Matthew McCutcheon and James Penrose shared the spoils in round two of the ITM New Zealand Formula Ford Championship at Pukekohe, setting up an exciting season finale.
The one-day event also doubled up as round four of the Giltrap Group North Island Formula Ford with a healthy 11-car grid present across both classes.
McCutcheon would snare the first two race wins of the day, both times leading home Penrose. Margins were non-existent, with McCutcheon crossing the line 0.060s and 0.064s ahead of Penrose.
Penrose would come back in in the day’s final race – the Ron Frost Memorial Trophy race – after McCutcheon made a mistake at the hairpin on the last lap. Penrose stole a 0.011s victory over his rival and prevented a clean sweep.
Rookie racer Kyan Davie placed himself third on the grid in qualifying and backed up that strong showing with a trio of third places in each of the three races.
From the seven-car NIFF field, McCutcheon took home all three wins with Davie in second.
The day wasn’t without its quirks either. A safety car neutralised the field in race one when a Northern Muscle Car mistook the green light at the exit of the pitlane for himself, not the Formula Ford race in progress.
McCutcheon had capitalised on starting from pole position and was holding off Penrose until the safety car was deployed.
When the race returned to green, the top two resumed their battle while Davie used the tow and stayed in touch with the leaders. That secured him a clear third while Penrose was unable to find a way past McCutcheon.
Leo Scott led home a heated battle for fourth, fending off Blake Evans and Zac Christensen over the final lap for a close finish.
Penrose got the best start in race two and led the opening tour. However, McCutcheon would soon fight back and reclaim the top spot.
Lap four then saw Penrose try a slick cross-over move on McCutcheon, which gave him a brief stint back in the lead before McCutcheon got ahead once again along the back straight.
From there, McCutcheon kept his nose in front and clung on for his second win of the day.
The day’s final race looked set for a similar result to the first two, yet Penrose used his cross-over move at the hairpin to solid effect.
Delaying his push for the lead until the final lap, Penrose would pounce on a small mistake from McCutcheon to put himself in the box seat. He would out-drag McCutcheon over the line by a mere 0.011s.
Bree Morris claimed a pair of class podiums in the NIFF field while Liam Sceets took the honours in race one.
Flynn Mullany was forced to retire from the weekend before it even started. A high-speed off at turn one during practice on Saturday evening later revealed to have damaged the car, and the team opted to withdraw.
Cameron Tanner also decided to pull himself from the meeting after qualifying, following a similar issue to Mullany in qualifying.
The next round of the NIFF is at Hampton Downs over March 20-21.
Meanwhile, the national championship heads south for its season finale at Ruapuna on May 1.
Images: Geoff Ridder
Main Image: NZ Formula Ford