Rex Edwards of Tauranga won the opening race of the final round of the Nexen Tyre NZ Mazda Racing Series National Championship at Hampton Downs International Motorsport Park in North Waikato today but it was Wellington driver Simon Baker who made a major step towards taking out the national title.
Edwards, the leader of the North Island Championship, began the day by taking the $500 Premier Insulation Pole Award with a best lap in qualifying of 1.14.601. It was close at the top of the timesheets though with Sam Dashfield of Auckland just .137 of a second behind. Defending National and North Island Champion, Ben Stewart of Wellington, was third fastest in his first outing of the season with Warren Crowther and Leo Bult of Auckland fourth and fifth respectively.
National Championship leader Simon Baker of Wellington was sixth fastest, just .749 of a second off the pole time, while his main rival for the national title, Chris White Junior of Prebbleton could only record the eighteenth fastest time as he struggled with power issues in his car.
The first race of the round followed this afternoon and Edwards led all the way with Dashfield in second. Baker, meanwhile, was quickly into third place, a position he held to the end of the 8-lap race. He was followed home by Stewart, Crowther and Bult. Andrew Jackson, the 2017/18 National and North Island Champion was seventh while James Parker, Matt Horne of Masterton and Nigel Edger rounded out the top ten.
Meanwhile White Junior worked his way from his eighteenth starting position to cross the line thirteenth, leaving him with plenty to do on the final day of the National Championship tomorrow.
The MX5 Racing NZ Series competitors were part of the field and Dean Evans, who came to Hampton Downs with just a one-point lead over Marrku Braid, won the class from Dom Fransen and Shane Hayter with Braid fourth, giving Evans a slight buffer over his rival prior to tomorrow’s races.
The racing was extremely good today with a big field and great racing with few incidents. Simon Teagle locked his brakes after the chequered flag and went into the fence in an unfortunate incident but fellow competitors have pitched in and he should be back on the grid tomorrow.
Tomorrow the national title will be decided with the final two races of the championship. The first, a reverse top ten grid race over 10 laps, commences at 9.39am with Aucklander Nigel Edger on pole and Masterton driver Matt Horne alongside. The final race of the round is at 1.59pm over 8 laps. The North Island Championship has one further round later this month.