Dylan Grant has opened his 2023 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship campaign in spectacular fashion, winning a thrilling battle against defending champion Alex Crosbie by the narrowest of margins at Hampton Downs.
After 10 laps of racing the gap was just .042 of a second, a fair representation of how the race played out.
Blake Knowles also proved he’s one to watch, getting the better of New Zealand racing legend Greg Murphy to round out the podium.
Grant got a great launch from pole to take the lead into Turn 1, Blake Dowdall following close behind and pressuring the #15 through the first lap.
Defending champion Crosbie also got straight into business, pipping Murphy off the line to take third through Lap 1. He quickly went about hunting down Dowdall to take second before pressuring Grant for the lead.
It was a challenging start to 2023 for Leo Scott, a Lap 1 failure seeing him drop down the order and forced to withdraw.
Lap 3 was where the move got done for the race lead, Grant running wide into The Dipper and opening the door for Crosbie to sneak through.
Shortly after there was drama in the midfield, Caleb Byers running wide heading on to the main straight and taking out two advertising signs. Incredibly, he held on despite running sideways at one point in traffic, showing all his skill behind the wheel to not lose control.
Heartbreak for Dowdall followed, a failure seeing him drop back from third before eventually pulling over on track and triggering a Safety Car.
Up front, Grant and Crosbie’s two second gap was extinguished, the #15 having retaken the lead not long before the intervention.
The battle for third was equally as tight given Dowdall’s withdrawal, Knowles and Murphy locked in a thrilling fight, the youngster giving the veteran a run for his money.
Crosbie handled the restart well, running the outside line into Turn 1 to briefly take the lead. Grant immediately fired back with Knowles close behind, retaking the lead as the two pulled away again.
Knowles and Murphy also resumed where they left off pre-intervention, the former getting the better of the New Zealand racing legend before hunting down the two leaders and catching up with two laps to go.
Crosbie retook the lead on the penultimate lap only for Grant to follow suit on the final lap, a massive dive at Turn 1 almost ending in tears but proving the difference and giving Grant the line for the next laps.
Knowles remained in close proximity waiting to pounce, not given an opportunity through excellent race craft from the two leaders ahead.
A drag for the finish line ensued off the final corner, Grant taking the flag by just .042 of a second over Crosbie, Knowles rounding out the podium with a well-deserved third placed finish.
Murphy finished in fourth with Kyan Davie some 2 seconds back in fifth. Daniel Brown ran a clean race for sixth, finishing ahead of the equally-impressive Dylan Petch who worked forward for seventh.
Mason Potter, Sebastian Manson and Hayden Bakkerus rounded out the top 10.
The New Zealand Formula Ford Championship returns tomorrow with the Race 2 at 8.42am and Race 3 at 1.39pm.
Header Image: Geoff Ridder