Chris White opened his tilt at the Nexen Tyre NZ Mazda Racing Series National Championship with a win in an action-packed race at Ruapuna in Christchurch on Saturday.
White had qualified on the pole with a blistering time of 1:36.529 seconds, the only driver to get into the 1.36 bracket.
Ex-pat South African Stiaan Kriel, on his first-ever visit to the circuit, burst through from the second row of the grid to lead early, with White in hot pursuit. Christchurch’s Matt Dodd was third initially after starting on the front row, with Auckland’s Sam Dashfield, in his first start of the season, in fourth.
Kriel and White had a frantic battle over the opening laps, but on lap four, White made a good pass to take the lead and quickly pulled away, extending his advantage over the remainder of the ten-lap contest to 10.144 seconds over Kriel at the chequered flag.
Dashfield got past Dodd to take third when the Cantabrian missed a gear, leaving Dodd fourth. Aucklanders James Parker and Karl Gaines were fifth and sixth, respectively, ahead of series newcomer Ben McConochie of Christchurch.
Will Kitching put in a great recovery drive after problems in qualifying had left him twenty-sixth on the grid to come home eighth ahead of Stuart Lawton and Warren Crowther.
White was “pretty happy” with the win, while Kriel said he was “still figuring out the circuit.”
Reigning National Champion Simon Baker had set the second-fastest time in qualifying only to be relegated to the rear of the grid for a technical infringement in the session.
He stormed from the back of the field to eleventh at the flag. Dalan Price was another who struck trouble in qualifying and had to start from well back, eventually finishing 18th.
Matt Horne pulled into the pits after the warm-up lap, while rookies Arthur Broughan and Mac Templeton qualified exceptionally strongly in fifth and sixth, respectively, in just their second outings in the series, only to strike trouble early in the race.
Long-time supporter of the series, Ken Thompson, took Historic Class honours in today’s race in his Series 1 RX7.
Thirty-one cars started the race and provided an exciting contest with plenty of drama throughout the race.
The event was also Round 3 of the South Island Championship, and White consolidated his lead in that championship with Saturday’s win.
Competitors will line up for a 12-lap race at 9.36 am on Sunday, with a reverse top ten grid from the previous day’s finishing order. The third and final race, a 10-lapper with a grid based on points scored to that point of the weekend, is timed to start at 1.43 pm.
The round is part of the Super Sprint Motorsport NZ Championship and will feature live on Sky Sport.