A mixed bag of weather didn’t put off competitors in a full day of Golden Homes North Island Endurance Series practices at Hampton Downs today, with the times coming in thick and fast to showcase what shapes up to be a great day of racing tomorrow.
In a field full of talent, it was Nick Chester who set the benchmark early on in the new Marc GT, a 1:03.436 being the fastest time of the first session of the day in dry conditions.
The #909 Porsche 991.2 Cup MR of Francois Beziac and Tom Alexander also put in some solid times to pip Heremana Malmezac and Jono Lester’s #910 of the same car.
Luke Manson is also looking the goods in the #222 Porsche 991.2, with Steve Brooks and Bill Riding running strong in the always-impressive Wolfbrook Porsche early on before swapping to the newly acquired Audi R8 GT3 for the very next run.
As the track began to improve over the day, so did the times, with Jonny Reid and Sam Fillmore (Audi R8 LMS Evo 2) making a statement that they’re right in the mix to repeat their New Zealand Endurance Championship 3-Hour victory, setting a 1:01.254 around the midday mark.
The McLaren GT3 650S, being shared this weekend by Gene Rollinson, John DeVeth and Glenn Smith, set a time only four-tenths behind this, bringing the battle to the national champions.
Neither of those cars could top the Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Ant and Paul Pedersen, however, which set the fastest lap of the day, a mindblowing 1:00.980.
The ever-impressive Nissan GTR returns to the fold, driven by Lance Hughes and Chris van der Drift, who were quick and set a 1:02.785 just after lunch.
Christina Orr-West and Bree Morris are partnering up in the Dayle ITM Mercedes Benz AMG GT4 for the 3-Hour, both lapping consistently in the 1:07s.
The 1-Hour is shaping up to be a thriller, with no less than 22 cars taking to the track come race time.
Chester remains the pacesetter, his best of the day being 1:02.983. Beziac, Malmezac, Manson and Brooks all remain in close proximity, with a strong mid-pack also looking a chance of bridging the gap to the faster cars.
Among those is Nick Ross (Nissan Altima), Shaun Varney (BMW 318i), Adam Julian (Porsche 997-2) and Grant Aitken (Porsche GT4RS).
There’s also plenty of young talent taking to the track, including a return for Cormac Murphy (Toyota 86), a debut for Ayrton Hodson, who partners Brett Sullivan (Z4 M Coupe), and Clay Osborne (BMW M2), who is fresh off the back of his maiden Toyota 86 victory last week.
A full day of action at Hampton Downs begins with two early-morning practice sessions before 1-Hour qualifying at 9.40 am and 3-Hour qualifying at 10.10 am.
The 1-Hour begins racing at 11.05 am, with the 3-Hour beginning at 1.00 pm.
There is no fee to enter the circuit for spectators.