Helpful push costs Leitch a race win

Damon Leitch
Damon Leitch
The drama continued even after the chequered flag dropped in Saturday’s South Island endurance series three-hour race at Teretonga Park in Invercargill.

Southlander Damon Leitch took the Aston Martin Vantage he shared with Tony Quinn across the line to win the race from Neil Foster and former NZ A1GP driver Jonny Reid in their Audi R8 LMS GT3 Ultra.

However, as he returned to stop at the start-finish line, Leitch used his car to give a sizeable nudge to the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 driven by his brother Brendon Leitch and Christina Orr-West, allowing them to cross the line and claim third place after the car had stopped short of the finish.

But the action was dimly viewed by officials, resulting in the disqualification of both cars, handing the win to Foster and Reid. Dwayne Carter and Shane Hodgson (Auckland) were second in their Mercedes SLS AMG GT3, and George McFarlane-Jack Milligan, of Christchurch (Porsche 997), third.

The Foster-Reid Audi made an early pitstop when the safety car made its first appearance of the day, and spent the rest of the race playing catch-up, closing in on the Aston Martin as the laps wound down.

During the race Foster and Reid set a new lap record  of 55.471sec.

Damon Leitch said it was disappointing that the race ended that way.

"We would have done the same for anyone to help a fellow competitor. We had a great race, the car ran faultlessly. We were navigating traffic the whole race, it was very busy. Tony [Quinn] put in an awesome drive."

Thirty-five cars took the start earlier in the day for the one-hour race. Last year’s winner, Chris Henderson of Dunedin, driving his Toyota AE86 V8, made it back-to-back victories after qualifying on pole and leading away from the Scott O’Donnell-Allan Dippie Porsche 997 Cup S. The race was punctuated by three safety car interventions, the first appearance prompting a flurry of pit stops.

Henderson revealed he lost power steering and the car ran hot all day, and said he nursed it home, although he said a best lap of 57.931sec belied that fact.

Henderson had already returned home overnight and replaced the radiator system in the car after a new system installed as part of changes this year had caused overheating in testing at the circuit on Friday.

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