After two tracks we were starting to get our eye in. Day 7 the only mission was to get to Timaru via the MacKenzie Basin. We packed the cars up and went for a run via Cromwell to check out a few of the wineries- Mount Difficulty and Carrick. Both with spectacular views and Pinot Noirs to match.
The road gave up the tight twisty turns to long straights in the Basin which gave plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. We made a compulsory pit stop at the edge of Lake Pukaki for a photo shoot of the cars with Mount Cook in the cloudy background.
Mid point in the drive something happened that would only happen in NZ… A road bock caused by sheep on the road! I was in the RS and we came across Police slowing the traffic to a crawl and hundreds of loose sheep that had escaped from a paddock. The frantic farmer was clearly mortified at the sight of our convoy going past the sheep scared they were going to kick the sides of the cars. Happy though we passed without incident.
Timaru welcomed us early the next morning with sunny skies for scrutinizing at Levels Raceway. Worrying though I’d noticed my right rear tyre was under-inflated so a mercy dash down to town was needed. A truck stop was the closest place open at that hour of the morning who were a bit surprised to see me turn up rather than the usual farm hacks. Sure enough a stray nail was the culprit which was neatly in the middle of the tyre. Fixed pronto fast I made it back in time for the end of the familiarization laps.
Not knowing any of the tracks and with a new to me car I’d been concerned about holding people up. It’d been years since I’d done any track work. And even at that time it was in my old Porsche 944 that couldn’t exactly be described as reliable…(I’ll leave that for another post). But Timaru was a great little circuit which my car was neatly geared for. I quickly came to grips with the braking point and turn in after the long back straight and really enjoyed the in tighter in field mixture of second and third gear corners. They ran the chicane onto the front straight which meant I could run out to near the rev limiter into third before the first corner.
At the end of the day I was thrown the keys to the GT3. Immediately you notice how much stiffer and smoother the GT3 is compared to the 993 on track. The gear shift is a much shorter throw and the acceleration far more rapid. The huge brakes scrub of speed with more bite and progression. Overall its a much more precision instrument and you can see how they immediately gained an impressive reputation and how the Mark 1 GT3’s now have a cult following.
We were the last to leave the track and I took the GT3 on the uneventful two hour straight haul though to Christchurch. It was our last night out and it ended up being a late one/ early morning… Monaco Grand Prix style but short of living up to what Kimi Raikkonen would do.
Just as the first track day started with rain at Teretonga, Ruapuna Raceway was drenched. The spray and standing water made even the initial slow laps a struggle. Still, they were useful to help learn the track for which they’d diverted us to a section of the track with a dipping carousel style corner which was new to most of the group. I went out for a few slow laps with instruction. There are lots of flowing corners which are satisfying when you get them right. In the wet on semi slick tyres really highlighted the need to be smooth, manage the weight transfer and be gentle with the throttle. Later into the morning a dry line started developing as the rain abated. It was greasy and for March, cold, so we called it a day. We had a ferry to catch and a 4 hour drive ahead of us.
The run up through Kaikoura to Picton was nothing short of spectacular. Sweeping corners, plenty of tunnels to blast through, huge boulders and a setting sun. Everything was postcard perfect except for the size of the swells crashing into the coastline! With a ferry to catch the thought of the seas in the Cook Strait was concerning. Sure enough the ferry was delayed and it was a late, rolling trip home with the cars tucked away in the hold.
Arriving home after nearly 3,000 kms it was time to reflect. The car was back in one piece which was the main goal of the trip. I’d learnt a huge amount about how to drive the car better and what could be done to improve a nearly 20 year old car. Getting to see some of the best spots around the South Island following a bunch of 911s was the stuff of dreams. It was a great crew of guys and thinking back on it now I do have to pinch myself how lucky I was to be part of it. Would I do it again? In a heart beat!