Simon Evans scored his breakthrough victory in the BNT NZ SuperTourers at Taupo today, and he did it in commanding style.
Starting the first race of the Rush Security Taupo 400 meeting from pole, the young Aucklander quickly pulled away from the top-level field and built up a lead of more than six seconds in his Holden.
When he handed the car over to star co-driver Shane van Gisbergen, in a quick pit-stop that further increased their lead, the 30-lap race was virtually decided.
“I’m really happy, I’m stoked,” Evans, who came agonisingly close to victory a couple of time in the 2014 championship, said.
“It was always going to be tough in the first few laps but I was able to lead from pole and pull out a gap. The next two were fighting over second and third, and that helped me because it cost them time.
“Then I just tried to mind the car and keep and the tyres in good shape for Shane.”
Van Gisbergen, who stands fourth in the Australian V8 Supercars championship, was impressed by Evans’ performance.
“He did all the work,” Van Gisbergen said. “When I took over the car the tyres felt like brand-new.
“I had a good pace and just had to cruise to the end.”
Australian Tim Slade, also a full-time Supercar driver, powered through to second in Richard Moore’s Holden after Moore had lost some places while wrestling with gearbox problems.
“I lost five or six seconds working out what was happening and then about a second a lap because I couldn’t use the quick-shifter,” Moore, another young Aucklander, said.
Slade’s greater experience helped him cope with the problem and he passed a number of cars to claim second.
Third place went down to the wire as a third young Aucklander, Andre Heimgartner, battled to get his Holden past Mark Gibson, driving John McIntyre’s Ford. They battled close and hard in the closing laps.
“I managed to pass him on the outside round the sweeper corner,” Heimgartner, whose co-driver was Australian Paul Morris, said. “I think I passed three cars altogether.”
Many fans would have been disappointed when V8 hero Greg Murphy had to retire after contact with McIntyre’s Ford at the sweeper corner early in the race. Murphy’s Holden suffered a cut tyre and a damaged exhaust that let smoke into the car.
Officials investigated this collision but decided it was a racing incident and took no disciplinary action.
Although they just missed the podium this was a fine performance as McIntyre had not raced since late last year and Gibson is a young driver from Taupo making fast progress. McIntyre also lost some time because of the contact with Murphy, but made a fine recovery.
Ant Pedersen and Jonny Reid took fifth in Pedersen’s Ford.
Tomorrow sees two longer races to complete the meeting.