Thursday, Nov 8 12:01pm
AUTHOR: supplied/

National Formula 1600 Championship starts this weekend

A 24-car grid will line up in Timaru this weekend for the opening round of the New Zealand Formula 1600 Championship.


Also doubling as the second round of the South Island Formula 1600 Championship, the one-day event will see more young drivers join the field, which makes it one of the best line-ups for several seasons.


It was Auckland’s Josh Bethune who won the opening South Island round in Christchurch a fortnight ago, an important three race meeting that many use to prepare for the New Zealand title fight.


It proved to be an arm-wrestle between three returning drivers, Bethune from Auckland, Southland’s Jordan Michels, Christchurch’s Bailey Paterson and rookie James Penrose from Rangiora. With Bethune, Michels and Paterson each claiming a race win, it was Bethune’s two second placings that sealed the round win in his favour.


Bethune comes into the season with the aim of retaining his 2017-’18 South Island title and winning the national championship. Paterson expects a close fight.


“Everyone will be fast, Timaru should be a good round,” he said.


Also showing potential at the Christhcurch round were Jack Noble-Adams from Canterbury and Zac Stichbury from Hastings. Noble-Adams returns for another season while Stichbury steps up from kartsport.


Now joining the grid are Rotorua driver Blake Evans in the ex-Michael Scott Mygale SJ11, Auckland’s Tom Alexander in the brand-new Career Racing Spectrum 015 and Callum Crawley from Fielding driving the ex-Russell Ingall Van Dieman RF92.


Alexander has extensive Formula 1600 experience having competed over five years ago, since then gaining experience in the BNT V8s, the Toyota 86 Championship and more recently in the ECB SuperUtes Series in Australia.


Both Evans and Crawley come with successful experience in the New Zealand Formula First category. While Crawley won the 2017-‘18 NZ Formula First Championship, Evans recently won the Winter Series.


Such is the closeness of the competition that both the national and South Island series are categories where drivers cannot afford to falter. Finishing is a priority, not finishing means a loss of a points scoring opportunity that will see rivals moving ahead in the title fight.

The Formula 1600 category runs three classes, mainly determined by date of manufacture. With a change in regulations concerning inboard suspension mountings being removed, Van Diemen Stealths’ have moved from Class 1 into Class 2 unless they are racing with three-way dampers.


Bethune leads the South Island Championship in Class 1 from Michels, Stichbury, and Grant Campbell while in Class 2 Paterson leads from Robert Toshach,, Jack Noble-Adams and Cameron Freeman. Seven cars are currently competing in Class 3 with Andy Downs leading from Gary Love, Roger McKenzie and Dave McKenzie.


Photo: Euan Cameron