Malmezac / Lester Pairing Take Open Class Win, McFarlane Takes Win in GT4
Heremana Malmezac and Jono Lester have taken victory in the opening race of the Golden Homes GT New Zealand Championship at Highlands Motorsport Park today.
Second place was claimed by the Porsche of Marco Giltrap, with Rick Armstrong also in a Porsche taking third spot in the Open Class.
The GT4 class was won by Jono McFarlane in his Mercedes AMG, with the McLaren 570S of David Cremer and Jason Liefting in second, the Ginetta G55 of Allan Sargeant finished in third.
From the start of the one-hour race, polesitter Malmezac was quickly passed by Giltrap into the approach of turn one. The pass seemingly catching Malmezac off guard, with Armstrong slotting into third spot.
Further back in the GT4 class, pole sitter David Cremer in his McLaren lead with the McLaren of Nigel Cromie not far behind with the Aston Martin of Stephen Harrison in third.
The opening laps saw most of the field settle into a rhythm, before an incident between Harrison and the Mercedes AMG of Jono McFarlane.
McFarlane made a lunge up the inside of Harrison into the left hander after the bridge, the gap closing with Harrison turning down on the approaching Mercedes. Light contact sending Harrison into a spin, albeit able to recover and re-join the race.
There was a scary moment for Allan Sargeant and his Ginetta with a wild spin through the southern loop, miraculously not making contact with the concrete wall.
Lap eight saw the Aston Martin of Harrison head to the pits to make some repairs for some driveline damage sustained during the earlier contact with McFarlane.
By lap nine, Giltrap was out in front with a comfortable seven-second lead over Malmezac and Armstrong.
Lap 12 saw the pit lane window open with the Porsche of Rick Armstrong one of the first to dive in and take his compulsory timed pit-stop.
Giltrap made his stop a lap later, with Malmezac also making his stop and to hand over to Lester. And with the leaders pitting, it put Luke Manson in his Porsche into the lead of the race.
With Manson still in lead on lap 17, Giltrap had climbed back into second spot, with Lester behind in third.
Manson pitted, and having been catching Giltrap, Lester made his move on the approach on the bridge, and from there extended his lead, and proceeded to lap much of the field.
Back in GT4, class leader Cromie stopped on track, only to re-join and limp back to the pits. A flat right front tyre replaced by his team. This then put McFarlane into the lead of GT4, from the Liefting/Cremer McLaren which now had Liefting behind the wheel, with Sargeant third in his Ginetta.
By the end of the 1-hour affair, Lester crossed the line in first with Giltrap behind and Francois Beziac in third. However, immediately after the race, Beziac was given a 10-second time penalty for crossing the pit exit blend line. This promoted Rick Armstrong to third.
The top five of Open Class was rounded out by Francois Beziac and Luke Manson.
McFarlane won in GT4 with Cremer/Liefting second, Sargeant third.
The top five or GT4 was rounded out Grant Aitken & Tony Quinn in a Porsche Cayman, with Todd Bawden in a McLaren fifth.
For Malmezac it was a pleasing victory, though it didn’t come without it’s challenges.
“I messed up the start, I don’t know what happened, wasn’t looking and then Marco was going in front of me. But anyways, clean race, smooth, and starting the season well.”
“The weekend isn’t over yet, it’s a good start, but we have two more races tomorrow,” said Malmezac.
For Jono McFarlane, it was his first victory in GT4 and a great way to start his season.
“Pretty stoked, the boys gave me a good car and got the tyres up and running pretty quickly.”
“Nigel Cromie and Stephen Harrison I thought were the ones we’d be having a go with, which we were for a lot of that race.”
Speaking of the incident with Harrison, McFarlane was regretful.
Coming over the bridge and into that left hander, I went for a dive, he was wide, I thought he saw me, but then he came down and I nudged him. I feel bad for that, I’m sorry, nothing I can do now.
“Then a bit further on Nigel was in front of me, I saw steam or smoke, so I thought he had an issue, unfortunate for him to get a puncture.”
The Golden Homes GT NZ Championship have two 30-minute races tomorrow.
Live coverage starts at 10am on Sunday on Sky Sport, and will also be broadcast on TV3 live from 1pm.