James Penrose is the 2021 ITM New Zealand Formula Ford champion, bringing the curtain down on an enthralling season in Christchurch.
Penrose won all three races over the day, overtaking season-long rival Matthew McCutcheon in the standings to claim the spoils.
McCutcheon battled hard and hung on to round off his rookie year second in the standings.
Another rookie, Kyan Davie, finished third in the championship.
Penrose entered the season finale trailing McCutcheon on points. However, he had a home track advantage, whereas his Auckland contender had never raced on the Ruapuna circuit before.
In qualifying, Penrose overcame tricky, damp conditions to put himself on pole position. But instead of McCutcheon joining him on the front row, Zac Christensen executed a mighty lap to place himself second.
McCutcheon could only manage ninth among a 30-strong field.
With his rival buried amongst the midfield, Penrose claimed a lights-to-flag perfection to move into the provisional championship lead.
Two safety car periods slowed McCutcheon’s progress, yet he still managed to crawl back to finish fifth.
Christensen hung on to second while Blake Evans walked away with a podium finish.
On his return to Formula Ford, Ronan Murphy was a commendable fourth.
Courtesy of setting the fastest lap in race one, McCutcheon started race two from pole position.
However, a fast-starting Penrose got the better jump off the start and never let his challenger back past for the rest of the race.
The pair battled hard and fair, with the margin across the line a measly 0.3s.
Penrose’s championship lead was extended slightly further, though the day’s final race would ultimately determine the year’s champion.
In a repeat of race two, Penrose got the best launch and headed McCutcheon into turn one.
The duo pushed each other, but there would be no swap of position, and Penrose ended the day with a hat trick of victories.
“I just can’t explain the feeling,” Penrose said of winning the title.
“It’s been such a good season with Matty, one of the hardest racers I have competed against.
“I was just so happy when I crossed that line and just so thankful for the work my father and the sponsors have put in over the season.”
While disappointed to miss out on the championship, McCutcheon was still in high spirits.
“I was trying to give it a go right to the last lap,” he said. “James has done a good job here today.
“I’ve learnt so much this season and can’t thank the team enough.”
As well as winning the NZ Formula Ford title, Penrose also won the NZ Festival feature race.
As part of his prize package, Penrose will head to the UK to drive in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, and receives a test in a British Formula 4 car with Carlin.
Images: NZ Formula Ford