Kiwi drivers finished first and second in this afternoon’s Laser Plumbing & Electrical Hampton Downs 500 with Dom Storey and Peter Hackett claiming the win ahead of the Australian Endurance Championship leaders, Jaxon Evans and Tim Miles.
It was a dominant performance from the Eggleston Motorsport pairing of Storey and Hackett who finished 27.543 seconds ahead of Miles and Evans. It was even more satisfying for Storey and Hackett who were penalized for a pit lane transgression in yesterday’s Top Ten Shootout, which saw them demoted from 3rd to 9th on the starting grid.
“Motorsport is very up and down but you’ve got to take those knocks and use them to motivate yourself,” says Storey. “I came here today really fired up to do well and I’m just so rapt for the team and for the sponsors.”
John Martin and Liam Talbot started the race in pole position in the Porsche 911 and Talbot did a good job in the early stages to maintain the lead. The McLaren of Fraser Ross and Alvaro Parente was the big mover on the opening lap, jumping six places from 8th on the grid to second after Ross found a cracking line on the outside of the field on turn one.
Peter Hackett also showed good pace in the early stages, climbing from 9th on the grid to 3rd before coming in for an early pit stop on lap 18. That strategy paid dividends when the first safety car brought the field together on lap 30. A few laps later, Hackett had worked his way through the field and he took the lead on lap 39 with a gutsy move down the inside of Talbot on turn two.
“We wanted to make sure Dom had a full tank of gas for the last stint,” says Hackett. “That was critical. I was catching the guys in front rather rapidly in the early stages so rather than get caught up in someone else’s fight, we decided to get out of the traffic. I came in after the splash and dash and I had clean air in front of me for a few laps. Then a safety car came out and a safety car can go either way as we found out here last year when it cost us the win. This year it worked in our favour.”
Championship leader Tim Miles and Jackson Evans made the start line after the Valvoline Jamec Pem Racing team worked late into the night to repair the damage on the Audi R8 LMS in yesterday’s qualifying session. Miles took the wheel for the opening stint and improved from 8th on the grid to fourth midway through the race.
The first of the compulsory pit stops and driver changes happened midway through the race with Dom Storey taking over from Hackett with a 25-second lead back to John Martin with Tony D’Alberto in third.
Alvaro Parente, the McLaren factory driver from Portugal, looked set to make a charge through the field when he took over from Fraser Ross but a drive-through penalty proved costly. John Martin was also penalized for a pit lane transgression which promoted Jaxon Evans to third.
Two-thirds of the way through the 500km race and Storey enjoyed a lead of a minute over the field. Evans moved into second after the second compulsory pit stop and briefly threatened to close the gap on Storey but in the end, it was a comfortable win. It moved Hackett and and Storey into second in the Australian Endurance Championship and within striking distance of Miles and Evans going into the final round at Highlands.
“Dom’s a real pro,” says Hackett. “I’m so chuffed for him, especially in his home race. He had a lot of sponsors, friends, and family here. He’s a superstar of New Zealand motorsport.”
Jaxon Evans is a rising star in the sport and the 21-year-old Australian-based Kiwi was stoked with his first podium on New Zealand soil.
“My Mum, my Nan and Pop and a few friends were here so it’s very special,” says Evans. “To finish second after our troubles yesterday in qualifying is pretty incredible. The team was here until midnight last night. I was at home getting my sleep and I rocked up to the track and the car was like new. We refocused and went from there. Now we go to Highlands still holding onto the championship lead so we’ll be working hard to close it out in Cromwell.”
The Australian GTs head to Highlands in Central Otago for the Highlands 501 from November 10-12, which doubles as the final round of the Australian Endurance Championship.
In the support categories at Hampton Downs today, Paul Boden won the Central Muscle Cars race, Matt Gibson led the field in the Ssangyong Actyon Series while Glenn Smith again dominated the Fast & Furious Racing format.