James Penrose and Matthew McCutcheon have shared the wins in the opening round of the ITM New Zealand Formula Ford Championship at Hampton Downs. The latter taking a clean sweep in the Giltrap Group North Island Formula Ford Championship.
Round three of the Giltrap Group NIFF Series saw the best of the North duke it out with some of the best Formula Ford racers from the South Island.
A blistering time of 1:08.958 earnt McCutcheon pole position in the morning’s qualifying, with Penrose and Zac Christensen just behind in third.
In the NIFF field, Billy Frazer was second in class in his Spectrum with Kyan Davie, driving Frazer’s championship-winning car from the 2019 season, in third. Both would start the race fourth and fifth.
The troubles started early for Formula Ford rookie Bree Morris in race one, a loose engine cover forcing her to come in on the formation lap and start from pit lane. She would recover to finish a commendable seventh.
Up front, McCutcheon was plagued by a terrible get-away off the line, being swamped by Penrose, Frazer and Christensen into turn one. He would spend the next few laps working his way back to second yet did not have the time to put a move on Penrose. The gap over the line between the two was a measly 0.064, a trend that would follow through the day.
Frazer would take third across the line, second in NIFF, after dealing with a lack of straight-line speed and some spirited defense against the attacking duo of Christensen and Davie.
Blake Evans would cross the line an impressive fourth for NIFF on his return to the class, while Liam Sceats and Flynn Mullany would be the next NIFF competitors home, split by Jacob Douglas in the national field.
The remaining two races were a similar affair for the leaders. Penrose got the jump on McCutcheon off the start in both races, and despite looking faster, McCutcheon had to wait until the dying stages to find a way around the flawless Cantabrian.
Some cunning moves on the run to the finish stripe allowed McCutcheon to sneak ahead of his rival, a mere 0.022s and 0.032s the determining margins to win races two and three.
Penrose would later be given a five-second penalty in race two but still had a sufficient margin over Christensen to hold onto second.
Frazer fronted a hard-fought NIFFF duel, leading home Davie and Morris in the battle for fourth in race two. The result secured the USF2000-bound Kiwi second in the NIFF class.
The trio would go one better in the day’s finale, with Christensen failing to take the start. Frazer again headed Davie by less than a second to take an outright third place. Morris was a further nine-tenths back, fifth on the road and fourth of the NIFF runners.
Blake Evans was dealt a nasty misfire in the final race, hampering his pace. Still, he managed to finish just behind Morris after an entertaining duel with Leo Scott.
Flynn Mullany failed to finish the final race with a broken fuel pump, while Asten Addy suffered ignition problems all day that left him down the timesheets and straight-line speed.
Martin Lucas was the star of the Historic field in his 1969 Lotus, the oldest Formula Ford in New Zealand, pouncing when those ahead of him made a mistake.
McCutcheon’s fine form over the day now means he takes an early lead in the New Zealand championship standings while increasing his NIFF points lead to 118 over Davie.
Pukekohe holds host to the next round of both the ITM Formula Ford Championship and the Giltrap Group NIFF series on March 14th.
Images: Geoff Ridder
Cameron Tanner contributed to this report