International Motorsport’s Matt Whittaker took his second ENEOS North Island Endurance Series title at Pukekohe Park last weekend, but it wasn’t without its troubles.
Driving his Porsche 911 991 GT3 Cup car he took the hole shot into turn one off the start to lead the race. Round two winner John Midgley didn’t make the start of the race, which had to be pushed back to Sunday after the circuit flooded a day earlier.
The surprise performance early on came from Matt Griffin. The Mortimer Motorsport driver usurped Glenn Smith paired with John de Veth for third off the line, but the Holden Commodore V8 SuperTourer Prototype got the M3 GTR back soon enough.
Whittaker led the opening lap followed by Porsche 911 997 Gt3 Cup driver Ian Hayr and third placed Smith. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for Whittaker to catch the tail of the field with the slowest cars quickly going a lap down.
Hayr defended Smith boldly, but their battle was ended soon when the suspension on Nick Archibald’s Subaru WRX STi collapsed and brought out the safety car.
Several took the opportunity to head to pit lane for their compulsory pit stop. Some who started on wet tyres quickly shifted onto dries. Smith jumped out and de Veth jumped in for the final stanza.
The race restarted with Whittaker buried in the field, but it didn’t take long for him to pull through. After just four laps he’s siphoned his way through to third.
Hayr and de Veth briefly headed the field, but Whittaker was through into the lead in no time.
The Commodore was showing pace on a track which was mostly dry. Heading into the complex de Veth plunged to the inside of Hayr and took second from the Porsche pilot.
Whittaker had a healthy lead, but de Veth was setting fastest lap times to close the lead down, traffic was helping de Veth to catch Whittaker too. Eventually he caught the 911 and made a look into turn one, but he couldn’t make the move stick.
It seemed the pressure was beginning to mount. Approaching the complex, Whittaker dived down the inside of the lapped Ford Mustand of Rick Cooper. Whittaker went too deep and was forced to climb the inside kerb. The pair collided and that allowed de Veth through.
With damage a concern Whittaker headed for the pit lane. He nearly lost a lap to de Veth, but was now down into fourth. It seemed the damage wasn’t too bad so Whittaker continued, but was well off the front runners.
Only a couple of laps later de Veth put Whittaker car a lap down. That promoted Matt Griffin to third in the Mortimer Motorsport BMW. His time at the front was short-lived however as the Pukekohe local suffered a puncture.
The saving grace for Griffin was a safety car moments after his pit stop when Graeme Fraser got stuck in the mud through the complex and Peter Bergovich put his Commodore in the wall.
On the restart de Veth blitzed the field and immediately set about establishing a lead. Behind, Hayr spun at the hairpin with only a few minutes remaining in the race.
As the last lap board came out de Veth held a one lap lead over the field. Only two laps earlier he set his best time of the race with a 1:05.489, which was faster than anyone on track.
The quiet performer of the race had to be Andrew Nugent who plugged away and ended only one lap off de Veth and Smith. Rick Cooper finished nine seconds off Nugent to take third.
Smith and de Veth shared the honours for the One Hour victory, while Matt Whittaker took home the One Hour title and GT-B Class honours too.