Brad Kroef continued the form that saw him win last year’s championship, qualifying fastest then going on to with Race One Saturday afternoon at Manfeild.
On a much cooler track in the early morning, Brad set the early pace in Qualifying, progressively lowering his times and locking in pole finishing with a 1 minute19s. Behind him, a number of surprises emerged.
Daniel Ludlam ran a scintillating last lap in the session to leapfrog up to the front row alongside Brad. Maybe some tips in setting up his ute from Vince Gee also helped his pace. Alex Fougere rediscovered the speed he had at the Taupo round slotting into 3rd. Greg Kroef, try as he might, couldn’t upstage his son and settled for 4th. As a side note, qualifying times for the first four V8 utes were quicker than the Toyota 86 pole setter. And after his crew thrashed till late in the night Friday to replace a dead alternator, Phill Ross came alive to run faultlessly for all 7 laps to a well deserved 5th fastest.
Race One kicked off early afternoon with 25 Super V8s on track at once, as the V8 Utes once again joined the V8 Open and TA2s. Being the biggest field of the season, some unique dynamics were to emerge later in the race
Brad Kreof led the V8 Utes away on Race One with a tenacious Daniel Ludlam clinging onto his rear bumper, proving the morning’s 2nd fastest in qualifying was no fluke. Alex Fougere was on the pace right from the start and spent the first two lap challenging Daniel Ludlam for 2nd. But Daniel held his line – and his nerve – to not only retain 2nd place but extend the gap.
As the laps unfolded, Brad Kroef stretched his lead. “It was hard running out in front, I spent more time looking in my mirrors and at the lap timer than looking ahead to know how I was running.”
Lapping traffic – firstly the Open V8 front runners – had caught the V8 utes by the 5th lap forcing the drivers to move aside and off the optimum line around the corners. Yet like a finely tuned knitting machine, the Open V8s and TA2s wove their way through the field. The race finished with Brad Kroef leading Daniel Ludlam and Alex Fougere. Right on the last lap, Greg Kroef caught Phill Ross and took back the 4th place he’d relinquished at the start.
As the day finishes and rain is falling, we’ll be watching the night sky as intently as Sky Sport hoping for a dry Sunday. Race Two is scheduled for 11.16 am - and being a reverse grid race, anything can happen. Then Race Three and Round 2 decider kicks off early afternoon at 1.38pm.