Pukekohe Endurance Race, 14-5-2011

16 05 2011

WOW….   What can I say but… Wow….  This is only the second time I have been in the winning car at this very tough 6 hour endurance race.  This year I am very grateful to the Dempsey Wood team for inviting me to drive alongside Conal Dempsey in his ‘Bridgestone-Porsche’ 1991 Porsche 911 Twin Turbo.  Car No 25

We started well enough in qualifying 3rd on the grid with a 1.02.637  Pole time was set by the very quick Nissan Skyline of Harry Dodson and Clark Proctor at 1.00.981 (whew that is fast on street tyres) Second was the Dean Perkins/Corkery Ford Falcon at 1.02.298

At the start I managed to pass the Falcon down the back straight and latch on to the tail-lights of Harry Dodson’s Skyline. Somehow I seemed to be glued to his back bumper for the first hour of the race, at qualifying lap times!! This was one of the most enjoyable races I can remember as we raced close but safely through all the slower traffic. Harry would get away a little as we lapped cars, but then I was able to close up onto his tail again, setting the fastest race lap in the process, at 1.02.907, and we were lapping consistently in the 1.03’s for that first hour until I snuck past as we were caught up in lapped traffic. I managed to put some slow cars between us but then Harry slowed and headed to the pits… his race was over.

We now had approximately a 45 second lead over the Dean Perkins’ Falcon. I stayed in the seat after the first refuel stop, and by the time we pitted for the second refuelling, after approx 2 hours 25 minutes, we were more than 1 lap ahead.  Conal Dempsey now took over driving his car and maintained  the healthy lead right in to the night session (yes, he had to do the blinding twilight laps over Ford Mountain into the setting sun)

So we were looking quite comfortable in the lead. But then the Altezza drivers, Booth/Ross/Udy who had been following Conal, told us they saw sparks flying off the right rear tyre as he powered out of the hairpin.  This meant that we were down to the steel belts on that tyre and it wouldn’t last much longer so this called for an unscheduled pitstop. Sure enough the tyre was totally fried, and with swapping it and refuelling we lost 2 laps to the Perkins/Corkery Ford.

Conal tried to put pressure onto the Ford by lapping sometimes faster, but always within a whisker of their times, and all the time trying to conserve the rear tyres (not an easy task with the Porsche loving to spin the rear tyres out of every corner..)  We had pretty much resigned ourselves to 2nd place when suddenly, at 236 laps the Ford blew it’s engine and we were back in the lead, by 10 laps..!!  This race sure can change in an instant..

Now Conal’s job was to nurse the car, and especially the rear tyres, through to the end of the race at 8pm.  But all was not well as the finish was approaching… suddenly we had Conal appear in the pits with another blown right rear tyre (oh yes, I forgot to tell you, the radio failed after the first half hour so we had no communication for most of the race.. so we just had to guess when the car was coming in for fuel, etc.)

One of our spare wet weather tyres was fitted and Conal limped slowly around for the remaining laps to WIN by 4 laps ahead of the two Mitsubishi Evos of Billington/Hourigan and Gill/De Veth/Verryt.   We managed to complete 300 laps in the 6 hours. We had hoped to break the record 302 laps, and we were on track to do maybe 305 but the tyre problems ended that hope….   We’ll have to try harder next year….   🙂   🙂

A very happy and tired crew celebrated after the race, as we collected our silverware, and marvelled at some of the famous names engraved on that beautiful Winner’s Cup.

BIG THANKS to all concerned;  the organisers, flag marshalls, officials, support crews and wives. It is a marvelous event, and we look forward to the next Endurance Round at Taupo 11th June.

I especially want to thank Conal Dempsey, of Dempsey Wood for letting me race their Porsche.   🙂   🙂   🙂

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