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Kelly, Gaunt drive away challengers

Last updated 05:00 01/10/2012

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Defending champion Paul Kelly, of Christchurch, and Australia-based Kiwi Daniel Gaunt won the opening round of the South Island Three-hour Endurance Series at Teretonga on Saturday.

The pair held off Hamilton's Ant Pedersen and Aucklander Andrew Bagnall. Gaunt featured in an enthralling battle with Pedersen over the last part of the race, with the lead changing several times. For a long period, the gap between the cars rarely exceeded half a second, before Gaunt prevailed.

The winning pair broke the three-hour race record at the circuit by four laps, completing 171 circuits of the 2.64km track.

Meanwhile, Jono Lester broke the lap record for the three-hour race with a best lap of 59.953 seconds.

Kelly took the first shift before Gaunt took over for the finish.

"Our fuel tank isn't as big as some of the others," Gaunt said after the race. "Paul did a good job and we waited until the pit stops to see what the lay of the land was. We saved enough early to make it.

"It was a busy, full-on race due to the difference in speed between the cars."

The defining moment came when Lester -on a charge after early delays - grabbed a lap back off the leading pairs.

"He had a faster car than us but it upset my rhythm when he got in there," Pedersen said.

Third place went to Christchurch pair Rick Armstrong and Matthew Hamilton, one lap behind the leaders in yet another Porsche 997 GT3, while pole sitters Simon Ellingham, of Napier, and Lester, pf Auckland, crossed the line fourth in their Porsche.

Scott and Lindsay O'Donnell were fifth in their GT3, with the Ferrari of Sam MacNeill, of Palmerston North, and Craig Innes, of Wellington, sixth. Scott O'Donnell, of Invercargill, led for some time before dropping to second just before the team's pit stop.

More records were set earlier in the day when Grant Williams and Brent Buist, of Christchurch, in a Mazda RX7 V8 used a slick pit stop to grab the lead from Kelly in the 997 GT3 and secure the victory in round two of the One-Hour Series race. Williams and Buist broke the race record at Teretonga Park, and Kelly set a race lap record.

George McFarlane and Grant Silvester, of Christchurch, were third in another Porsche 997, followed by Gore driver Inky Tulloch, giving his new-generation NZV8 Holden Commodore a shakedown.

The South Island Endurance Series moves to Levels Raceway in Timaru on October 13 for round two of the three-hour series, plus the one-hour series final.

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- The Southland Times

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