The competitors and cars have all gone home, but the winners of the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series opener have yet to be decided.
Reigning champions Wet & Forget Racing dominated proceedings at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park in the Three Hour race. Drivers Chris Hanley and Simon Evans ran a near flawless race for the duration of the three hours.
However, their win remains provisional with a review of the result set to take place.
“Last weekend during the final laps of the race we encountered some of the wildest racing conditions seen in the history of the North Island Endurance Series,” President Kel McBeath said.
“The level of competition now at the front of the field is incredibly intense, with multiple cars capable of winning on the day.
“During all the chaos of some cars pitting and some cars going off into the gravel trap the race was brought to a halt by race control for safety reasons. We believe that some cars may have been scored incorrectly and we support getting that reviewed as soon as possible.”
A frantic finish to the first race of the endurance series saw a downpour cover the North Waikato facility during the closing minutes. In the space of two laps the circuit was drenched and the leaders all pitted for wet weather tyres.
Several cars still on slick tyres speared off the circuit and the safety car was brought out.
In the kerfuffle of the pit stop sequence, John McIntyre and Simon Gilbertson in their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR managed to get the jump on the Evans/Hanley Holden Commodore VF. A pit stop one lap earlier proved pivotal as McIntyre got the undercut.
That was aided by a costly mistake in the pit lane that saw Evans slide on the slippery concrete, miss his marks and nearly take out his crew. They lost precious time as their car had to be pushed back before they could carry out the pit stop.
Moments after the safety car came out the race was red flagged and called to an end with two cars beached in the gravel trap. There was more drama to come.
McIntyre and Gilbertson headed to the pit lane at the front of the queue having seemingly taken the chequered flag first.
McIntyre parked up behind the first place board believing that he, Gilbertson and the team had won. After an extended wait the call was made that it was Simon Evans and Chris Hanley who had won instead.
This was despite McIntyre returning to the race ahead of Evans after the pit stop and taking the chequered flag first. Unsurprisingly, McIntyre and Gilbertson left the podium celebrations quickly and lodged a protest.
The hearing was unable to take place on the evening of the event, which means that the protest has been deferred to MotorSport New Zealand to be resolved.
What it could see is McIntyre and Gilbertson potentially given the victory if everything goes their way. It is understood that a possible timing error might be to blame for the confusion.
North Island Endurance Series President Kel McBeath said in the best interest of the competitors a full review needs to take place.
“We are strong advocates of maintaining a fair and sporting approach,” he said.
“If cars were unfairly classified as non-finishers, we will seek to have the results amended. However, before that can happen, a full appeal has to take place and that is now under control by MotorSport New Zealand officials.
“Once that is complete and the results have been amended we will have a clearer picture of where everyone sits in the standings.”
Results further down the order may be affected too. Bruce Kett and Shane Johnson were on target to win Class One in their Ford Falcon BF. When the red flag was called they were in the pit lane changing to wet weather tyres and as they were unable to leave pit lane due to the red flag they were subsequently scored as non-finishers.
A final decision is expected to come this week before the MotorSport New Zealand AGM.
The next round of the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series takes place at South Auckland’s Pukekohe Park over June 15-16. For more information visit nierdc.com or the North Island Endurance Series Facebook page.
Provisional race results, overall top 10*
1. Simon Evans/Chris Hanley —134 laps
2. Simon Gilbertson/John McIntyre +5.912
3. Nick Chester/Cameron Jones + 1 lap
4. Brendon Leitch/Christina Orr-West + 2 laps
5. Neil Foster/Jonny Reid + 3 laps
6. Glenn Smith/John de Veth + 5 laps
7. Michael Neville/James Kutia + 6 laps
8. Simon Sceats/James Kirkpatrick + 6 laps
9. Hayden Johnston/Damon Jackson + 9 laps
10. Bryan Symes/Lochlan Fitzgerald/Symes + 13 laps
*All results are subject to change pending protest. Full results will follow in due course once a full review has been completed.