Jonny Reid and Neil Foster have won a dramatic second round of the Carter’s Tyres South Island Endurance Series.
Christchurch circuit Mike Pero Motorsport Park hosted a healthy field for the three-hour feature in hot conditions.
After recording the top times in qualifying, International Motorsport led the field into turn one with their two Audi R8 LMS GT3 racers.
Gene Rollinson – paired with Andrew Fawcett – led Neil Foster through turn one and two, but Damon Leitch in the Tony Quinn Aston Martin Vantage GT3 was quick to demote Foster to third.
Rollinson and Leitch led the way and established a gap between themselves and the trailing pack. Roughly five seconds was the margin between the pair throughout the opening few laps, while Foster was some 30 seconds in arrears.
The Glenn Smith/John de Veth run McLaren 650S GT3 nearly ended up in the gravel at turn one after they sustained a puncture a few laps into the race. They crawled back to the pit lane, but lost a handful of laps in the process.
ITM MIKE Racing driver Christina Orr-West was surprisingly off the pace in the early running. A pit stop 25 minutes into the race saw them drop three laps.
Orr-West and co-driver Brendon Leitch retired from the race before the first hour could be completed. Their car was brought into the pit lane having suffered with an engine issue.
They weren’t the only Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 team parked early. The Carter’s Tyres car driven by Dwayne Carter and Shane Hodgson failed to make the start following an overheating issue.
Just 35 minutes into the race and Rollinson lapped the sister Interantional Motorsport car of Foster. The first hour ran without incident, but the race was soon turned on its head.
The first round of pit stops began just over an hour into the race. Race leader Rollinson got out and Andrew Fawcett jumped in. Likewise, Foster got out an Jonny Reid got in. There were more pit stops too, including Damon Leitch swapping for Tony Quinn.
Reid un-lapped himself with an hour and 15 minutes complete. Shortly afterwards the first safety car was called for a stranded Toyota 86.
The race restarted with Fawcett leading Quinn. Behind them Jaxon Evans fought to get back a lap while the man in third place overall was just behind him also looking to get a lap back.
Reid blasted by Evans and only two laps later cleared Quinn for second. Moments later Fawcett opened the door and let Reid by. Then drama hit as Quinn tried to go through the open door too and clipped the back of Fawcett’s car.
Fawcett spun and with now where to go Quinn had to follow him off. He quickly lit up his tyres in the grass and spun his car around. Both managed to get going, but hemorrhaged a healthy amount of time.
The chaos continued as Jonny Reid got handed a drive-through penalty for an unexplained incident.
Shortly afterwards later Quinn quick Fawcett and spun him. The former race leading Audi sat stranded in the middle of the road with damage to the rear of his car.
The safety car was brought out and Quinn was duly given a drive-through penalty.
As the race went green again Quinn pitted, he got out, and Leitch got in. Leitch served the penalty and a lap after that Reid pitted to serve his penalty too.
Once the penalties and pit stops played out it was Reid/Foster leading Leitch/Quinn and surprise performers Jack Milligan and George McFarlane who sat third.
Chaos ensued once again when the Coffin/Bushell V8-powered RX-7 blew up, the McDermid/Head Toyota 86 stopped, the Sutton/Holland Mazda RX-7 spun, and the Schelp/Hamilton Porsche 911 GT3 Cup S slowed into the pit lane with a broken axle all on the same lap.
Once again the safety car was called out to recover the RX-7 and the Toyota 86.
The race went back to green with a little under 45 minutes to go. Reid led by a healthy margin over Leitch. But that quickly narrowed to just 10 seconds after passing the lapped traffic.
While Leitch slowly narrowed the gap to Reid, Evans was quickly catching McFarlane for third. With 40 minutes to go Evans cleared McFarlane and duly tool third place away.
The final stanza of the race saw Reid lead Leitch at a stable margin of seven seconds. Reid hit traffic, which narrowed the margin to just over four seconds.
Reid continued to slowly lose time to Leitch, and with 20 minutes to go there was just under two seconds between them.
His biggest loss came when the Cooper/Cooper Mustang GT4 baulked Reid through the turn four, five, six and seven section. That brought Leitch to within under a second of the lead and in sight of passing.
The race couldn’t finish without one more dose of drama.
A puncture with only a handful of laps to go forced Leitch into the pit lane for a fast tyre change, ending their hopes of a win.
Ultimately it was Reir and Foster who came home winners well ahead of Quinn and Leitch, while Evans and co-driver Ben Byers scored a surprise podium.