23/05/2017

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Simon Chapman

Caption: 

Matt Whittaker, Taupo NIERDC One Hour

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International Motorsport’s Matt Whittaker took a dominant One Hour victory in trying conditions for the opening round of the ENEOS North Island Endurance Series.

“It’s a really good way to start, but it was pretty wet out there,” Whittaker said.

“There was a fair bit of aquaplaning at the start of the race then it dried up, which was good.

“We took a fairly low risk approach, stayed out of trouble and then just progressively pulled away.”

Held at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo, the near capacity grid struggled to get any grip on the slippery surface. Steady rain kept the circuit wet throughout qualifying and into the start of the One Hour race, which formed a sizeable puddle at turn one.

As Whittaker led the field into turn one, many behind took alternative lines around the first corner.

Dean Perkins was one to fall victim to the conditions. He drove off the track on lap one at turn one, sliding his way through the gravel and out the other side. He spent much of the race drifting his torquey Ford Falcon.

Some struggled to negotiate the circuit cleanly in the opening laps. Front row starter Ian Hayr was another early casualty.

Despite extending an unassailable lead, Whittaker said the conditions were exceptionally difficult.

“It was awful at the back of the course where the old club rooms are. It was pretty dicey through there, there was a lot of surface water. It was pretty hairy.”

Second row start Andrew Nugent in his BMW M3 looked odds on for a podium position, until a mechanical failure brought his race to an end.

The giant killing V8-powered Toyota Corolla of Chris Henderson was the only driver not to get lapped by Whittaker. Had the weather been more favourable, chances are Henderson would’ve been giving Whittaker a run for his money.

He finished a minute behind Whittaker, but was buoyed by the result on the podium following the race.

The One Hour racers move to Hampton Downs Motorsport Park on June 22 for the second round of the series.

A regular competitor in the Pirelli Porsche Racing Series, Whittaker is familiar with circuits around the country. After missing the last round of the series at Hampton Downs, it’ll be a year since he’s competed at the North Waikato circuit.

He knows the circuit well and believes he can a front runner regardless, but he wants more competition from drivers around the country.

“We’re pretty confident, but it’s always down to the day. We’ll see how we go.

“We’d also love to see more people roll up and fast cars for us to race with.”

The ENEOS North Island heads to Hampton Downs Motorsport for round two of the series. For more information, visit the North Island Endurance Series Facebook page.

One Hour overall results, top-10:
1. Matt Whittaker – 35-laps
2. Chris Henderson + 1:07.471
3. Ian Hayr + 1-lap
4. Tim James + 2-laps
5. Dean Perkins + 2-laps
6. Rick Cooper + 2-laps
7. John de Veth + 2-laps
8. Graeme Fraser + 2-laps
9. Matt Griffin + 2-laps
10. Nick Archibald + 3-laps

http://nzmotorracing.co.nz