Sebastian Manson leads the charge in the Napa Auto Parts New Zealand Formula Ford Championship after winning three of the four races at the opening round at the Thunder Down Under Meeting In Timaru over the weekend.
William Neale follows close behind, with a strong round leaving him only four points off the lead. Blake Knowles also announced himself as a championship contender and is only seven points behind Neale.
“If this weekend is anything to go, the series is going to be one heck of a fight!” said Series Co-Chairman Andy Robertson.
Neale took the season-opening pole award, claiming the first Hampton Downs Academy $1010.10 Pole Cheque, but it was Manson who rocketed out from the start to take the first race win. Knowles set the fastest lap time of the race, while Simon Hunter was the biggest mover, carving through the field from the rear of the 22-car grid to finish 8th.
Knowles started third on the grid in Race 2 and made his way to the front, overtaking Manson with four laps to go. Neale was always on their heels, waiting for any mistake or opportunity to pass. While Knowles won on the track, a post-race penalty dropped him to fourth.
Further down the field, the battles continued back and forth. It was close racing everywhere you looked. Jacob Cunniffe suffered engine problems and didn’t start the race.
Manson took the Race 3 win from Knowles and Neale, while current North Island Champion Dylan Grant claimed fourth from standout rookie Izaak Fletcher. Cameron Tanner took out Class 2 honours from Cameron Freeman and a returning Jacob Cunniffe.
The final 12-lapper was a ripper, with Knowles taking the lead early, but Manson pulled off a fantastic braking move into Turn 1, not once, but twice, in a see-saw battle that had seven cars in the lead pack for the first half of the race.
Neale then demoted Manson to another spot, and while this fight continued, Knowles was able to clear out and take a handsome victory from Manson, who got back by Neale, followed closely by Grant and, further back, Fletcher. Manson was then handed a 5-second post-race penalty that dropped him to seventh.
Tanner beat Freeman for a class 2 honours, but it was Freeman who took out the Class 2 overall points for the weekend, the difference being the pole between the two drivers.
Christchurch will host the next round from the 9th-11th of February, as part of the Super Sprint meeting at the Euromarque Motorsport Park (Ruapuna).
This season sees some great prizes and incentives, with the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy offering a $1010.10 cash prize for the fastest qualifier at each round.
The Tony Quinn Foundation offers a $51,000 travel fund for competitors that compete at all four rounds. The overall winner will receive a Toyota FT60 test as well as a fully funded two-day F4 test in the USA with Kiwi Motorsport.
This season also offers exciting prize for the Class 2 winner. Toyota Gazoo Racing has put up an FT50 test for the winner of Class 2 to encourage these entry-level drivers and cars back into Formula Ford.