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Gilchrist squeaks through for championship title at Hampton Downs

It was a bruising and nail-biting conclusion to the Super Sprint MotorSport New Zealand Championship season – with Matakana’s Brock Gilchrist squeaking through to championship victory.

A total of seven categories contested the final event for the Super Sprint series – with six crowning season winners at the northern Waikato location of Hampton Downs 5-7 May.

Wrapping up the six-round Toyota 86 Championship it came down to the final race to secure 19-year-old Gilchrist’s title. Having taken the lead at the season’s opening round, the accumulation of points took a big hit on the final day – Gilchrist needing the buffer to survive what could have been an upset victory.

In the morning and season’s penultimate race it was teen Rylan Gray who took the chequered flag. The 16-year-old from Denman, New South Wales secured the rookie title with the result. In addition, he receives an all-expenses paid trip to race a GR Supra GT4 Evo in the third round of the ADAC GT4 Germany championship at the iconic Nürburgring. Gilchrist finished fourth with title rival Clay Osborne in fifth.

It then came down to the third and final race for the weekend to decide the champion. As the rain returned so too the rubbing as every position was fought. It started on the opening lap when Gilchrist was shunted from third position. Relegated to last, it became a necessity he finish if he were to take the title. Circulating at the back of the pack he did exactly what was required of a champion. Morrinsville’s Osborne took the race win following a hard battle with Auckland’s Hunter Robb, Feilding’s Justin Allen finding redemption in third. Gilchrist crossed the line in 17th position.

Greg Murphy presented an award from the Tony Quinn Foundation (TQF) – a trip to Brisbane in August to test with the Red Bull Ampol Racing team at Queensland Raceway. Its recipient was a surprised Gilchrist.

“What an amazing championship this has been,” said Murphy – four-time Bathurst 1000 winner.

“The Toyota 86 Championship is a phenomenal way to learn craft, to take that steppingstone into being a future champion in other series as well.  I absolutely loved seeing the drivers progress this year, the close quarters racing – so much respect given between competitors. The drivers should be incredibly proud of what they’ve done this year – it has been a joy to watch.”

“I can’t tell if I’m dreaming or not,” said Gilchrist at the award. “I was so stressed that entire race after that lap one incident, but I managed to keep my cool and finish the race – and this on top of it. I’m mind blown.”

Gilchrist was then confirmed the season champion.

“Feels amazing,” he continued.

I can’t thank everyone who’s supported me enough this year – mum especially. Todd (Bickerton), Ian (McNabb) and Michael (Morton) for spinning the spanners and his Mad Butcher sausages, Troy (Weeks) for helping out – just everyone who’s helped out. To be standing here in this position – it’s just amazing.”

Gilchrist also receives an all-expenses paid trip to race a GR Supra GT4 Evo at the ADAC GT4 Germany championship round of Nürburgring.

The RYCO 24.7 V8 Ute category also crowned a new champion for the 2023 season. Also down to the final race of the season, finishing was still the critical step to securing the title placing.

While Auckland’s Jake Stoneman took a commanding morning race win, it was championship leader Brad Kroef’s finish in fourth place that heated the title stakes.

Starting from pole in the afternoon and season finale, Stoneman took a lights to flag victory – checking his mirrors to see what became of the chasing Kroef’s and the championship.

Needing to finish inside the top-ten, Brad Kroef started from eighth position in a time reduced 10-lap race. Wrestling the weighty vehicles, it was a clean race that saw him sneak through to third, behind dad Greg. The result cemented Kroef junior as the champion while the senior finished second in the race and championship.

“It’s been one of those weekends you don’t want when going after a championship when it was issue after issue,” said Kroef.

“To come away with first in the championship – bloody awesome. Battling dad all the way – having fun doing it. I can’t thank the team enough – it’s incredible.

“Mum is here, my partner is here, brother, sister – everyone is here – that’s what makes it what it is.”

The season deciding titles were awarded in the Hamilton Asphalts Super V8 category after today’s concluding two races.

In the morning race Auckland’s Tim Edgell took an emphatic win in the Holden Commodore while Tony Anderson finished second and Brady Wild in third. That set the scene for an exciting finish. The continuation of dry conditions for the season concluding race was mixed up with it being a reverse grid start.

Debuting sisters Brianna and Amie Roberts got to be in the first group away in their Camaro TA2 cars.

On lap six of 15 Huntly’s Peter Ward speared into the embankment bringing a temporary stop to the race. Emerging unscathed, unlike his car, Ward was later cleared following medical checks. The shortened race was won by Waiuku’s Kerry Jones with Tauranga’s Grant Brennan second and Kaitaia’s Brady Wild third.

Auckland’s Andrew Turner finished sixth to take the TA2 title in the Mustang. Wild secured the V8 Open title.

“What a great category – awesome fun and great cars to drive,” said Sinclair at taking the inaugural title.

“Can’t wait to see more of them on the track next year.”

Today’s two races in the Central Muscle Car category included a minute’s silence in remembrance of avid competitor Mark Holland – who sadly passed away earlier in the week after a short illness.

The morning race was won by Angus Fogg – who made overnight repairs to the 1970 Mustang. Second, trailing by 4.461sec was Shane Holland with Nick Ross third in the Dodge Challenger. Title leader Tristan Teki finished 12th with contender Andy Knight 14th.

In the 10-lap afternoon finale it was Holland, son of the late Mark who took the win, 1.096sec ahead of Knight. Teki finished 14th – doing just what was needed to secure the title.

“We fought really hard on Saturday and some awesome close racing. That was enough to put us ahead to where I just had to finish today. I tell you what it’s the slowest and probably the most nervous I’ve been round here today – it’s hard to win and any DNF or crash was going to put me out,” said Teki.

“1NZ – just awesome.”

The TradeZone GTRNZ category of two fields had a further two races today – in what was equally another day of winner takes all. Following the heartbreak of a DNF yesterday, GT3 points leader Sean Browne (Feilding) had the most dramatic moment of the weekend when his Honda spun on the entry to the first turn of the first lap of the final race. Avoided by the rest of the field he recovered to finish in seventh. Jamie Potts won the final race with Bayley Walker and Jeff Sharp rounding out the podium.

The second group of GT1/GT2 cars was still a case of finishing to crown a winner. The morning race was won by Hamilton’s Shane Haitana with Ant Te Rito second and Nick Jones third. Kerry Jones finished eighth to secure the overall title.

In the afternoon’s season finale it was Nick Jones who took the win while his dad Kerry looked on – in preparation for using his car in the final Super V8 race. Second was Bombay’s Shane Whitley with Hasting’s Josh Smith in third.

Wellington’s Simon Baker won the Nexen Tyres Mazda Racing title following a third and fourth in the day’s racing. The morning race was won by Auckland’s Warren Crowther while Tauranga’s Rex Edwards won the final race.

NZ Sports Cars was a continuation of championship drivers Tim Edgell winning the morning race from Andrew Waite. Anthony Barker finished third. In the weekend final it was another win by Edgell with Dean McCarroll second and Waite in third.

The season champions will be officially recognised at the MotorSport New Zealand prizegiving and awards ceremony being held Saturday 20 May.

A new season of championship racing begins 24-25 November at Taupo’s Motorsport Park.

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