Everything is on the line as the ASKO SI Endurance Series readies itself for this weekend’s Grand Finale at the Timaru International Motor Raceway. The tight and twisty nature of this circuit always produces close and exciting racing and expect nothing less for 2014. With an incredible 14 teams that still have a mathematical chance of taking out the overall 3hr Series victory, spectators & fans can be assured that teams will leave absolutely nothing on the table as they fight it out for Series honours, pride and prizemoney as the ASKO Endurance Series again comes down to the wire.
The series has been dominated to date by the International Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 of Andrew Bagnall & Ant Pedersen with two wins from 2 starts, but with the tight points system and quick-fire 3 round Series their championship lead is described as slender at best. Defending Series champion Paul Kelly has teamed up with Porsche superstar Craig Baird for 2014 and have been right on the tail of Bagnall/Pedersen in both the previous races. As a multiple series champ, Kelly knows that consistency is as much a key as speed to winning the prestigious ASKO Series. Third overall and third in GT class is Allan Dippie/Scott ODonnell (Porsche 997 Cup S) who will be another rueing their minor issues earlier in the Series. A new combination and one that could really surprise at Levels has Jono Lester teaming up with 1hr Series leader Hugh Gardiner in the TFM Ferrari F430. The Levels track is likely to suit the Ferrari and this strong driver combination is definitely the dark horse. 2014 was initially touted as the year the V8s could really dominate the ASKO Series, however most have struck problems along the way so are now racing for redemption at Levels. The Carter brothers Falcon V8 Supercar lead a good part of the Ruapuna race and the boys always perform well at the 2nd home circuit at Levels. Also keep an eye on the mean looking brand new GT3 spec Camaro of multiple NZ championship inky Tulloch/Grant Aitken who put on a very strong showing at Ruapuna only to be thwarted by their 2 stop strategy. The highest placed V8 in both the GT class and overall standings as we head into the Series final is the V8 SuperTourer of John deVeth/Glenn Smith who, although having finished both races to date, will be finally looking for a trouble free run.
The battle in the other classes is as equally hotly contested, and Class 1 (3501cc+) becomes a winner takes all showdown as the V8 RX7s of Graeme Rhodes/Paul Rickerby and Hamish Frew/Darryl Barrett are equal on points heading in to the final. With the V8 Falcon of Perry Scarfe and Touring car champ Nick Ross missing the Timaru round, also means that the battle for third in class will also be winner takes all as the thundering Corvette C6R of Bruce Davidson/Dave Garden and the magnificent twin turbo Toyota 86 of Craig McDermid/Scotty McDermid are also tied on points, but must finish the race to claim the final spot on the podium.
The Class 2 (2001-3500cc) is another class that looks on paper like it has been dominated by one car but in reality that hasnt been the case. Mike Driver/Guy Stewart have taken both class wins so far and their reliability has also seen them catapult into the top 5 in the outright series. However it was the Steve Parker/Matt Jackson Honda S2000t that dominated the class at Teretonga until Jackson slipped off the road very late in the race. Engine issues for them at Ruapuna meant an early finish for the team, so they will be looking for some salvation at their home circuit. But you can never discount the BMW M3s that dominate this class with Anthony Tucker/Adam Glass (E36 M3) sitting 2nd in class just ahead of Jim Wallace/Stephen Grellet (E30 M3) and Pavlos Van Aalst/Dean McGuigan (E30 M3). Levels will also see the return of the Allan & David McCormick BMW GTR, however also look out for the show stopping M3 turbo of Shane Helms/Rob Bolland who also suffered drama at Ruapuna, so although out of class contention for the Series, they will likely be ones to beat at Levels if they can overcome their reliability issues.
The combined 0-2000cc Class 3&4 sees the gorgeous Honda Civic of Garry Cliff/Hayden Knighton lead from the ex Team Nurburgring Honda Civic R of Paul Coghill/Kynan Yu ahead of the ever reliable Peugeot 106 of Ken Sinclair/Dennis Ham, who will be looking to extend their impressive finishing record. The speedsters in this class are likely to be the Arron Black/Stu Black x-WTCC BMW 320i who have again had retched luck this season and the Honda Civic of Jeff Vincent/Daniel Currie who will be another team rueing their opening round issues.
With 95 points on offer both the overall and class championships are far from sealed. As with any endurance racing a slight misfortune either on the track or during their pit stops can make or break a drivers entire Series and with still so much to be decided the Levels race will be a real cliff-hanger. The whole series can change in a heartbeat, but the ASKO Appliances catch phrase built to last will ring true as the old saying goes; to finish first – first you must finish, and things can change in a split-second as a slight problem, mistake or DNF can have a drastic effect on both the race & the championship. So as we approach the final round for 2014 there will be teams desperate to consolidate their championship positions, whilst others who are out of contention will throw caution to the wind in the pursuit of a class or race glory plus the prestige of setting new lap and race records.
Interestingly in a series that has been dominated by the Porsche brand over recent years, there are only 4 of the top 10 cars that wear the Stuttgart brand. The Overall ASKO Endurance series winner will be awarded the coveted South Canterbury Toyota Cup plus a cheque for $10,000 thanks to Series sponsors ASKO Appliances, Mobil 1, Paul Kelly Motor Company, Hagley Aluminium and Pacific Invoice Finance Ltd, with another $20,000 prizemoney being paid out as class prizemoney across both the 3hr & 1hr series. Also up for grabs as spot prizes are an original watercolour painting by Dunedin artist Norman Sinclair valued at approx. $10,000-00, a set of Michelin race tyres, and product from ENDLESS advanced brake Technologies that will all be given away as a spot prizes
For more information on the South Island Endurance Series, entries, or to be added to the South Island Endurance Racing Drivers Clubs e-mailing list, please contact Chris Dunn via e-mail at email@example.com ph 021-107-9293, or information and live updates can be found on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/sierdcnz . For more information on Series sponsor ASKO Appliances please visit www.asko.co.nz