After his crew had worked tirelessly to solve mechanical hiccups all weekend, Phill Ross was rewarded with the Race 3 win of the NZV8 Utes round at Manfeild.
Following solid results in the weekend’s previous races, Ross earned enough points to win the round. It was not such a successful final outing for championship leader Brad Kroef, who slid into the kitty litter on the last lap.
Sunday’s racing began with the reverse-grid Race 2 on a warm and dry morning.
There was push and shove started right on the first corner when Paul Fougere and Bruce McRae closed in on Stu Monteith. Seeing the ute sandwich up ahead, Ross moved around them and, by Turn 2, was in the lead, having started fifth. Alex Fougere and Brad Kroef were not far behind.
Just a few turns later, Ludlam spun, and Simon Ussher was caught in the crossfire. Just one turn later, Paul Fougere spun Ludlam, and both slipped back through the field. The V8 Utes were turning on some nail-biting action for the Sky Sport cameras.
By the second lap, Alex Fougere had found around Ross to take the lead, with the early leader, Brad Kroef, McRae and Greg Kroef in hot pursuit.
Greg Kroef was having a hard time getting around McRae, who was proving a formidable roadblock. It was another two laps before he’d manage an overtake to claim fourth.
Alex Fougere held the lead he held until Lap 7, when a brake lock-up allowed Brad Kroef to storm through.
Race 2 finished with Brad Kroef as the winner, Phill Ross in second, Greg Kroef third and Alex Fougere fourth.
Afterwards, the pits looked more like a casualty ward with suspension arms on three utes and panel repairs on almost the entire field. With Race 3 just two hours later, the crews worked in overdrive to get some wounded warriors back into battle.
Rain was falling for Race 3, with all 10 V8 Utes repaired and on the grid. As they accelerated away on the rolling start, Alex Fougere and Ross ran side by side into Turn 1, with Brad Kroef and Ussher close behind. Two turns later, Ross was firmly in the lead, with Alex Fougere behind and followed by Brad Kroef, Ussher and Greg Kroef. Even as the Open V8s and TA2s began lapping the V8 utes, Ross remained in control and in the lead.
On the last lap, a rare slip-up from Brad Kroef sent him into the kitty litter and out of the points. After ten faultless laps, Ross stepped onto the top of the podium, with Alex Fougere just over three seconds behind in second and Ussher in a well-deserved third.
There were more outstanding results not far behind them. Having started 10th, Blair Gribble-Bowring finished fifth– his best result so far, the drift racer loving the rain. The weekend was also McRae’s best so far, finishing 8th.
The NZV8 Utes now head to Hampton Downs 15th – 17th March with Brad Kroef still leading the championship but some big improvers snapping at his heels just behind .