Team's second pole position ends up in a fourth place Kiwi endurance driver Jono Lester was disappointed not to have capitalised on a strong qualifying performance for the Petronas Syntium Team at Suzuka, finishing fourth in his race in the penultimate round of the 2013 Super Taikyu Series over the weekend.
After scoring the team's second pole position of the season alongside co-driver Tatsuya Kataoka, Lester lined up in third on the grid for the opening race. A frantic start saw the top four cars take control of the race until the addition of the safety car.
With lapped traffic separating Lester from the leaders, the 23-year-old lost out at the restart in a drag race to the first corner. From there, with only a handful of laps remaining, a challenge for the final podium spot was unsuccessful and Lester had to settle for fourth.
"I'm incredibly disappointed to not be able to translate our pace into a strong result," said Lester.
"There was some questionable driving out there and playing by the rules ended up working against me. In such a tight championship battle we need every point, so our job just got a little bit harder for the final round at Autopolis."
Damage limitation on Sunday came with a win from Kataoka, followed by another for Lester's other teammate Fariqe Hairuman. The final round at Autopolis, November 9-10, is on a knife edge with just 6.5 points separating Lester's car number 28 from the points leader, the team's other SLS AMG GT3 car number 1.
"The boys performed flawlessly on Sunday and kept our hopes alive. Autopolis is going to be a nail biter," he said.
ASKO Endurance win
The pairing of John McIntyre and Simon Ellingham drove a measured race to take the honours in the opening round of the ASKO Endurance Three Hour Series at Teretonga Park, Invercargill, over the weekend.
McIntyre put their Porsche 997 GT3 on pole position and set the pace over the opening laps before taking advantage of an early safety car to pit and hand over to Ellingham. The less experienced Ellingham kept the car well in contention before three-time NZV8 champion McIntyre took the final stint.
McIntyre passed last year's winners Paul Kelly and Daniel Gaunt with 15 minutes remaining to cross the line first with Matt and Dwayne Carter in an ex-V8 Supercar rounding out the podium.
"Richard [Lester] made a brilliant call to bring us in under the safety car and put Simon in," said McIntyre. "Simon did a good job. We had good pit stops and kept out of trouble, which is hard, but the small cars make the series and it is really entertaining."
Class one honours went to 2011 champions Paul Rickerby and Graeme Rhodes in their Mazda RX7 V8. Aaron Harris and Sam Fillmore took class two in one of the Seat Leon Supercopas with class three and four going to the ex- Kiwi Team Nurburgring Honda Civic R of Paul Coghill and David Hunter.
The series now moves to Powerbuilt Ruapuna, Christchurch, on October 5, before rounds at Levels Raceway, Timaru, and the new Highlands Motorsport Park circuit in Cromwell where the overall Three Hour Series champion will be awarded the South Canterbury Toyota Cup.
Evans' bad luck
Young Aucklander Mitch Evans showcased his speed in the GP2 race at the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend but to no avail. Evans set the fastest race lap time but was denied any bonus points as he finished outside the top 10.
At the beginning of the weekend, Evans' team managed to give him a car that worked on the street circuit to set the fifth fastest time in practice. But, yet again, it all went a bit pear shaped when Evans suffered a setback right at the start of the 30-minute qualifying session.
"It was my big mistake. I knew I had one lap on the super soft compound tyres and I went too deep under braking for the new third gear left hander on my first lap," said Evans.
"The left front brake pinched just before the apex, the wheel locked and I slid into the wall. I was massively disappointed because we had a car that was good enough to qualify in the top four."
Evans had to start from the back of the grid but monstered his way to seventh before having to pit. He re-joined in 14th place and quickly caught and passed Arden teammate Jonny Cecotto, Daniel Abt and Stefano Coletti, but ran out of race time to finish eleventh.
Things didn't improve in the second race of the weekend when, on the first lap, Evans was turned by Coletti rejoining the race in last place. A sterling drive saw him haul himself back up to finish 15th.
The good news is that when Evans is given the tool to go about his work he's as quick as anyone. Let's hope it all comes together at the last round at Yas Marina, UAE, November 1-3.