Seb Manson has claimed all four race wins at the opening round of the 2023/24 Yokohama South Island Formula Ford Championship presented by Team Hutchinson Ford. Euromarque Motorsport Park in Christchurch hosted the round as part of the Wigram Revival meeting, which also saw Manson lift the Wigram Cup, a prize for the last 12-lap race. The round win catapults Manson (Spectrum 015) into a commanding lead of the 18-race, five-round series, 54 points ahead of Dylan Petch (Ray GR20), who finished runner-up.
“A very good weekend,” commented Manson. “The car was good, just working on the driving in each race, so it’s been a good start to the season.”
Setting the quickest time in qualifying won him a $500 Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy cash prize and first on the grid for the opening 10-lap race on Saturday.
“Qualified fastest which was good and got off the line well for the first race and led to the finish,” said Manson. “Will (Neale) definitely gave me a good challenge both in the race and all weekend. Was able to get to the front in Race 2 having started from P2 and Race 3 was similar.”
Behind Manson was a fight over podium places between Dylan Petch, Will Neale (Van Diemen Stealth), last season’s champion Blake Knowles (Van Diemen RF05) and Caleb Byers (Ray GR21). All four capable of standing on the podium with Petch the most consistent over the weekend with two second and one third places.
“Really happy leaving the weekend in that position,” said Petch. “It all went pretty well and really happy to be battling with the top four. This round was the one I was least confident about, so thrilled to get a good result.”
In the final 12-lap Wigram Cup race, Manson led off the line initially with Neale, Knowles and Petch in the hunt. A safety car intervention after rookie Izaak Fletcher (Ray GR20) went off the track saw the field bunch up for a one-lap dash to the chequered flag. While Manson got a jump on the field at the restart and held on for the win, Petch slipped past Neale for second with Knowles in fourth, followed by Byers.
Despite his off-track excursion in the last race, Fletcher made an impressive debut, twice finishing in the top-five.
Manson was awarded the NAPA Auto Parts prize for ‘Driver of the Day’ as well as winning Class 1 (post-1999 including Stealth) while Ryan Low (Van Diemen RF90) was first in Class 2 (1989 to 2000).
At the end of the season, a Team Hutchinson Ford Prize package will be awarded 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 have put up an FT50 test for the winner of Class 2 to encourage these entry-level drivers and cars back into Formula Ford.
The series heads to Timaru for the second round this coming weekend, with Manson taking nothing for granted.
“It is going to be tough this coming season with the number of good rivals,” said Manson.
Header Image: Dylan Petch finished an impressive second – photo Euan Cameron
Words & Images: Supplied