Hills shines at latest KartSport NZ Sim Series round

Ambitious young Auckland driver Zane Hills proved the age-old adage ‘practise makes perfect’ true at the opening round of KartSport New Zealand’s new Dillon Photography-sponsored SIMSpeedTV-run GT3 class simulator racing series on Tuesday evening.

As well as an accomplished kart racer (Hills won the 125cc Rotax Max Light title at the KartSport New Zealand Superkarts championship meeting last year) – the talented teenager from Manurewa, is an internationally-ranked Sim specialist who – handily – works at and is sponsored by East Auckland-based Simulator centre Rush Sim Racing.

“Rush helped me out a lot getting in to iRacing and I’ve been really enjoying competing in the iKartSport races,” he said.

Hills has been getting better and better at the discipline too, culminating in his first qualifying & three heat race clean sweep at this week’s new-look Dillon Photography GT3 category event at a virtual Nurburgring ‘Grand Prix’ circuit in ‘Germany’ on Tuesday evening.

Now that the COVID-19 Lockdown has been lifted here and karters can compete again on outdoor tracks around the country the 400+ members of KartSport New Zealand’s Sim event off-shoot, the iKartSport group, agreed at the conclusion of the last (Tasman Karting Supplies-backed) series (which concluded a fortnight ago) that the new one would run every second Tuesday but that regulars would still gather every other Tuesday to practise and mentor newcomers to help them ‘get up to speed’ quicker.

The extra practise obviously paid off for Hills, who set the pace in the 20-minute qualifying session – over schoolboy kart and Sim ace Izaak Fletcher from Christchurch and moonlighting pro track cyclist (and Sim specialist) Angus Classen from Cambridge.

Hills then proceeded to lead from the front, grabbing an early lead off the (fastest to the front) rolling start in the first (of three) 8-lap races of the evening and easing away from the battling mix of karters and sim racers behind.

Nathan Anderson, the young now fourth-generation member of the storied West Auckland motor racing family, making a name for himself in Sim racing circles, and who qualified in P4, got the initial jump on Izaak Fletcher and Angus Classen off the start, however Anderson didn’t look as comfortable in his sleek black BMW Z4 as he has in previous races and Classen was back in P2 on the fourth lap as Anderson slipped back to P5.

The order up front on the next lap was Hills with a good lead over Classen, Zach Blincoe and a recovering Anderson…..until the latter spun under brakes on lap 6 and again slipped down the order.

The result was the start of what turned into a three-race winning streak for Hills, albeit his victory in the second (full reverse grid) 8-lap race of the evening was literally by the skin of his teeth.

In that race it was iKartSport series regular Hayden Bakkerus from Auckland who got the initial jump from the front row of the gird and who spent the best part of the 8 laps battling for the position with Braedan Snowden from Whangarei. As they were engaged in their high speed game of cat and mouse, however, Zane Hills and Nathan Anderson were both making their way inexorably forward.

Hills was up to P6 by the end of the third lap and in P4 just a lap latter. By the next lap, however Braedan Snowden had found a way past Hayden Bakkerus for the lead while on the last lap Hills was up to second and closing fast. He got into the lead – momentarily too – before Snowden grabbed it back with an impressive inside/outside move through the circuit’s final chicane; only to scrub off a tad too much speed with a tight – defensive line through the final corner.

By staying out wide Hills was able to carry more speed through the middle of the corner and on to the start-finish straight to pip Snowden as the pair approached the finish line, the margin in Hill’s favour, just 0.037 of a second.

Nathan Anderson was next home in third place, just over 7 seconds back with Ashton Phipps from Auckland, Izaak Fletcher and Hayden Bakkerus completing the top 6.

Despite a random (computer-selected) starting position on the fourth row of the grid Zane Hill was back in the lead exiting the first corner in the third and final 8-lap race of the evening on Tuesday; handy when several cars were immediately eliminated in a major tangle at the rear of the grid just after the start.

Hills was therefore able to dictate the pace pretty much unchallenged from the first lap. Behind him Braedan Snowden continued with his own strong run of form in second place with Blenheim schoolboy Arthur Broughan initially running third ahead of Auckland-based kart international Nathan Crang, Palmerston North schoolboy sensation Blake Dowdall and a hard-charging Nathan Anderson.

By the halfway point Anderson had made it up to P4 and Dunedinite Cameron Freeman up to P6. Freeman, however, spun himself out of that spot near the end, the result at the line, Zane Hills winning his third race from as many starts from Braedan Snowden, Nathan Anderson, Nathan Crang, Izaak Fletcher and Hayden Bakkerus.

After another practise night next Tuesday evening Rnd 2 of the new Dillon Photography 3-round GT3 Sim series with on-going support from KartSport New Zealand promotional partners Giltrap Group and Carter’s Tyre Service, will be held on Tuesday Aug 11.

Results

Qualifying
1/ Zane Hills 1.57.965
2/ Izaak Fletcher +0.164
3/ Angus Classan +0.511
4/ Nathan Anderson +0.814
5/ Blake Dowdall +0.189
6/ Zach Blincoe +1.191

Race 1 (8 laps rolling start)
1/ Zane Hills
2/ Angus Classen +5.515
3/ Zach Blincoe +8.404
4/ Izaak Fletcher +11.317
5/ Nathan Anderson +21.250
6/ Cameron Freeman +21.691

Race 2 (8 laps full reverse grid)
1/ Zane Hills
2/ Braedan Snowden +0.037
3/ Nathan Anderson +7.780
4/ Ashton Phipps +11.919
5/ Izaak Fletcher +14.516
6/ Hayden Bakkerus +15.000

Race 3 (8 laps random grid pos, rolling start)
1/ Zane Hills
2/ Braedan Snowden +11.473
3/ Nathan Anderson +14/123
4/ Nathan Crang +25.516
5/ Izaak Fletcher +26.818
6/ Hayden Bakkerus +32.950

Ross MacKay

Ross MacKay is an award-winning journalist, author and publicist with first-hand experience of motorsport from a lifetime competing on two and four wheels. He currently combines a day job editing NZ4WD magazine with contract media work, weekend Mountain Bike missions and towing his 1989 Nissan Skyline drifter to grassroots meetings around the North Island.

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