Two-second placings and a race win by Will Neale (Van Diemen Stealth) in the 2023/24 Yokohama South Island Formula Ford Championship presented by Team Hutchinson Ford has given him the round win and moved him into third overall on the points table.
The Timaru International Raceway in Timaru hosted the one-day, three-race program, which now sees Seb Manson’s (Spectrum 015) overall lead reduced to 41 points back to Dylan Petch (Ray GR20), with Neale 17 points further back.
“I can’t ask for much more than that,” commented Neale. “Thrilled to get the round win and valuable points after making the most of the opportunities.”
Initially, Manson set the fastest lap in qualifying, collecting the $500 Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy cash prize and went on the win the first two races. His closest title rival, Dylan Petch, was unlucky to suffer from a faulty tyre valve in qualifying and started seventh in the opener but moved forward to keep the pressure on, finishing 3rd for the round and closing the gap to Mason.
“Seb (Manson) is almost unbeatable,” said Neale. “Although we have good pace, we don’t quite have the straight-line speed, and he’s quick in a straight line. Unfortunately, we locked wheels heading into Turn 5 on the opening lap of the third race and touched with Seb, who spun off and out of the race.
“It was a tough race with five cars crossing the finish line with 0.385 seconds between us. Blake (Knowles) led into the last lap, having led for much of the race. I was able to get a wheel on the inside of him into T5, and he had to concede.”
Petch clinched second ahead of Knowles ((Van Diemen RF05), with Caleb Byers (Ray GR21) ahead of Izaak Fletcher (Ray GR20).
Knowles stood on the podium three times and sits fourth overall ahead of Byers, with Jake Bryant (Van Diemen RF94) in sixth. Bryant, competing in his first full season, has continued to show consistent form running with the front of the field. A small fire in Friday’s practice did not deter the team, with Bryant setting the sixth fastest time in qualifying and finishing twice in sixth and once in eighth.
Also continuing to shine is rookie Izaak Fletcher (Ray GR20) who picked up the NAPA Auto Parts prize for ‘Driver of the Day’. A fourth in the opening race was the highlight for the kartsport graduate in just his second meeting, and now sits seventh overall and hunting for his first podium.
Manson continues to lead Class 1, while Jacob Cunniffe (Swift SC96K) has moved into the lead in Class 2.
The Team Hutchinson Ford Prize will also offer a package for the overall Class 1 and Class 2 winners. This year 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 has put up an FT50 test for the winner of Class 2 to encourage these entry-level drivers and cars back into Formula Ford.
Drivers and teams take a short break before the third round at Teretonga Park in Invercargill on 2-3 December 2023.