Chris White of Prebbleton in Canterbury took the round win as the Nexen Tyre NZ Mazda Racing Series fought out Round 1 of their National Championship and Round 3 of their South Island Championship during the Super Sprint Motorsport NZ Championship at Euromarque Motorsport Park at Ruapuna in Christchurch over the weekend.
The series, with an impressive grid of thirty-one cars, provided some of the best action of the weekend, White prevailing after a dominant win in Saturday’s opening race, a fifth place in the reverse top ten race on Sunday morning and then another win in the finale on Sunday afternoon. Ex-pat South African Stiaan Kriel, now resident in Auckland, was second overall with two seconds and an eighth across the three races while series newcomer, Ben McConochie of Christchurch made a sensational debut by taking the final podium spot with seventh, second and fourth across the weekend.
White scored a convincing win on Saturday, racing to a 10 second win after passing Kriel, setting a new lap record of 1 minute 36.979 seconds on the way to victory. Kriel was second with Sam Dashfield of Auckland third.
After finishing tenth on Saturday, Warren Crowther of Auckland was on pole for Sunday morning’s reverse top ten grid race. He made a good start, opening a gap on the rest of the field. Behind him McConochie and Stuart Lawton of Wellington settled into a huge tussle for second. Towards the end of the race, it became a four car, battle for the lead as the duo closed on Crowther and James Parker of Auckland caught up as well. Crowther was under immense pressure but with just two laps to go a safety car was required allowing him to hold on for the win from McConochie and Parker who snatched third from Lawton just before the appearance of the safety car. White was fifth with Karl Gaines of Auckland sixth. Will Kitching, Kriel, Matt Dodd and Dashfield completed the top ten. Several drivers suffered off course excursions during an eventful race.
Crowther said he “didn’t have the pace and got lucky with the safety car” while McConochie said it was “the most fun he had ever had in a race car.”
The start of the finale was a ripper with White, Parker and McConchie three wide through the early part of the lap, White emerging in the lead with Kriel in fourth. Parker lost three spots after a small error at the beginning of lap 2 and McConochie had a massive moment a lap later, doing an incredible job to lose just one spot. White was building another good lead and lowered his lap record from the day before with a lap of 1 minute 36.704 seconds before Leo Bult and Steve Brown left the circuit at the hairpin bringing out a safety car and then a red flag. Kriel and Dashfield were second and third respectively ahead of McConchie, Gaines and Parker.
Reigning National Champion, Simon Baker of Wellington, had a tough weekend, having to start the opening race from the back of the grid after a technical infringement in qualifying before driving back to eleventh. He was thirteenth on Sunday morning after a brief off course excursion and did not finish the third and final race.
Ken Thompson of Dunedin took the Historic Class honours across the weekend in his Series 1 RX7.
The excitement now moves to Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell next weekend for Round 2 of the National Championship and the fourth and final round of the South Island Championship.