podium positions in the opening two rounds, he currently sits second equal in both the glamourous GT class and the overall standings. Tied with Kelly in what will be a winner takes all decider at Levels is current NZ Endurance champion John McIntyre and Simon Gilbertson in the ferocious Tulloch Motorsport SaReNi Camaro GT3. This team bounced back after a Friday crash at Ruapuna to take pole position, after breaking the outright saloon car lap record at Teretonga, but a seemingly simple drink bottle failure thwarted their round two efforts after driver fatigue necessitated an additional driver change, again proving how many factors come into play during a gruelling 3 hour race. One of the pre-season favourite cars we won’t see at Levels will be the Porsche 997 GT3R of outgoing SI champions Angus & George McFarlane, after it suffered significant damage at the Teretonga opener, however they will line up in a Class 3 Toyota Starlet as they desperately try to gather enough series points to qualify for the NZ Endurance championship event in March. Fourth overall and in GT class is Dan Gaunt who will unfortunately miss the Series finale, however Ruapuna teammate Sue McLaughlin (Porsche 997 GT3) will line up with another ace driver in her rookie 3hr Series. Levels also sees a second Ferrari entry with Tim O’Connor and Malcolm Niall lining up in the immaculate Ferrari 458 Challenge. Also look out for the brand new Porsche 991 Cup for Allan Dippie/Scott O’Donnell who have had some extremely close battles at both previous rounds, 997 Cup Cars for Barry Moore/Tim Mackersey and Nigel de Geest/Kynan Yu who both suffered DNF’s at Ruapuna and the Levels Raceway debut of the ex-International Motorsport prepared Falcon V8 SuperTourer of Graeme Rhodes/Paul Rickerby. However the other SuperTourer, the M2 Motorsport Commodore, that has challenged for the lead in both opening rounds will miss Levels after suffering series ending engine damage at Ruapuna.
The battle in all the classes is equally as hotly contested, and Class 1 (3501cc+) has been dominated by the magnificent twin turbo Toyota 86 of Craig & Scotty McDermid. With two wins from two starts ultimately the class win is theirs to loose, The V8 RX7 of Hamish Frew/Darryl Barrett is just 10 points behind and is the only realistic challenger for the class win. Perry Scarfe/Grant Silvester will return with the 427ci powered BA Falcon after causing the late race safety car at Ruapuna and another to suffer at Ruapuna was the father & daughter combo of Ian & Alyssa Clapperton who will swap to the NZ6 spec VN Commodore for Levels after terminal failure of the NZV8 Falcon at Ruapuna.
The Class 2 (2001-3500cc) is another class that looks on paper like it has been dominated by one car but in reality that hasn’t been the case. Class leaders Mike Driver/Phil Hood (Seat Leon Supacopa) were lucky to snatch the class win at Ruapuna after late race class leaders John & Angus Petrie ran low of fuel with 10 minutes to run, requiring a costly splash & dash. The Driver/Hood Supercopa also stopped dead on track but was luckily fired up again after a reset. Second in class and still easily in contention is the similar car of Jim Wallace/Stephen Grellet (Seat Leon Supacopa) with the beautiful VW Golf Mk6 of Ron Mackersey/Warren Good currently sitting third in class. They are just ahead of the new Mazda RX8 of past Pro7 champion Jarrod Parmenter/Andrew Brunton that unfortunately had a diff failure at Ruapuna. Looking to shake up the establishment at Levels will be the turbocharged Ssangyong ‘SuperUte’ of Deon Cooper and Alexandra Whitley. After a DNF due to a driveshaft failure at Ruapuna, this beast has been taken back to the North Island for repairs but will return for the Levels finale with the sole goal of taking out a class victory.
The 0-2000cc Class 3 is another winner takes all class, with only 4 points separating the class leading Honda S2000 of Michael & Rodney Parkes and the BMW E46 WTC of Stu & Arron Black. However the Parkes’ S2000 is doing double duty at Levels as they will also use it for their 1hr campaign after losing two engines in their turbocharged Starlet. With the race for the final podium position in the baby class between Ken Sinclair/Dennis Ham (Peugeot 106) and Victor Cattermole/Grant Moore (Mercedes 190e 2K Cup) separated by one solitary point, this will also mean a winner takes all battle for the final podium position. Other cars competing in the baby class include a second Peugeot 106 for Tim Stanton/Leighton Tremain and also defending Series champions Angus & George McFarlane who will pilot Sam Bushell’s 1hr Toyota Starlet hoping that a solid finish could see them snare enough points for one of the final qualifying spots for the NZ Endurance Championship event in March 2017.
So with 95 points on offer, both the overall and class championships are far from sealed. As with any endurance racing a slight misfortune either on the track or during their pit stops can make or break a drivers entire Series and with still so much to be decided the Levels race will be a real cliff-hanger. But the most important aspect is making the chequered flag and in endurance racing things can change in a heartbeat as a slight problem, mistake or DNF can have an immediate and dramatic effect on the standings. So as we approach the final round of the 2016 Carters Tyres SI Endurance Series there will be teams desperate to consolidate their championship positions, whilst others who are out of contention will throw caution to the wind in the pursuit of a class or race glory. And with the red hot pace the series has seen to date, will any of the contenders drop under the magic minute around the tight Timaru circuit as they also chase new lap and race records.
The Overall Carters Tyres SI Endurance series winner will be awarded the coveted ‘South Canterbury Toyota Cup’ plus a cheque for $10,000 thanks to Series sponsors Carters Tyres Services. With thanks to associate sponsor Allied 24/7/fuel there is also another $20,000 to be paid out as class prizemoney across both the 3hr & 1hr series’ and also up for grabs as spot prizes are an original watercolour painting by Dunedin artist Norman Sinclair valued at approx. $10,000-00, a set of Michelin race tyres, and product from ENDLESS advanced brake Technologies.
Ruapuna race winners Dwayne Carter/Shane Hodgson (Mercedes AMG SLS GT3) leading Scott O’Donnell/Allan Dippie (Porsche 991 GT3 Cup) during the 3hr race at Ruapuna 2016.
Photo: Euan Cameron.
Entries are still available for the 3hr race, and for more information on the South Island Endurance Series, entries, or to be added to the South Island Endurance Racing Drivers Club’s e-mailing list, please contact Chris Dunn via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org ph 021-107-9293, or information and live updates can be found on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/sierdcnz
For more information on Series sponsor Carters Tyres please visit www.carterstyres.co.nz
Action starts from 9am Saturday and gate entry is just $15-00.