The Porsche GT3 Cup Championship – 2005/06 until 2010/11
Porsche GT3 racing in New Zealand began in 2001/02 within the Bridgestone- Porsche Club Championship series when 4 GT3 cars were raced within the series. By 2002/2003, this number had grown to 8 cars and by 2003/2004 there were consistently 12 GT3 cars competing. As will be seen in the following paragraphs, these cars and more provided the springboard to the beginning of a Trans-Tasman series that included Australian GT3 Cup cars in 2003/04 and to the beginning of an officially recognised GT3 Cup Challenge that ran from 2004/05 until 2010/11.
The 2003/04 season in New Zealand saw the start of a new ‘Porsche Trans-Tasman GT3 Cup’ series. There were six rounds in the series and the winner was Melbourne based Kiwi ex-pat, ‘evergreen’ 57 year old Jim Richards and runner up was Matt Halliday. Jim was also the inaugural winner of the 2003 Australian Carrera Cup
Ross McKay, in his story in the ‘Motorsport NZ Official Series Guide 2004/05’ said the 2004/05 season in New Zealand would see an expansion of the Trans-Tasman GT3 Cup to include the eight round ‘Battery Town’ NZ Porsche GT3 Cup. With strong support to both the Trans-Tasman GT3 Cup and the NZ Porsche GT3 Cup series by European Motors Ltd of Auckland, ‘Young Gun’ Kiwi Matt Halliday and Queensland based ex-pat Kiwi Craig Baird led the 2004/05 line-up of drivers. These two were joined for some or all races by Rick Armstrong, Andrew Bagnall, Kevin Bell, Graeme Cameron, Grant Dalton, Dean Fulford, Peter Henry, Paul Kelly, Tim Martin, Angus McFarlane, Rhys McKay, Shane McKillen, Michael Morton, Scott O’Donnell, Paul Pedersen, Jamie Peters, Ross Rutherford and Mike Weeks. Joining Craig Baird in the Australian team for the ‘04/05 Trans-Tasman Cup were Darryl O’Young (from Hong Kong – and representing the Infineon Carrera Cup Asia series), David Thexton, Bryce Washington and Jonathon Webb (from the Australian Carrera Cup series). The Porsche cars used for both series were 2001 and 2002-2004 Porsche 996 (911 GT3) Cup cars, with all ‘02 and later cars updated to ‘04 specs. The winner of the ‘Battery Town Porsche GT3 Cup’ series was Craig Baird from Matt Halliday. New Zealand won the 2004/05 Trans-Tasman GT3 Cup.
For the 2005/06 series, Porsche Germany accorded official ‘Challenge’ status to what became the ‘Battery Town’ Porsche GT3 Cup Championship. This was the same status as accorded to the GT3 Cup-based series in Italy and Holland. Motorsport NZ also recognised the validity of the series by conferring full NZ championship status. There were two classes – Class A for cars built to 2003-2005 model years, and Class B for cars built in the 2001 and 2002 model years. New drivers to the series this year were Fabian Coulthard, Mike Eady, Nick Gordon, David Mackrell, Connell McLaren, Peter Millener and Rob Steele. Craig Baird was again the winner and thus became the inaugural ‘NZ Porsche GT3 Cup Champion’.
Craig Baird retained his Champion’s crown over subsequent seasons 2006/07, ‘07/08, ‘08/09, ‘09/10 but was finally dethroned by Daniel Gaunt in 2010/11 – which was the last season of the NZ Porsche GT3 Cup Championship. Craig also won the Porsche 997 section of the Championship in ‘07/08, ‘08/09, ‘09/10 with Daniel Gaunt taking the honours in ‘10/11. In the 996 section, Tim Martin took the honours in ‘07/08, Hugh Gardiner in ‘08/09 and ‘09/10, and Scott McLennan in ‘10/11.
Beyond the end of the period of official recognition by Porsche Germany and Motorsport NZ of official Championship status for the GT3 Cup car series in New Zealand, GT3 cars were integrated into the Porsche Club of NZ Championship series from the 2011/12 season until 2014/15. In 2015 it was announced that Pirelli would become the Naming Sponsor for ‘Pirelli Porsche Race Championship’ for the 2015/16 season and beyond – and the Porsche GT3s will be included in this series.