There was plenty of action at Hampton Downs today for the opening round of the Speedworks Events national championships as wild weather and big crashes made for an entertaining start to the new season.
Tense fights across Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First field
Liam Foster earned top honours in a traditional Formula First barnburner to kick off the second round of the 2020/21 national championship.
Foster had missed out on pole position by a mere 0.037s in the day’s earlier qualifying session but made amends for it with an intelligent race to edge home poleman Chris Symon by four-tenths at the end of the race.
Amy Smith was the biggest gainer through the field, charging from sixth to snare the final spot on the rostrum.
Rookie racer Louis Sharp fronted the next battle pack as the draft dictated final results.
Sharp placed his nose 0.021s ahead of Hayden Bakkerus to steal fourth at the line.
Symon then proved to be the master of the wet for the day’s second affair as the heavens opened on the Waikato circuit.
The Palmerston North racer was able to fend off Leo Scott from a safety car restart caused by a stricken Craig Greenwood at the final sweeper.
With the spray playing into the defensive hands of Symon, he was able to ease himself home to a convincing race win.
Scott did put up a late fight, setting the fastest lap of the race on his penultimate tour, but eventually settled for second best.
Foster was some five-seconds back in third, battling himself past Smith into Turn 2. The No.55 hanging on to finish fourth and secure another top-five result.
The final race of the weekend was staged on a damp track, meaning drivers had experienced a smorgasbord of weather conditions.
This time, Foster walked away with an impressive race win. Second, placed Scott was over six-seconds adrift of the race winner.
The series sophomore who finished fifth in his rookie campaign last year defeated Symon in a heated battle pack which included youngster Louis Sharp.
Ultimately, Foster finished half-a-second down on Scott with Sharp a further six-tenths back.
Hat-trick of winners in Mazda Racing Series
A trio of different race winners headlined the opening round of the Nexen Tyres Mazda Racing Series.
Simon Baker convincingly won the morning’s opening race over Leo Bult and James Parker.
Baker and Bult surged away from the field despite several incidents threatening to have the race neutralised under the safety car.
Four cars took to the grass at Turn One as the diced over track supremacy. Reigning national series champion Keith Wilkinson had a tumultuous day at the office and parked up on the exit of the up-and-over on Lap 4.
Parker then came under fire from Kevin Richards in the Apex Interiors entry. The latter searched in vain, finally looking to have the run into the sweeper on the last lap.
A drag-race to the line ensued, with Parker edging his nose in front to lay claim to the final podium result.
Biblical rains brought plenty of excitement to the day’s second race, with a two-car crash at Turn 10 having seven of the first ten laps run under caution.
Darren Leith speared off the circuit at the final corner, burying himself in the gravel trap. Moments later he was collected by Simon Teagle who suffered an uncannily similar incident to drive directly into the path of Leith.
When the accident was eventually cleared, Bruce Gay charged to a commanding race win, six-seconds ahead of Parker.
Just beind, race one podium getter Bult spun himself at Turn 10, relinquishing third to a fortunate Wilkinson.
The final race of the weekend was punctuated by multiple safety car interventions.
The first was to recover Bult, whose turbulent day came to rest alongside the inside barrier at Turn One. Wilkinson then ran into trouble at Turn 8, meaning the race came down to a last-lap dash.
Several drivers were within a realistic shot of claiming the win. Parker and Baker sat 1-2 as the field charged towards the sweeper for the final time.
A sluggish exit by Baker gifted a small amount of breathing room to Parker which was enough for him to capitalise on and clinch the race win.
Baker clung on to second, five-tenths ahead of Matt Horne who left his best showing to the last race of the day.
Leaders collide in GTRNZ
Kerry Jones took victory in the only dry race of the day, which was punctuated by numerous incidents including a wild shunt between John De Veth and Hans Ruiterman which challenging for the race lead.
After a mature start by both GT1 and GT2 girds, Maurice Shapley peeled off the road between Turns 9 and 10 which resulted in the race’s first safety car.
Sitting third at the restart, De Veth immediately swept by Ruiterman into Turn 1 before lunging the Commodore SuperTourer up the inside of Jones into the next bend.
Growling at the rear wing of the TraNZam of Jones, De Veth got tail-happy on the exit of the Golden Homes hairpin. He then speared himself towards the concrete barrier, collecting an innocent Ruiterman on his way to the wall.
Both drivers seemed unharmed, with De Veth slamming into the concrete barrier driver’s door first. The SuperTourer was badly bruised with Ruiterman also succumbing to damage and retiring for the rest of the event.
The race was neutralised behind the safety car for the second time, though ultimately it would guide the field across the finish stripe to cap off an anticlimactic end to the race.
The monstrous Crawford Ford Daytona Prototype of Adam Newell was untouchable in the wet second race, sauntering to a dominant first race victory of the season.
The handicap nature of the race was obliterated when Brayden Phillips spun the Corliss Race Engineering Mustang GT at Turn One, deploying the safety car.
A quick recovery and Newell easily scythed his way towards the font, sweeping past a powerless Brock Cooley with a few laps in hand to steer himself to an 11-second victory.
Hayden Gare was the victor of the day’s final handicap race, benefitting from Newell grounding to a halt on the main straight with three laps remaining.
Newell had been lapping over four seconds faster than the entire field and was steadily making sufficient progress with one hand firmly clasped on securing his second successive win.
Gifted a clear lead, Gare ease home in front of Nathan Strachan for a solid race win.
Phillips bounced back from his Race Two retirement to finish third ahead of Shane Whitley and the V8 Commodore of Eric Heppenhof.
Race One winner Jones was sixth in the Corvette TraNZam.
In the GT3 and GT4 fields, Logan Childs collected the opening two wins in safety car-effected races.
Child’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo was dominant across both the wet and dry conditions as poleman Jeff Sharp botched his start to fall to fifth for the opening race.
The day’s final race followed a similar pattern to the rest of the day, with the field crawling around on damp conditions as patches of late rain lingered in the air.
Sharing the spoils was Nick James in GT4 who hung on to the overall race victory courtesy of a handicap start, while Martyn Todd trumped the GT3 field.
Rain has Central Muscle Cars called early
Only two of the scheduled three ENZED Central Muscle Car races went ahead today with the majority of the field completing no more than qualifying as rain meant the risk of an accident was too much for drivers.
Despite the inclement weather, a depleted seven-car grid braved the torrential conditions for the day’s opening encounter.
The 1972 Holden HQ of Dean Hansen ambled around home claim an empathic lights-to-flag victory, 12 seconds up the road from Shane Holland.
Tony Galbraith had a near-miss spin on the reconnaissance lap but recovered himself to finish third.
Full-time series debutant Kayton Coughey made an impressive cameo to end up fourth in his small-block–powered ’71 HQ GTS.
Surprisingly, the race was one of just a small few over the day not to be interrupted by a safety car or red flag.
Nonetheless, several key runners such as Angus Fogg opted to sit out the meeting after qualifying.
At the same time, the usually fearless Hugh Gardiner succumbed to the weather conditions and retired himself from second position after just a few laps.
Another shower of rain had just seven cars take to the afternoon’s second race. And just like the earlier affair, it was Hansen who eased home to take back-to-back victories.
Clarke Hopkins was the only causality, burying himself in the sand trap at the outside of Turn 2.
Peter Ward power-slid his SLR5000 Torana to a first podium finish in third, split once again by Holland.
The meeting was run under a non-championship (shakedown) status, which means those that chose not to race were not impacted from a points perspective.
Main Image: Tayler Burke