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Cockerton and Hills share wins at latest kiwi KartSport SIM series round

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Aucklanders Taylor Cockerton and Zane Hills shared the glory at the first of three Tasman Karts-backed KartSport New Zealand/SIMSpeedTV-hosted GT3 class iKartSport Racing Virtual Club Days’ ‘Chocolate Fish’ event at a virtual Phillip Island motor racing circuit in ‘Australia’ on Tuesday evening.

Despite whole suburbs in nearby Melbourne going back into Lockdown thanks to the return on the COVID-19 virus over 40 keen Kiwi Sim racers joined Queensland-based Supercars star (and top former Kiwi karter) Shane Van Gisbergen at a virtual Phillip Island track (near Melbourne) for the first of three international GT3 class meetings sponsored by nationally-focused Nelson kart shop Tasman Karts.

Previous Giltrap Group/Carter’s Tyre Service, and Liquidaction/Cook Strait Crossing-backed Virtual Club Day events have focused on single-make/basic set-up categories - to give those new to eSports a place to start plus keep a lid on costs.

With more and more karters using the weekly Sim races as a means of staying ‘race-fit’ - and getting better and better with each event it was decied that for the next three Tasman Karts-backed events, entrants would be offered the choice of - in this case - current GT3 class cars - as well as the opportunity of when to complete a single compulsory pit stop and whether to add just fuel or change tyres as well,

Tyre pressures were also free, meaning entrants could choose when they wanted ultimate race pace - early on with the pressures set higher to get a jump on the rest of the rest of the field, or lower so that they ‘came on’ later on, allowing drivers to make their way forward later on when those who started with higher pressures might be struggling with a lack of grip.

Despite having the option of being able to pick real exotica like Ferrari’s mid-engined 488 GT3 or a McLaren MP4-12C GT3, the most popular models picked by the Kiwi karters were the car that eventualy won both the 20-laps races, BMWs front-engined Z4 GT3, and the similar layout (front-engine/rear drive) Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3.

Regular iKartSport Racing race winner and now series-winning Sim specialist Jaden Ransley from Christchurch proved the effectiveness of the big, brutal AMG-built Mercedes-Benz by putting it on pole - ahead of the more compact BMW Z4 of former kart but now series-winning single-seater ace Taylor Cockerton from Auckland and Gold Coast-based Kiwi Shane Van Gisbergen in the mid-engined McLaren MP4 12C GT3.

However both Ransley and Van Gisbergen were eliminated from the evening’s action early in the first race - ironically just after the latter had taken the race lead off pole man and early leader Ransley.

At this early stage it looked like Van Gisbergen - who though he is a world-ranked Sim racer in his own right also has extensive real-world experience racing a McLaren GT3 for the works-backed Von Ryan team in Europe and here and in Australia for car and circuit-owning Scot Tony Quinn - had the race in the bag.

Though Ransley was stout in defence Van Gisbergen - somehow - made a ‘long-way-round’ passing move through the ultra-high speed Siberia/Hayshed/Lukey Heights complex of corners stick and was heading into the high-speed turn one with Ransley on his tail when a backmarker badly baulked the pair.

Van Gisbergen went off the track at near terminal velocity on the inside of the corner and after bouncing across the infield headed back to the pits. Ransley meanwhile speared off on the outside of the track, his race over. Chief beneficiary was a closely following Taylor Cockerton who - again, somehow! - managed to ‘thread the needle’ and take over a lead he was destined never to lose.

Initially, 11-year-old schoolboy Izaak Fletcher from Christchurch inherited second place from Aucklanders Matt Griffin and Nathan Anderson, but by the time the chequered flag came out Nathan Anderson had found a way past fellow schoolboy Izaak Fletcher to take second place, and Matthew Griffin had slipped down through the field on the last lap after running low on fuel.

That left Dunedin driver Cameron Freeman in an excellent fourth place ahead of teenage Rotax Max Junior class front-runner Mitchell Sparrow from Tuakau, and Auckland’s Leo Scott in one of the only other McLaren MP4 12Cs in the field sixth.

Taylor Cockerton also quickly and efficiently made his way from P35 on the full reverse grid in the second 20-lap race to the lead by lap 14 (when the Safety Car came out for a second time) but the effort proved too much for his chassis set-up and tyres as he spun out of the lead on the first ‘green’ lap at the Honda hairpin, just as eventual race winner Zane Hills, who had been second, put in a move for the lead.

Because the field was still bunched up thanks to its time behind the Safety Car, Cockerton had to wait for almost everyone to go by before he could re-join the race effectively ruining any chance he might have had of making up for the uncharacteristic spin.

As it turned out the final race order took quite some time to reveal itself, thanks to multiple incidents throughout the field which saw the Safety Car first deployed on lap 2 for two laps, then again on lap13 for three more laps.

Zach Blincoe from Auckland held the lead after finding a way past early leader, young gun Arthur Broughan but Broughan’s race was soon over when he collected a slower car on he start/finish straight and he and his car were sent skywards before crashing down again in a heap.

By the time the Safety Car had been deployed for a second time Taylor Cockerton was up to second place behind Zach Blincoe then when Blincoe chose to pit the next lap Cockerton inherited the lead and held it over Zane Hills, until he (Cockerton) spun.

With just four laps to go, the race lead remained in Hills’ safe hands with Zach Blincoe making it back up to P2 by the time the chequered flag came out, and Daniel Harvey from Dunedin third. Nathan Anderson rounded out another strong Sim outing in fourth place ahead of Brad Wenzlick from Thames in fifth in one of the only Ferrari 488 GT3s in the race, and Matthew Griffin making up for his fuel faux pas in Race 1 with P6 in Race 2.

Tuesday evening’s event was the first in a new series of KartSport New Zealand’s SIMSpeed eSport Virtual Club Days’ ‘Chocolate Fish’ Series sponsored by Nelson kart shop Tasman Kart Supplies with on-going support from KartSport New Zealand promotional partners Giltrap Group and Carter’s Tyre Service,

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