Dylan Grant continues to narrowly lead the 2023/24 Giltrap Group North Island Formula Ford Series (NIFF) after the third round at the Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding over the weekend.
Rival Zach Blincoe has reduced the lead to just five points after winning two races and finishing second in the finale, despite retiring out of the opening race.
While Grant won the opening race, he also scored no points, retiring out of Race 2, then went on to place second and fourth in the final two races.
“That was a great weekend,” commented Blincoe (Mygale SJ07) who picked up the NAPA Auto Parts $300 trade voucher for Driver of the Day. “It went really well, so stoked to score some good points and get the NAPA prize. We have definitely closed the gap to Dylan (Grant).”
While Blincoe had a top result, the round win went to South Island competitor Blake Knowles (Van Diemen RF05) who first won the $500 cash prize for fastest qualifier provided by the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy, then backed it up with two second and a sixth placings and winning the final 12-lap race of the weekend.
“That was cool,” said Knowles. “Zach (Blincoe) was really quick all weekend and we had some really good battles. I’ve never been to Manfeild before.”
The opening race saw a battle for the lead between Blincoe and Knowles. Contact between the two sent Blincoe off into retirement while Grant (Van Diemen RF03) got through to take the win.
“That was pretty unfortunate,” said Blincoe. “We had a bit of contact that sent us off the track. There is no grip on the grass so ended up in the kitty -litter. A DNF is not ideal but that is racing.”
“The second race was a busy one with Zach and me swapping places, so he just pipped me on the (finish) line,” said Knowles.
Such was the close racing that contact in the first two races was a result of the lead pack going four wide into the first turn.
The third race on Sunday morning in the wet saw Blincoe’s local track experience kick in, taking the win by two-tenths from Grant and Blake Dowdall while Knowles finished down in sixth.
“With Manfeild it is important to know when to make the moves, when to take the draught, finding the right spot and the right time,” said Blincoe. “Sometimes leading isn’t the right position. When it is wet, the key is to get a good start which we did and then create the gap to the pack.”
Finally in the last Race 4, Knowles was able to hold the lead for the win.
“It was pretty cool to get the win,” said Knowles. “This time I got off the line well and got into the lead while Zach and Will (Neale) were having a battle. The car was really good all weekend.”
Also to shine was Blake Dowdall (Spectrum 015) who finished second for the round and remains in close contact with the overall lead. Mason Potter (Spectrum 015) has moved up into fourth overall ahead of Knowles with Shane Drake (Van Diemen RF92), the Class 2 leader, in sixth.
This season sees an exciting prize for the NZ Formula Ford Championship Class 2 winner after moving the Stealth cars into the Class 1 category. Toyota Gazoo Racing have put up an FT50 test for the winner of Class 2 to encourage these entry level drivers and cars back into Formula Ford.
A substantial Rookie prize of a large tool kit package from Napa Auto Parts will be offered this year by NIFF to the highest placed rookie.
Words & Images: Supplied