SsangYong Racing Series point’s leader Jayden Dodge (Stadium Finance #91) dominated the penultimate round of the series to win Round 6 at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo. With three wins and a second place over the four races, Dodge just narrowly missed out on the elusive perfect weekend, to win the round from Christina Orr-West (Signs & Graphics #55), and Rowan Shepherd (Eastland SsangYong #2). The SsangYong Racing Series was one of the featured classes of the IRC Round (March 26/27).
It was the SsangYong Racing Series’ second visit to Taupo this season and another colourful and impressive lineup of twenty-eight drivers took to the grid over the Easter weekend. Unfortunately Chelsea Herbert would be a non-starter due to illness, as would be Adam Worsnop, as he apparently broke his arm during the week! Defending Series Champion Daniel Connor was also unavailable, as he was contesting the NZ Kart Championships in Hamilton over Easter.
Championship leader Jayden Dodge was the fastest qualifier again in his Stadium Finance sponsored #91 Actyon Ute for the fourth consecutive round, ahead of Christina Orr-West in her #55 Signs & Graphics Whakatane sponsored SsangYong, with Todd Prujean qualifying third in his Elf Oils #74. Again, highlighting how competitive the SsangYong Series is, the top 15 in qualifying at Taupo were covered by just 1.5 seconds!
Dodge won an eventful race one on Saturday in warm, sunny conditions from the pole, clearing out in the end from Prujean and Christina Orr-West. They were followed by Joel Herbert, Rowan Shepherd, and Matt Gibson to complete the top six.
The second race on Saturday lined up in similar conditions to the first race, with the top ten on the grid reversed from their finishing positions from Race 1. Australia’s Peter Bennett and the ageless Kirk Stoneman started from the front row, with Dodge and Prujean starting from row five. Bennett led early but was soon tracked down by Matt Gibson, Alexandra Whitley, and Christina Orr-West. While Gibson soon cleared away out front, a heated battle between Stoneman and Prujean saw both receive Drive Through penalties for a couple of clashes between the two. Gibson held on to score a hard earned, first ever SsangYong Racing Series victory, from a charging Dodge, and Alexandra Whitley.
Gibson’s win was notable for the fact he broke his accelerator pedal in half while running second in the final race at the previous round at Manfeild! Dodge and Whitley’s battle for second was one of many highlights in Race 2. Christina Orr-West crossed the line fourth ahead of Rowan Shepherd, and another strong race from young Trey Nairn.
Dodge then dominated the third race, again from pole, taking advantage of the various battles inside the top ten behind him. Orr-West and Shepherd continued their weekend long battle, with Shepherd eventually coming out on top for second, narrowly ahead of Orr-West. Joel Herbert scored a hard-earned fourth place finish, ahead of Matt Gibson and Todd Prujean.
Dodge again led from start to finish in the fourth and final race of the weekend at Taupo, to score his third win in four races. The win helped Dodge to extend his points lead over Shepherd heading to the final round at Pukekohe in a couple of weeks’ time, and while the Championship is still alive, Dodge just needs to finish and keep out of trouble to win the Series. Rowan Shepherd again finished second in the final race, ahead of Matt Gibson, Orr-West, Herbert, and Todd Prujean.
So after four more exciting and action packed SsangYong Racing Series races at Taupo Dodge won his second round of the 15/16 Series, consolidating his lead in the points. Christina Orr-West was second for the round narrowly ahead of Rowan Shepherd and Matt Gibson. After six rounds of the Championship, Dodge (4062 points), still leads from Shepherd (3366 points), with Herbert (3009 points) now back into third overall.
Next up for the SsangYong Racing Series is the final round of the Championship, at Pukekohe Park Raceway, South of Auckland (April 16/17 2016), where another full field of SsangYong Actyon Utes are expected to do battle, and where we will crown the second ever SsangYong Racing Series Champion.