Southland’s Alex Crosbie heads into the penultimate round of the 2023 NZ Formula Ford Championship (NZFF) with a healthy 99-point lead and home-circuit advantage this weekend at Teretonga Park in Invercargill.
Crosbie proved unbeatable at the second of four-rounds in Taupo in February and the chasing pack of Dylan Grant, Sebastian Manson and Daniel Brown will have their work cut out at the four-race meeting.
The meeting also doubles as the fifth and penultimate round of the South Island Formula 1600 Championship (SIFF), with the conclusion of both the national and South Island series the following weekend in Christchurch.
Crosbie has plenty of experience at Teretonga and his rival may prove to be Blake Knowles who beat him in two of the last three Formula Ford races at the circuit back in December in the third round of the SIFF series. In their fourth South Island round at Timaru a fortnight ago, Knowles was quickest in qualifying and beat Crosbie in the opening race before engine trouble put-paid to his weekend. Crosbie holds a 65-point lead over Knowles with Dylan Petch in third.
While Grant and Crosbie duelled for race wins at the opening NZFF round at Hampton Downs at the NZ Grand Prix meeting in February, it was Manson who battled with Crosbie at the Taupo International Motorsport Park, setting fastest lap in qualifying and then initially fighting with Crosbie before the latter dominated each race. Manson is the only North Island competitor to have raced at Teretonga, competing in the SIFF round in early December 2022.
Grant did enough to finish on the podium in Taupo, collecting valuable points to stay in the title hunt, as did Daniel Brown. Behind the top four is a real mid-pack battle between Blake Dowdall, Mason Potter, Caleb Byers, Blake Knowles, Jack Noble Adams, William Neale and Dylan Petch. All capable of finishing on the podium.
An important key to the final two rounds which will see eight races and a maximum of 604-points on offer, will be tyres. The majority of competitors have used eight of their 12-tyre allocation in the first two North Island rounds with just Grant and Dowdall using their second set for the final race at Taupo. While Crosbie has used his tyres to their maximum advantage, he and others face eight more races on just one new set of rubber.
The national championship has two rounds in the North and two in the South Islands and are seen as crucial to the growth in both experience and confidence for young drivers wanting to progress their single seater career. The Tony Quinn Foundation has provided a travel grant to enable Formula Ford competitors to undertake this essential travel.
Up for grabs is the Hampton Downs NZ Race Academy $1,010.10 cash prize for fastest qualifier as well as the $230 NAPA Auto Parts ‘Driver of the Day prize. Also on offer is a Toyota Formula Regional Oceania FT60 test for the winner of the national title while both North and South Island series winners will get a FT50 test.