Bryant and Gaunt again at Pukekohe
Tayler Bryant and two-time New Zealand Grand Prix winner Dan Gaunt showed their class once again to win the first one hour race at Pukekohe Park in the concluding weekend of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand TR86 endurance series.
A late deluge of rain meant the race ended under the Safety Car but Gaunt had done enough having repassed Simon Evans for the race lead late in the race and before the rain came to take a second win from three races in the MTF Finance TR86.
At the start reigning sprint champion Peter Vodanovich, sharing with Mark Mallard, showed his immense class with a super smooth stint where he dominated the field and established a solid lead over the other runners with endless laps in the 1 minute 17 second bracket. Behind him Ronan Murphy - co driving with Chris van der Drift - was on an early charge and fought his way up to second after making a pass on Dayle ITM Racing team mate Christina Orr-West, who once again had the talented Rowan Shepherd as team mate.
Murphy got to within a couple of seconds behind Vodanovich but then found a charging Connor Adam in his mirrors. That demanded his full attention and in the battle that followed there was significant contact that put Ronan into a quick spin on lap 12 which briefly brought out the Safety Car. With no damage done, young Murphy was able to resume at the back of the restarted pack, but with all the work to do once again.
The pit stop window came around pretty quickly and in the space of ten minutes all the cars had been in for driver changes with all the co-drivers switching from the main drivers, with the exception of Brock Gilchrist and Alistair Wootten, who had Wootten drive the opening stint. The pit stops were executed with varying degrees of success and as the lap timers sorted out the order, Mallard emerged with the lead intact.
The real action though, was happening behind the leader. A solid stint by Marco Giltrap and a strong changeover put multiple NZV8 and endurance champion Simon Evans into a challenging position behind Mallard. Evans charged hard in the opening laps of his stint and narrowed the gap to Mallard from just under three seconds to a few tenths. He converted that into the lead with a text book pass over the start/finish line of the 29th lap.
As the race entered its final staged the man on the move was Gaunt, after another slick changeover from Bryant. As Evans caught the leader Gaunt was closing in on both and his pass for the lead came on lap 34.
That was how it stayed until the rain came and when the rain arrived it was intense enough that it was only a matter of time before the Safety Car was deployed.
At the flag, it was Bryant and Gaunt from Giltrap and Evans. Billy Frazer was solid in his stint and passed Mallard, who held on for fourth ahead of a hard charging Chris van der Drift in fifth. Gilchrist and Wootten came home sixth with Orr West and Shepherd and Alexandra Whitley and V8 Supercar ace Andre Heimgartner completing the runners after a very long pit stop.