Christchurch’s Blake Knowles has dominated the penultimate round of the 2023 NZ Formula Ford Championship (NZFF) with four podium finishes at Teretonga Park over the weekend. Knowles finished second in the opening race on Saturday and went on to win Sunday’s three races. Despite not having the best weekend at his home track, current national champion Alex Crosbie holds a narrow 52-point lead over Daniel Brown heading to the finale this weekend in Christchurch.
The meeting also doubled as the fifth and penultimate round of the South Island Formula 1600 Championship (SIFF) and has seen a change in the leader board with Knowles taking over from Crosbie, again, heading to the finale this weekend in Christchurch.
“It’s pretty awesome to get the results in the weekend,” commented Knowles. “We managed to get a clean run all weekend and stayed out of trouble.”
Also on the podium was rookie driver William Neale (Van Diemen Stealth). Neale had a strong showing in both North Island rounds of the national championship and took his maiden win in the opening race on Saturday, then following it up with two second and a third placings.
“Will (Neale) had an awesome race on Saturday,” commented Knowles. “Daniel (Brown) and I had a real battle for second allowing Will to get away and I run out of laps to catch him.”
Daniel Brown (Ray GR21) also had a stellar weekend winning the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy $1,010.10 cash prize for fastest lap in qualifying and standing twice on the podium. His performance has seen him move into second overall in the national championship to Crosbie and fourth in the SIFF series, within striking distance of Knowles.
Things didn’t go well for a number of competitors with Crosbie (Ray GR21) recording a DNF (retirement) in Race 1 with a broken throttle cable. He best result for the round was a third place in Race 2, but still leads the national title fight. Dylan Grant (Van Diemen RF03) had two DNS’ (Did Not Start) first requiring an engine change overnight and later did not take the start line for Race 4, dashing his title hopes. Blake Dowdall (Spectrum 015) lost third gear finishing down the field in Race 1, while Sebastian Manson (Spectrum 015) finished all four races just short of the podium and sits in third overall on the points table.
“Daniel (Brown) and I had a lot of battles off the start line as he is a quick starter,” said Knowles. “In the final (Race 4) we were swapping the lead for most of the race until the safety car came out. I was fortunate to be in the lead as the race finished under the yellow (flag).
“The round has been a massive confidence booster for me, heading to Ruapuna (the final round). Hopefully we will hold onto our lead in the South Island series and keep chipping away at the national one as well.”
Jacob Cunniffe received the ‘Driver of the Day’ $230 cash prize for showing huge improvement over the season.
Both the NZ Formula Ford and the South Island F1600 Champinoships head to Christchurch this weekend for their final rounds. The national championship has two rounds in the North and two in the South Islands and is 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.
Words & Images: Supplied