Paul Manuell claimed his third Ryco 24.7 V8 Ute championship over the weekend in Taupo, bringing the curtain down on a dominant season display.
Maunell put the Diggabits Holden Ute on pole position by an emphatic 1.4s in Saturday’s qualifying before running away in race one to a comfortable victory.
Behind, Shane Dias overtook Peter Ward on the outside line of turn one on the opening lap, with Brett Rudd following suit to move into third.
That left Ward to battle with series returnee Matt Gibson for fourth – a position he clung on to at the chequered flag.
Rudd reeled in Dias over the first half of the race before attempting a bold move at turn five with three laps remaining.
However, Dias immediately fought back and demoted Rudd back to the final podium position. Their duel opened the door for Manuell to open a 3.5s lead by the end of the race.
Manuell had placed one hand on the championship trophy coming into Sunday’s final two races, the first of which would be a reverse-grid start.
Phil Ross capitalised on a clear track to establish an early lead in the 12-lapper. However, the race was soon neutralised when Paul Fougere buried himself in the kitty litter at turn one, prompting the safety car.
Ross then struggled to re-build his lap one advantage, and on lap five was demoted from the lead by Gibson. Rudd, Dias and a hard-charging Manuell also made their way past Ross.
Making a one-off return to the series, Gibson was electric and looked to have sealed victory until a tie rod end bolt broke, meaning he limped home in 12th.
Gibson’s misfortune gifted the race two win to Rudd while Manuell came home in third to further cement his claim to the championship.
The weekend’s final race had Manuell, Rudd, and Dias run three abreast into turn one, with Manuell snaring the early advantage.
The Pukekohe driver then got his head down and eased to his second win of the weekend and the overall season honours.
Rudd fended off Dias for second, while Jeff Kernohan, racing in the series for the first time in two years, claimed a commendable fourth.
Gibson was fifth and led home teammate Peter Ward whose sixth-place finish was enough to ensure he ended the year runners-up.
V8 Utes Final Standings: