Enduro series bursts into life

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 9 Sep 2017 | Latest News
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Grant Aitken, of Queenstown, will debut his new Porsche GT4 Clubsport at the opening round of the South Island Endurance Series today in Invercargill. PHOTO: EUAN CAMERON

The three-round South Island Endurance Series (SIES) bursts into life today at Invercargill's Teretonga Park, with plenty of Otago drivers racing in both the one-hour and three-hour championships.

Many of them are series regulars and among them is Queenstown's Grant Aitken, who has reinvigorated a lengthy racing career with a bit of new kit: a Porsche GT4 Clubsport.

He will debut his GT4 in the SIES, having driven it in competition for the first time last year at the Highlands 101. One of only 400 produced, the GT4 features a paddle shift transmission and has thoroughly captivated its new owner.

‘‘It's just a delight to drive,'' Aitken said.

The GT4 runs a 3.8-litre engine and produces 385hp (287kW), which means it is ‘‘not as fast as the GT3'' Porsches, but it's a ‘‘turn-key car'' and costs significantly less than the GT3.

He is entered in the one-hour series and will contest the new Class E for GT-spec cars. The shorter race's popularity is such that the series has reserve lists that vary between two and eight cars for all three rounds.

Dunedin's Allan Dippie and racing partner Scott O'Donnell, of Invercargill, will be doing double duty in their Porsches; racing a 997 Cup S in the one-hour series and a later model 991 Cup Car in the three-hour series.

Highlands Motorsport Park owner Tony Quinn will contest the one-hour series and will drive a Porsche 997 in the first round before switching to a twin turbo V8 McLaren 650S for the following two rounds.

It is likely that the incredibly fast Toyota AE86 V8 of Dunedin's Chris Henderson will again be the one to beat in the one-hour series Class C (3501cc+). However, he will have stiff competition from Alexandra's Bruce Davidson in his Corvette C6R and series newcomer Adam Cullen (Dunedin) in a Nissan Godzilla R32 GTR.

Class B (2001cc-3500cc) will feature Dunedin's Warren Good in the ex-Ravaglia BMW E30 M3 and Wanaka's Andy Giles in his Toyota AE86 turbo.

In Class A (0-2000cc), Otago's contenders include Dunedin's Stu Black in an ex-World Touring Car BMW E46. The series also welcomes back 2014 class champion Gary Ponting, of Wanaka, who will debut his brand-new Honda Civic.

The three-hour podium is likely to be filled with the glitzy Class D and E for GT and GT3 type machinery, such as 2015 series champions Angus and George McFarlane in a striking Porsche 997 Cup R and touring car legend John McIntyre, who teams up with Simon Gilbertson in the stunning Mantheyspec Porsche 991 MR.

Other front-runners will be the Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 of brothers Matt and Dwayne Carter, who will be looking to take out the title for a third time, and the Falcon V8 SuperTourer of Paul Rickerby and Graeme Rhodes.

The battle for Class B (2001cc -3500cc) honours features several Otago driver combinations, with the mixed Dunedin and Queenstown teams of Tim Mackersey and Barry Moore and Ron Mackersey and Warren Good campaigning a pair of VW Golf R cup cars.

Class A (0-2000cc) sees a huge field entered, with the favourite label attached to current national Class A champions Arron and Stu Black.

After this weekend's round, the SIES moves to Mike Pero Ruapuna, Christchurch, on Saturday, October 1, before the final round at Levels Raceway, Timaru, on October 15.