After a tense final hour, Smeg Racing's Simon Evans and Gene Rollinson have won the opening three-hour race of the 2017 ENEOS North Island Endurance Series at Taupo.

The pair lead the majority of the race, but had to fend off a hard charging Trass Family Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3, driven by Daniel Gaunt. Heavy rain dotted throughout the race also played its part in the various strategies throughout the field.

The former Supercars Championship pilot had taken over his TFM machine from co-driver Sam Fillmore while more than a lap behind the race leaders. But soon began to charge down Simon Evans with an hour left to go.

The Gaunt/Fillmore Ferrari leads the Proctor/Porter GT-R. Photo / Matthew Hansen
The Gaunt/Fillmore Ferrari leads the Proctor/Porter GT-R. Photo / Matthew Hansen

In the dry, Gaunt appeared to have Evans' measure, and it looked like his 40-second deficit would slowly but surely whittle down to nothing. However, rain arrived at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park with half an hour to go; forcing everyone to shuffle once again - both lead teams, along with many others, pitting for wet tyres.

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A caution came out soon after, further tightening the gap between the two lead cars (the only cars on the lead lap by this point). It looked like a grandstand finish would ensue in the dying minutes, until officials flew the red flag and suspended the race after a late crash at the hairpin involving the SaReNi Camaro GT3 of Glenn Smith and John De Veth.

Jonny Reid and Neil Foster took third in their Audi R8 GT3. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Jonny Reid and Neil Foster took third in their Audi R8 GT3. Photo / Matthew Hansen

This handed Evans and Rollinson the win by just 5.9-seconds over Gaunt and co-driver Sam Fillmore. Former A1GP driver Jonny Reid and Neil Foster rounded out the podium in their International Motorsport Audi R8.

The Nissan Nismo GT-R GT3 of Clark Proctor and Andrew Porter looked quick for most of the race, and looked likely to finish fourth, until the pair were excluded from the results due to Proctor exceeding his time allowance in the car.

In the one-hour race earlier in the day, International Motorsport dominated with Matt Whittaker and his Porsche 991 911 GT3 - Whittaker leading a lights to flag win over Chris Henderson and his V8-powered Toyota Corolla Levin, and Porsche driver Ian Hayr in third.

The next round of the series will take place at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park on June 20.

One Hour results

1. Matt Whittaker (Porsche 911) 35 laps
2. Chris Henderson (Toyota Corolla Levin) +1 lap
3. Ian Hayr (Porsche 911) +2 laps
4. Tim James (Porsche 911) +15.976
5. Dean Perkins (Ford XD Falcon) +25.874
6. Rick Cooper (Ford Mustang) +34.713
7. John De Veth (Holden Commodore) +34.984
8. Graeme Fraser (BMW 3 Series) +39.400
9. Matt Griffin +3 laps
10. Nick Archibald +15.010

Three Hour results

1. Simon Evans/Gene Rollinson (Audi R8) 101 laps
2. Daniel Gaunt/Sam Fillmore (Ferrari 458) +5.957
3. Jonny Reid/Neil Foster (Audi R8) +1 lap
4. Glenn Smith/John De Veth (SaReNi Camaro) +2 laps
5. Nick Chester/Cameron Jones (Holden Commodore) +4 laps
6. Richard Moore/James Urquhart (Holden Commodore) +6 laps
7. Andre Heimgartner/Lance Hughes (Holden Commodore) +1.438
8. Andre Mortimer/Warwick Mortimer/Matt Griffin (BMW M3) +11 laps
9. Deon Cooper/Alexandra Whitley (SsangYong Actyon 'SuperUte') +12 laps
10. Hayden Johnston/Preston Johnston (Honda S2000) +41.891