All go for opening round of SI endurance series

Hayden Paddon. Photo: GEOFF RIDDER
Hayden Paddon. Photo: GEOFF RIDDER
There should be plenty of competitive action at the opening round of the South Island endurance series at Highlands tomorrow.

Despite the Auckland lockdown affecting several top teams heading south for the three-hour event, there will be plenty of intense action and no lack of contenders for the title.

One-hour class titleholder Sam Collins will pair up with Nick Ross in a new Mustang, built by MARC Cars in Australia.

While it may not have the pace of the GT3 field, the car is built for endurance racing and should prove reliable.

Having competed in the North Island series, Lance Hughes will join Chris van der Drift in a Nissan GTR GT3, which is expected to be quick, more development work having recently taken place.

Two other recently imported Nissan GTR Nismo GT3s (Anthony Leighs/Tom Alexander and Rhys Gould/Gene Rollinson) will not make the start line due to the Auckland situation.

Scott O’Donnell’s and Martin Dippie’s Porsche 991 GT3R made a very brief appearance at the opening round of the 2019 South Island endurance series, only to be involved in a massive crash.

Since then the car has been re-shelled and will again be seen on the grid tomorrow.

Former world rally driver Hayden Paddon makes a return to the series and will co-drive with 2020 one-hour series winner Dippie (Porsche 991.1 Cup).

Glen Smith teams up with Glen Chappel in the McLaren 650S GT3 which has proven to be very quick at Highlands.

Five class titles will also be on the line.

Class A (0-2000cc) will be fought out between Andrew and Will Kitching (Honda Civic), Grant and Matt Moore (Toyota Altezza) and Terence and Darryl Phillips (Honda Civic).

Class B (2001-3500cc) will be tight with last season’s runners-up, Barry Moore and Tim Mackersy (VW Golf GTi TCR), up against Ron Mackersy/Warren Good in the recently imported Renault Clio Cup car, Grant Askew/Cole Askew (Seat Supacopa Leon) and Patrick Heagney/Ryan Heagney (Toyota Sprinter AE86).

Class C (over 3500cc) will feature Cameron Davies and Flyn Mitchell (Mazda RX8), runners-up last season, up against Darryl Barret/Hamish Frew (Ford Falcon V8ST) and the Ford V8ST of Graeme Rhodes/Paul Rickerby.

Class D (GT) honours will be a battle between the Collins/Ross MARC Mustang and four Porsche entrants: Dippie/Paddon, Steve Brooks/Jack Milligan, Don McIntyre/Rob Williams and Bill Riding/Scott Flanagan.

The McLaren of Smith/Chappel and the Nissan GT3 of Hughes/van der Drift will square off for the Class E (GT3) honours, but the very fast Dippie/O’Donnell Porsche 991 GT3R may upset this rivalry.

Level 2 restrictions will be in place for the event with appropriate social distancing, segregated bubbles and a limited number of spectators allowed.

After the Cromwell opener, the series shifts to Timaru (October 16), Invercargill (October 24) and Christchurch (November 6).

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