Liam Sceats showed his 2023 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship experience benefited him hugely at Hampton Downs in the Historic Racing Club’s Legends of Speed meeting over the weekend of 18 to 19 March which was the penultimate round of the series.
With three pole positions, three race wins and the class lap record, Sceats got maximum points and has launched himself into a challenging position for the Graeme Lawrence Cup in the Black Fox Electrical class. It also gives him mathematical outside chance of taking the Promains Formula Open Series title outright and the Howden Ganley up to boot.
Other motorsport commitments kept Tom Alexander away from this round and series while hot shot James Watson had over committed himself by spending every night of the previous week preparing a McLaren M18 Formula 5000 to race at Hampton. This took a toll on the driver while racing his Swift DB 4 Formula Atlantic as he became severely fatigued, causing him to lose nearly two seconds a lap off his normal pace. This of course robbed us of seeing Watson and Sceats going head-to-head.
The latest addition to the series was young Hayden Bakkerus in a Tatuus FT40 entering the Fitness Portal-supported Jim Palmer Cup class. Having only driven the car for a few laps for the first time in the Friday test session, this young gun will be a force to be reckoned with in this class as he was setting times identical to class leader Zac Christensen in a car he had never driven before.
Unfortunately a broken gear lever in race one and a broken axle in race three denied Bakkerus the success he was looking for. However, the highlight of his racing was the intense battle he had in race one with Kenny Smith who claimed he thoroughly enjoyed the battle with Bakkerus.
Of the others, Sam Mac Neill started the first race third on the grid behind Sceats and Kaden Probst, ultimately finishing race one in the same position. Zac Christiansen finished behind with a well-deserved and hard fought fourth place. These four were followed home by Smith, Watson, Gary Rush, Leo Francis, Geoff Harriman and Fraser Windleburn, while Fergus Crabb and Bakkerus did not finish.
Race two once again saw Sceats lead, chased hard by Probst who hung on to finish just 2.3 seconds behind with a further 5.6 back to Watson with Mac Neill challenging him for the position on the line. By this stage we had lost Rush with another engine failure in the Swift DB4. Christensen was the first of the Jim Palmer cup cars holding out Smith as Crabb in front of Bakkerus with Francis, Harriman, and Windleburn respectively.
Race three, the feature race, was ten laps and once again young Sceats made it his own by setting the new class lap record of 60.9 seconds in the process. This time however, Mac Neill got the best of Probst to finish second with Watson in fourth. Christensen finished in fifth and thereby almost secured the Jim Palmer Black Fox Electrical cup. The only way he can lose it is if he does not show up at the final round. Crabb rounded out the top six.
Next is the final round at Taupo on 15 April for the Promains Formula Open NZ which will hopefully see the return of Alexander with the Black Bull Markets Tatuus FT50. Sceats will need to bring his absolute A-game to this one as the twisting nature of the Taupo track suits the ground effect Formula Atlantics and puts the ex-TRS cars at a disadvantage. Watson in the black Swift DB4 goes in as a hot favourite.
On FONZ’s last visit to the track in January for the Historic GP meeting, Watson wiped the floor with the entire field being just over two seconds a lap faster than Kaleb Ngatoa, also Swift DB4 mounted, albeit running with fuel starvation problems. But even with these problems, he was two seconds a lap faster than the first of the ex-TRS Tatuus FT50s.
Up for grabs is the Black Fox Electrical Graeme Lawrence cup with Mac Neill, Watson or Sceats in with a chance of winning it. The Fitness Portal Jim Palmer cup is virtually in the possession of Christensen with only a no show being able to stop him from winning it.
The big one to win is the Howden Ganley cup for the Promains Formula Open New Zealand title. Christensen has a slender lead over Watson with Sceats having a mathematical chance to win it. Everyone has to drop their lowest scoring round so it’s all to play for at Taupo. FONZ has had three different winners over the last three seasons which leaves us asking, who will it be this time?
It will certainly be a meeting worth attending if you want to see really exciting Wings and Slicks single seater racing and with young Bakkerus likely to be joined by Toyota Gazoo driver Harry Mac Donald the fight for the Jim Palmer Cup class will be epic with Christiansen trying to keep his winning record intact. If Sceats can get the Tatuus FT50 close to Watson in the Swift DB4, it could be an epic battle and will have the fans on their feet.
Qualifying and racing will be held on Saturday, 15 April 2023.
Main Image: Liam Sceats Facebook | Words: Supplied