Jono Lester's Blog Chasing the Endurance Racing dream…

31Jul/120

A busy end to the 2012 season

A busy end to the 2012 season kicks off this weekend when I have my first event with the Fastway Racing team at the Hampton Downs 12 Hour race.

Whilst a 12 hour event, we will be competing in the 4-hour component of it, giving my two team mates Sam Robinson and Simon Ellingham the chance to experience their first taste of endurance racing, in preparation for the South Island Endurance Series at the end of September.

This three round series visits Teretonga, Timaru and Ruapuna, and looks incredible with more than 60 entries including nearly 20 Porsches, from 996 to 997 to RSR; as well as a C6R Corvette, Ferrari 458 and one of the New Generation NZV8s, amongst a heap of GT, touring & hybrid machines.

It’s undoubtedly the best local line up seen for many years, so the Hampton Downs race will be a great test in preparation for this, and of course we will be aiming for victory in our respective 4-hour category also!Before the SIERDC series kick off however, I have the first V8 SuperTourers enduro to look forward to, partnering John McIntyre in the championship winning #47 BlackwoodsProtector Falcon.

I’ve had two runs in the car – one test day at Taupo and a hot lap day in the wet at Hampton Downs – giving me the chance to experience the V8 in different conditions, and I feel really comfortable in the machine already and believe we have a real shot at JMR taking the double over the three-round Endurance Championship!

My next event in the magnificent PETRONAS Syntium Team Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 comes at the famous Suzuka circuit in October, with the series finale coming at Autopolis in November, just a few days before the 500km Pukekohe V8 SuperTourers round.

I’m currently sitting second overall in the Super Taikyu championship and there’s still all to play for as we do battle with our PETRONAS team mates for the win!

With eight endurance events between now and the end of November, the 2012 year will have been the most intensive since I began competing in 2003. Here’s hoping we can match that seat time with race and championship wins!

Until next time,

Jono

 

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4Jun/120

V8s and Porsches: a busy winter in NZ!

We’re settled into the winter break for my Japanese campaign now, but it’s been really exciting to announce a couple of exciting opportunities on home soil to keep me in the chair in the meantime.

On Friday I was confirmed as John McIntyre’s co-driver for the upcoming V8 SuperTourer Endurance Championship; a three round series with long distance races at Taupo, Pukekohe and Ruapuna between September and November.

To have my first drive of a V8 with what is now the Sprint Series championship winning team is a terrific opportunity for me. John runs a great show and is professional in every manner of the word – I’ve never seen someone so busy out of the chair as he is in it and we can all take a leaf out of his book as to how to run a successful race team.

I joined the team for the weekend to take a look at how it and the series operates, as well as turning a couple of laps of the car to run in some components for John on Friday.

We have our first proper test at Taupo in a few weeks time.


I’ll also be back behind the wheel of a Porsche for both the Hampton Downs 12 Hour and the South Island Endurance series, with two ambitious, passionate rookies in Simon Ellingham and Sam Robinson.

I’ve helped both out with driver training as they entered the sport in junior ranks, and we’re all really excited to take it to ‘em in a 997 GT3 Cup car with a full endurance package and plenty of RSR bits bolted on for extra performance.

So, while the beautiful PETRONAS SLS sits waiting patiently in the workshop in Tokyo, I’ll be a busy guy back here in the land of the long white cloud!

Thanks again for your continued support, and as always, big thanks to my local partners, Trinity Media Group, Mako Networks, ThrillCapital, Vortex Racewear, Opti-Flex and R Redpath Limited for supporting my racing.

Cheers!

Jono Lester

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21May/120

Race winning pace yields little reward

In my preview for the weekend’s Super Taikyu 3 Hour Race at Sugo, I was quoted as saying “being the bridesmaid is beginning to wear a little thin”.

I gave it my all to go one better, and my first impressions of Sportsland Sugo were all positive. The undulating, flowing circuit cutting through the natural terrain was such a buzz and immediately within 5-6 laps I had found a nice rhythm in the PETRONAS Syntium Team SLS.

I headed the time sheets in both afternoon sessions on Saturday, and followed up with my first pole position on Sunday morning to set us up for a real shot at victory in the race.

I was promoted to start the race, which was a big honour for me, and my stint went to plan for the first hour. I pulled a 17-second gap on second place before all three of our nearest rivals struck trouble, which extended our lead to 51 seconds at the one hour mark.

Then it was our turn. A suspension failure down the back straight snapped the car into a violent slide and I only narrowly missed hitting the wall, guiding the car back to the pits and losing precious time while the part was replaced.

My team mates fought back valiantly, to third place, but it's two spots below where we rightfully should have been today. I said I wasn't going to settle for anything less than the win – I certainly did my best to make that happen!

Anyhow, some things are out of one's control and there's plenty of opportunities to look forward to back home in NZ over the mid-season break.

Until then, thanks again for your continued support, and as always, big thanks to my local partners, Trinity Media Group, Mako Networks, ThrillCapital, Vortex Racewear, Opti-Flex and R Redpath Limited for supporting my Japanese campaign.

Cheers!

 

Jono Lester

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14May/120

Mountain climbing at Sugo


For the fourth time in two months, I’ll be boarding a plan to the Land of the Rising Sun this week, for the third round of the 2012 Super Taikyu Endurance Series at Sportsland Sugo.

Like many Japanese circuits, this one is set in the mountains, and notorious for being pretty colourful with its weather patterns.

It’s one of the few Japanese circuits I’ve done a lot of simulator laps on, and in the rain no less, and judging by its undulating, high speed layout with many blind turns, it will be a real challenge at both ends of the speed scale when it comes to lapped traffic.

Of course, two rounds in we are sitting in second overall behind our team mates in the #1 PETRONAS Syntium Team SLS. Being the bridesmaid is beginning to wear a little thin, and in continuing the rotation policy, Tatsuya Kataoka will rejoin our 3-driver line up for this round, fresh from his Super GT 300 win at Fuji a couple of weeks ago.

It will be my last round with the team for a few months, so I’ll be making the most of every single gear change, curb and top end straight before putting the Mercedes to bed for the mid-season break.

So naturally, we want to go into this hiatus on a high!

Whatever the weather throws at us, I have total confidence in the car and have already done many laps in this car in the wet.

When I’m home, it’s straight into test and race mode once again, however, in some new machinery, and some not so new. I’m looking forward to announcing both campaigns very soon.

My weekend will be documented in detail on Facebook at http://facebook.com/jonolesterfans, Twitter at http://twitter.com/jonolester, and of course my website, http://jonolester.com

As always, big thanks to my local partners, Trinity Media Group, Mako Networks, ThrillCapital, Vortex Racewear, Opti-Flex and R Redpath Limited for supporting my Japanese campaign.

Cheers!

Jono Lester

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29Apr/120

Another second place at Motegi

I’m pretty exhausted this evening. Today’s race was taxing on both the body and mind, at the second round of Super Taukyu at Twin Ring Motegi.

My first impressions of the circuit were, as with Fuji a month ago, clouded in mist and heavy rain, and this weather set in for Friday testing, where I had an absolute ball sliding the SLS around the high speed, full commitment circuit for the first time.

The weather couldn’t have been any different on Saturday if it tried, presenting us with near-30 degree heat that would be the bane of all 120 competing drivers, dressed in their nomex underwear.

Now faced with the challenge of pushing the boundaries of Motegi in the dry, I found it to be a completely different circuit to what I expected. All braking is super heavy, with most corners no far off being hairpins, and thus the track is a notorious brake killer.

In qualifying, against the added threats of new entries from Nissan and BMW, I was quite disappointed with my performance, overdriving the car and being pretty ragged on my tyre peak laps.

Our combined times as a driver line up were still enough to land us second, however, once again behind our sister car.

And once again, in the race, we led early, with 2011 Super GT 500 Champion Masataka Yanagida pulling a comfortable 12-second gap to second place before the first round of pit stops.

I then nervously bit my nails as I watched our car get caught and passed by the sister SLS. Five minutes out from my stint, we were trailing by ten seconds, and it was now that we took the gamble of sending me out without a tyre change.

The ‘splash and dash’ rightfully should have put us around 15 seconds in the lead of the race, however unbeknown to us in the pit lane, lapped traffic pushed our car off the circuit on its in lap.

The time loss meant that, even with our quicker stop, we came in 10 behind, and rejoined 10 behind also.

My 45-laps at the wheel on tyres well past their use-by date was a big challenge. Not only were they deteriorating by the lap, but the brakes were suffering under the intense ambient heat.

I played with various traction and brake settings throughout, trying to keep an order of things as I drove my ass off to try and close the gap, but there was no way we could match the new tyre pace and we had to cross the line in second place.

I’m pretty gutted, I’ll be honest. After two hours, we were in a comfortable lead of 20-seconds. I never imagined we’d be betting to the level that we did just to stay in touch, if not challenge for victory!

So, for the next round at Sugo in three weeks time, I’ll be going into overdrive to ensure we go one better and ‘bring home the bacon’!

As always, big thanks to my local partners, Trinity Media Group, Mako Networks, ThrillCapital, Vortex Racewear, Opti-Flex, R Redpath Limited and iSign it for supporting my Japanese campaign.

Cheers!

Jono

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