An early 8 am start didn’t dampen the spirits of the V8 Utes Championship field, the class putting on a thrilling display of action at Manfeild, featuring some shocking qualifying results and an extremely tight opening race.
Last round’s winner, at Pukekohe, Jake Stoneman posted the fastest lap, but the big surprise was Daniel Ludlam securing second having stepped up to the ex-Shane Dias Holden. With eleven utes qualifying a mere four seconds apart, the scene was set for some intense battles during the afternoon’s racing
As the sun kept shining for Race One, some emerging talents shone through. The 8-lap race had upsets and excitement right from the start and showed how closely matched the Utes have become.
As the lights went out, pole-sitter Stoneman had a perfect start, shooting off the line to stay in front. Third qualifier Greg Kroef stamped his authority on the race early, slipping down the inside of Ludlam to secure second at the first corner.
Further back, Stu Monteith, in the Trade Depot Holden, wasn’t as quick off the mark, missing a gearshift. Fortunately, the trailing Paul Fougere was able to avoid him.
As a dogfight between Stoneman and Greg Kroef unfolded up front, sixth qualifier and championship leader Brad Kroef soon found a way around Simon Ussher. He then proceeded to get past Ludlam, and then Geoff Spencer – a veteran of the series who is back after an extended break.
Despite some aggressive moves from Greg Kroef, Stoneman held on to keep the Ward Demolition Holden in the familiar position of first. After working overtime with overtaking, Brad muscled his way up to finish third, keeping his championship hopes alive.
After the race, as sweat poured from his face, Greg Kroef reflected, “That was insane, that was intense”. Further back, Phill Ross in the C & R Construction Holden finished seventh, so slips to third in the championship – just one point behind Greg Kroef.
Daniel Ludlam claimed the fastest lap, a 1.20.013, in the Race Gear Rentals Holden.
As for close racing, the first seven utes finished just 6.67 seconds apart.
The battle lines are drawn for the reverse grid Race Two Sunday morning at 8.30 am. Set your alarm early.
Words & Images: Supplied
Additional Reporting: Matthew Sampson