A hat trick of wins at his home circuit has re-energized Paul Manuell’s push for the 2020/21 Ryco 24.7 V8 Ute title.
Manuell blitzed the field in qualifying on Saturday. His pole position lap, a 1.15.423s, was over 1.4s quicker than second-place Peter Ward.
The duo then broke away from the rest of the field in a wet first race held this morning.
Biding his time behind the fast-starting Ward, Manuell hit the lead on lap seven of eight with a daring lunge around the outside of turn one.
A tricky move in the dry, the switch of the lead came in conditions far from ideal following a morning shower of rain.
Manuell then led Ward over the line by three-tenths to claim his fifth win of the season.
Shane Dias also pulled off a late overtake on Brett Rudd to round out the podium, while Stuart Monteith held his nerve to retain fifth ahead of Brad Kroef.
With the track dry by midday, the finishing order of race one was reversed for race two.
The faster boys wasted little time slicing their way up the pack, with Dias charging from eighth to third by the end of lap two.
The series rookie soon hit the front, yet it would be only temporary as Manuell flew past at the halfway stage.
With no one ahead of him, Manuell bolted away from the challenging pack. The Pukekohe man was the only driver capable of lapping in the 1.16s. He had a three-second margin over Dias by the chequered flag.
Ward had battled himself up to third, ahead of Rudd and Greg Kroef.
Father to Brad, Greg and Rudd had an enthralling battle for fourth, highlighted by the odd crosscheck and friendly bump. Rudd would get the better of Kroef’s adamant defence on lap seven and ultimately lead his rival home by five seconds.
Manuell was back on pole for the weekend’s finale, and he duly led from start to finish.
His 3.7s victory over Ward means Manuell remains unbeaten at the South Auckland circuit this year. It is his second clean sweep in three rounds with his first coming in round one at Pukekohe in December last year.
Dias clung on for a hard-fought third after some late-race pressure by Rudd. Simon Ussher put in his most robust performance of the weekend to finish fifth, ahead of Brad Kroef, Monteith and Paul Fougere.
Greg Kroef and Phillip Ross both failed to finish.
The fourth and final round of the championship will be at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on April 16-18.
Manuell holds a 36-point advantage over Ward heading into the series finale, with 105 on offer for the weekend.