Pukekohe’s Billy Frazer made it look straight forward setting pole position and winning all three races at the fifth round of the South Island Formula 1600 Series at Highlands Motorsport Park.
Currently competing in the national championship with a Spectrum 015, Frazer took the opportunity to compete in the South Island round heading to the next New Zealand Formula Ford Championship event in Invercargill next weekend.
“I’m very happy, the confidence levels are really up heading into next weekend,” Frazer said.
“This weekend we went over all the race routine, safety car restart, formation laps, getting tyres up to temperature and so on, which you just can’t replicate in testing.
It wasn’t easy at all as it is quite a technical track and the competition was great.”
It was the battle between the next five cars that were crucial to the overall series points leading to the penultimate round in Invercargill in a week’s time.
Heading into the round, Dunedin’s Cameron Freeman (Van Diemen RF92) held a 25-point lead over Christchurch’s Bailey Paterson (Van Diemen Stealth) with rookie Zac Christensen (Van Diemen RF92) third followed by Jack Noble-Adams (Van Diemen Stealth) and Anna Collins (VD RF94).
Paterson has now been able to reduce this lead to just 19-points with Noble-Adams moving into third place, 26-points further back. Christensen slipped down to fourth while Collins holds on to fifth ahead of Dyson Freeman who has moved up from ninth.
“Jack’s taken some points out of me, so from now on it is a matter of covering both him and Bailey (Paterson),” Freeman said.
“The car just wasn’t right during the last race. I think it just got too hot, particularly the tyres.”
The temperature was the hot topic of the weekend with typical Central Otago summer temperatures hovering around 30 degrees ambient and 50 degrees on the track.
Being the first time a sanctioned Formula 1600 series has competed at Highlands, all 32 entries were new to the circuit.
In the first two races, Frazer got a poor start from pole position but took the lead within the first two laps. Paterson came home second ahead of Cameron Freeman, Noble-Adams and Dyson Freeman in race one while Noble Adams took second in race two ahead of Cameron Freeman, Paterson and Dyson Freeman.
A better start from Frazer in the third seven-lap race saw him lead until the end but this time with Noble-Adams right on his tail.
A safety car came out on the second lap after rookie Ryan Low (Van Diemen RF88) slid off through the Bus-Stop corner into the wall.
A restart at the start of the fourth lap saw the Frazer hold the lead from Noble-Adams, Paterson, Dyson Freeman and Cameron Freeman, through to the checkered flag.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Paterson said.
“The car was overheating at the end of the last race like everyone. The car wasn’t great over the weekend but manageable. It is a matter of collecting points which we did.”
Making his second appearance in the series was 1990/91 NZ Formula Ford champion Andy McElrea, competing in his original title-winning Van Diemen RF88.
Despite several off-track occurrences in qualifying and in the first two races, McElrea recovered well to win the round for Historic Class 3 cars.
“I’ve had a huge amount of fun, it is good to get back in a car,” McElrea said.
“You forget how hard it is to drive these things so it’s a bit humbling. The weekend underlines the popularity of the category and the job the South Island Formula Ford Club are doing.”
McElrea also underlined the importance of the Formula 1600 category saying,
“In my opinion, it is absolutely critical for a young driver coming from karts into the higher levels to feel the mechanical grip, have mechanical sympathy, understand how dog-rings work, how the suspension works and feel the car drive on the ‘slip’. Once a driver can do this and relate this to their engineer, then they are ready to move forward.”
As well as overall points, the category has three separate Class titles.
In Class 1 (post-2000) Steve Edwards (Mygale SJ08) continues to lead from Grant Campbell (VD RF03) and Kim Crocker (Ray GR14).
As well as holding the overall lead Cameron Freeman leads Class 2 (1990-1999) from Paterson, Noble-Adams and Christensen.
In the Historic Class 3 (pre-1990) Ryan Low leads from Noel Atley (Crossle 55F) and Andy Downs (Lola 642E).
Following the Highlands round teams and drivers now head to Invercargill for the sixth and penultimate round of the series next weekend.
Photo: Terry Marshall/Euan Cameron Photography