Berggren snatches BMW win from storming Nugent

| Photographer Credit: Geoff Ridder

Interrupting a clean-sweep of race wins Waikato’s Robert Berggren returned to the winner’s circle at Hampton Downs on Sunday – during the weekend’s fourth round of the 2015/2016 Castrol BMW Race Driver Series.

Berggren was one of several winners from the 68 teams competing across the three competition categories, that count toward the series title.

Following an opening race win by Auckland’s Andrew Nugent, as he continues to evolve his BMW E92 M3 V8, Berggren levelled the score early on the Sunday as he led the field to the chequered flag in the weekend’s second race.

Finishing second, Nugent added the result to his weekend of highlights.

“Trying to catch up to Rob as we worked our way through the field was a lot of fun,” said Nugent. “One of the top moments from the weekend really.”

Emphasising the level of competition; winner of the 1985 NZ National Touring Car Championship, Auckland’s Kent Baigent returned to the series, this time in a BMW E92 M3.

Having first driven the car the Tuesday before, Baigent said the new car was a step up from the 135 he has been campaigning recently.

“The highlight from the weekend? The fact we finished – and in one piece,” said Baigent of the car’s debut result.

“Plus you’re in a series where you’ve got good drivers around you with their own cars they respect, and don’t want to be biffing and bashing. Of course we sometimes get a little carried away and make mistakes – but you have to make allowances for that and others. As an example I had to make an allowance for Andre (Mortimer) on the first lap in one race and Warwick (Mortimer) had to make an allowance for me on the third lap – so all in all it works well.”

Matakana’s Andre Mortimer also debuted a new car to the series. Although the E46 GTR only took part in testing it will become a full-time fixture at future rounds.

In the B class for lower specification Open Class cars Bay of Plenty’s Bob Sievwright fronted the field – mixing it with the higher performing ‘A’ category field. Top times were also set by Aucklanders Ian Davidson and Michael Starnes.

The 31 strong E30 category the grid was split into two groups. Side-by-side door-handle-to-door-handle was again the common feature – especially between regular front-runners Aaron Hodgson, Richard Oxton and Matt Griffin.

However Griffin retired mid-race on the Sunday morning – leaving Hodgson and Oxton to fight for weekend honours.

Then it was Oxton who had a weekend that didn’t go to plan.

“We had to get a good result after missing out on points at the Taupo round,” explained Oxton. “There we overheated the engine in qualifying when the pump belt came off. So we had two weeks to get the car race ready and up to spec for this weekend. Dad (David) has worked hard to get the car to turn a wheel and get it ready for racing.

Using a spare engine implanted for the weekend it lacked the performance he was used to: “It was good enough to fight with even though it was down on power – so we had to push a whole lot harder. It was still fun as the door-to-door racing action was fair and square.”

Although that was cut short in the weekend’s final race when Oxton was fighting for the lead – heading into the downhill sweeping turn at the end of the front straight.

“It got whacked in the back quarter of the car – putting me off the track. Although I got back on in ninth position I managed to work my way up to second two laps before the end.

“In spite of that the best part of the weekend was seeing Mark Crompton up front of the action. He’s got that car going really well and getting pole position for the final race was a great way to start the final race. We got to run side-by-side through multiple turns – always knowing we wouldn’t hit each other.”

In the 19-strong 2L category Auckland’s Ashley Blewett returned to the winner’s circle. Securing two wins from three races – he had an exit plan after an overheating glitch earlier in the weekend.

During Sunday morning’s reverse-grid handicap start race Blewett had to ease right back from the front-running pace as he saw the temperature gauge in his car climb beyond its optimum. Nursing the car to the finish the team couldn’t pinpoint the problem and instead Blewett started the final race unsure of the car’s performance.

“I had to back off the pace for a few laps and let the car cool down before getting back into the action – that’s why I finished 13th,” he explained of his mid-weekend result.

The win was taken by Peter Ball with Gordon Legge and Andrew Walker filling the podium positions.

“I’m really not sure why and while I suspected it was a mechanical issue due to the way the car lost power as the temperature went up, we didn’t have any issues with the last race of the day. Also; we didn’t have any issues the previous day when the ambient temperature was just as hot.

“We started on pole for the final and it was damp in parts on the track after rain earlier. I just looked after the car and if there was any indication there was a problem with the car the decision had been made I would shut the car down and park up – it wasn’t a finish at all costs.

When Graham Ball’s car retired from the weekend after the second race it was father Peter Ball who led Andrew Sharp to the final podium.

Many in the category will join those from the Open Class and resume competition this coming weekend at Taupo for a non-championship round (6-7 February). A full return to competition resumes 20-21 February at Pukekohe.

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