There was more to the New Zealand Grand Prix weekend at Hampton Downs than the Toyota Racing Series, with several support classes putting on some quality showings.
From the next generation of Grand Prix winners in Formula First to the high horsepowered GTRNZ monsters, here is a rundown on the key highlights from each class.
Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First
Liam Foster continued his winning ways and took over from Chris Symon as the new championship leader after edging Leo Scott in a last-lap battle for victory in Race One.
After a commanding start to the season, Symon had an up-and-down opening day to the weekend.
He made light contact with the pit exit wall in qualifying, bending his front beam. A mighty repair effort before the race saw the Palmerston North racer make it out in time for the start, only for his engine cover to come loose on lap one.
The flimsy bodywork hindered Symon’s straight-line speed and he slumped back to tenth at the end of the six-lapper.
Foster added to his Race One win with a thrilling 0.065s victory on Sunday morning. This time it was Brody McConkey who came out second best, with Scott a further three-tenths behind in third.
Best of the rookies was Zac Blincoe in fourth, with Symon making up steady ground to come home fifth.
Foster’s luck ran dry in the weekend’s finale, spinning out of the race lead on lap four.
That gifted Scott the prime position and the 16-year-old duly hung on for his debut race win.
Big margins and small margins were the tale of GTRNZ, with John De Veth opening the day with an emphatic one-minute race win before Nigel Karl got the better of Kerry Jones in Sunday’s finale by a mere 0.001s.
De Veth was left unchallenged at the head of the queue in Race One when the sister Daytona Crawford of Glenn Smith experienced teething issues and had to make an unscheduled pitstop.
The opening lap would be marred by an incident involving Nick Jones and Brayden Phillips. The latter an unfortunate victim when Jones went straight on at Turn 2.
Jones’ weekend was over while Phillips was able to have the Corliss Race Engineering Mustang repaired in time for race two, which would be a handicap start.
Phillips would then be denied a maiden victory in a shortened rain-affected race by Struan Robertson in a Porsche GT3.
The changeable conditions didn’t play well into the hands of the seasoned front runners, with De Veth spinning from the effective GT1 lead and yielding the place to Smith.
The final race of the weekend produced an exciting last-lap hunt between the Ford V8 of Nigel Karl and Kerry Jones in his Tranzam weapon. Closing in on Karl on the run to the chequered flag, a mere one-thousandth of a second separated the two at the line.
Winners in the trio of GT3/4 races were Shane Whitley, Sean Browne and Luke Hilhorst.
Matt Spratt has slashed Paul Manuell’s points lead in the 2021 RYCO 24/7 V8 Utes to just 36 after winning two of the three races over the weekend.
The two title protagonists were in a class of their own in the opening six lap race, trading fastest laps and breaking away from third place Peter Ward.
After an argy-bargy battle, which resulted in some body panel damage for both, Spratt led Manuell over the line by eight-tenths, ending the Pukekohe man’s unbeaten streak this season.
Manuell’s expert ability to scythe through the field paid dividends in Sunday’s reverse grid race. The championship leader started from the last row on the grid, but by the end of lap one was ensconced nicely in the top-five.
Three tours later and Manuell hit the front he powered clear of the field, while Spratt was left to duke over second with rookie Shane Dias and Peter Ward.
He would eventually break Ward’s stranglehold of second before posting a blistering 1.53.144s lap time to reel in Manuell. Though he would run shy of laps as Manuell claimed his fourth win of the year.
The curtain-raiser to the Grand Prix, Race Three saw an overly keen Manuell jump the start and was dealt a five-second penalty for his troubles.
Dias then suffered a power steering early in the race, leaving him susceptible to attack. Still, he managed to haul himself around, protected by his own smokescreen, to finish fourth.
Manuell’s costly penalty meant he would lose the win despite being the first across the line, dropping him back to second and behind Spratt. Ward would cling on to finish third.
Mazda Racing Series
Keith Wilkinson was the master of Hampton Downs across all conditions over the weekend. The reigning New Zealand RX8 Cup champion surged to all three wins, completing a perfect clean sweep.
Not all wins were easy, as Leo Bult pressed hard in races one and three, each time finishing second to the dominant Wilkinson. However, a troubled wet race on Sunday morning meant Bult was unable to achieve a podium hat-trick and instead settled for fifth.
Having rebuilt his wrecked car in just 14 days, Roger Beuvink thanked the support of everyone who helped me be on the grid for the weekend. He finished in the top-five in all three races and claimed a welcome second in race two.
Simon Baker bounced back after a difficult first race, in which he could only muster eighth, to score top-three finishes in each of the two remaining races.
Once more the Mazda Racing Series put up one of the largest grids of the weekend, maxing out with 26 cars in race three.
The Motul Honda Cup
Nine drivers shared the podium in the three Honda Cup races over the weekend, with the class delivering some top-notch racing throughout its 19-strong grid.
Chris Hughes pipped Andrew Johnston for the top honours in race one. The pair were split by a measly three-tenths after six laps of the Hampton Downs International Circuit.
The second race was one of numerous over Sunday that was run just after a rain shower, meaning the field were split on tyre choice. Taking the gamble on running the wet rubber was Oli Gordon, who ambled to a commanding first overall win 12s up the road on second place Michael Hoeft.
Fortunately, the track had dried for the meeting’s final event and this time it was Martin Dunn who was able to profit from the handicap start to claim the win.
The slightly more tamed N1 class saw Jason Weel secure two wins, while Jarrod Cruse was another beneficiary of the wet second race to seal a debut class win.