Motorsport: Lester on verge of success

By Eric Thompson

Jono Lester came close in 2013 but he's learning, writes Eric Thompson

Jono Lester (front) racing in Japan in his Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
Jono Lester (front) racing in Japan in his Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

Following on from Driven's chat with Richie Stanaway, one of New Zealand's young motor racing drivers growing an international reputation, we caught up with Jono Lester to gauge his year's progress.

Lester has been contesting three championships which have involved a fair amount of travel and juggling time and commitments. Chief among these was his second tilt at the Japanese Super Taikyu Endurance series. The Kiwi races for the Petronas Syntium Team in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3. While he was close to winning the series, there was no cigar.

"Finishing second in the series for the second year made me want to cry if I was honest," said Lester.

"It was very, very tough. We had to win the last race in Japan but came up a bit short.

"In a real case of deja vu, we came up against almost identical weather conditions as last year with heavy fog and rain and the race was almost cancelled.

I was happy in a way that we were able to get at least two hours of racing in, but the Nissans were just too good.

"In the conditions their four wheel drive proved too good and we had to settle for third. We just didn't have the legs to battle the Nissans on the day and we didn't realise that 1000m above sea level would play into the hands of turbo-powered cars.

"It's all part of my driver development and growth heading into next year."

Between his international racing Lester fitted in a bit of Porsche racing, though not as much as he wanted, in the South Island Endurance series.

"Porsches are still my preferred love in motorsport and I love racing those cars and the Fastway team is a great outfit to work with.

"We've had a lot of success together, making a clean sweep of New Zealand Endurance championships at the beginning of the year," he said.

"I was available only for the first round of the South Island endurance season. While we were on course to take that win as well, unfortunately one of the co-drivers had a coming together with another Porsche ending our day.

"The team did, however, end up finishing third in the series despite the DNF," said Lester.

He's also been racing in the endurance series as part of the V8 SuperTourers season but has had to withdraw from the last round at Pukekohe next weekend.

"It's disappointing not to be able to race in the remaining round of the series with John [McIntyre]. It's my second season with him and obviously it's been a tough season, probably his hardest since forming his own team.

"Unfortunately though, I have other commitments overseas and contractual obligations that clash with the date of the remaining round.

"It's been a bit of a nightmare season, to be honest. We just haven't been able to get on top of the car, and with the number of failures we just weren't able to get ahead of the eight ball. It was really tough and I've got to say, quite character building," Lester acknowledged.

Lester is also trying his hand at drifting this weekend. After the session Lester will decide when he thinks he's up to entering an event.

"I would like to think I'll be ready to go in January and make a good go of it but I'll wait and see how my first real try at it goes. Hopefully it'll be fun," he said.

As well as his race and business commitments, the young fella has been mentoring Driven's motorsport editor in the dark arts of racing motor vehicles in the Albany Toyota, Driven-sponsored Toyota Corolla in the inaugural 2K Cup championship.

Lester may be an accomplished professional driver but he's had his work cut out teaching an old dog new tricks. The 2K Cup adventure continues on December 8 at Hampton Downs and we'll just have to see if any of Lester's advice is sticking. For updates check the motoring page on nzherald.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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