NZ: Series Timaru preview
SMART MONEY ON REYNOLDS AS BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE BATTLE HEADS TO TIMARU The smart money has got to be on Australian driver David Reynolds as the battle for the 2009/10 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship heads to ...
SMART MONEY ON REYNOLDS AS BATTERY TOWN PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE BATTLE HEADS TO TIMARU
The smart money has got to be on Australian driver David Reynolds as the battle for the 2009/10 Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship heads to Timaru this weekend.
Though V8 Supercar series commitments meant he missed the opening round of this season's Battery Town series at Pukekohe in early November last year, the 24-year-old from Melbourne won the second round later that month in Christchurch and the third at Invercargill's Teretonga Park last weekend.
Defending series champion Craig Baird continues to lead the series points standings after winning the first round and claiming podium spots (second behind Reynolds in Christchurch and third behind Reynolds and international Matt Halliday at Invercargill) but Triple X Motorsport teammate Reynolds is fast catching up.
After the second round he was seventh in the overall series points standings and after the third he is now fifth behind Baird, Halliday, Daniel Gaunt and Jonny Reid.
With double points - not to mention $10,000 prize money - for the longer The Mad Butcher-sponsored 100km mini endurance race at the first three rounds, five-time series champion Baird has been able to establish and maintain his by now customary early season advantage.
But this weekend and at the penultimate series round at Feilding's Manfeild circuit in February, the first Battery Town series race of the weekend reverts to the traditional 12 lap 'sprint' /normal points format, levelling the playing field for the likes of Reynolds, current points runner-up Matt Halliday and the two other drivers vying for a place on the series podium, Triple X Motorsport's Daniel Gaunt, and International Motorsport's Jonny Reid.
Long-time rival Matt Halliday remains Baird's biggest threat points-wise this weekend, the double points from his The Mad Butcher 100km mini-enduro win at Teretonga helping him leap-frog Gaunt in the series points standings.
But Reynolds is definitely the form man, not just because of his round-winning runs at the second and third rounds of this season's Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge either.
This time last year the dynamic young Melbourne driver scored a clean Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship sweep at the tight, technical Timaru circuit, qualifying quickest (from Baird and young Auckland driver Mark Russ) and winning all three races, including the reverse top-six grid final.
Also, if last weekend's Battery Town round at Invercargill's Teretonga Park Raceway is anything to go by, Saturday morning's qualifying session at Timaru will provide as much excitement as the races, Reynolds, Baird and Halliday never more than a few hundredths of a second apart as they fought a battle royal for pole position.
Halliday made the initial running but it was Reynolds who eventually stopped the clocks quickest with a best time of 57.854 - albeit just 0.007 of a second better than Baird's 57.861 and 0.021 better than the 57.875 set by Halliday.
Daniel Gaunt joined Halliday on the second row of the grid with the lowest time in the 58 second bracket - 58.307 - with Jonny Reid, Mitch Cunningham, young gun Courtney Letica - on the comeback trail after a heavy qualifying crash at the second round - Triple X Motorsport team boss Shane McKillen and series stalwart Andrew Bagnall all lapping under the minute mark.
Best of the drivers contesting the Mothers 996 Cup for older model GT3 Cup cars was again Hugh Gardiner, the Aucklander quickest in his category in qualifying and each race, splitting 997 drivers Shane McKillen and Andrew Bagnall in the first race and diciing for track position with them in the second and third.
Heading to Timaru however it is series rookie Simon McLennan who retains the points lead in the Mothers 996 Cup standings, Gardiner having missed out on a valuable double-points opportunity of his own when he failed to finish The Mad Butcher 100km mini enduro at the second round of the Battery Town series in Christchurch late last year.
The Mothers 996 Cup category has come into its own this season with the arrival of young guns McLennan and Simon Evans (19-year-old brother of rising single-seater star Mitch and eldest son of well-known Porsche racer and New Zealand Land Speed record holder Owen Evans) and the addition to the field of the likes of Bridgestone Porsche Series graduate Colin Caldwell and - making his Battery Town series debut at Teretonga - Dunedin driver Allan Dippie.
Proving his increasing competitiveness, former kart champion and New Zealand Formula Ford championship race winner Evans split Gardiner and McLennan in qualifying at Teretonga and after a mechanical problem sidelined him in The Mad Butcher 100km mini-enduro on Saturday he came back to battle McLennan in the two sprint races on Sunday.
There will again be a full field of 15 cars contesting the Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge championship races at Timaru International Motor Raceway this weekend, with Christchurch driver Paul Kelly making a welcome return in his 997 GT3 Cup car and Allan Dippie making his second series start in the Mothers 996 Cup category.
Qualifying and the first (12 lap) race of the weekend for the Battery Town cars is on Saturday with a second 12 lap sprint race on Sunday morning and a 16 lap reverse top six grid final on Sunday afternoon.
The championship chase then heads north for the penultimate points round at Feilding's Manfeild circuit over the February 13-14 weekend and the final at the Taupo Motorsport Park on March 20 and 21.
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