All to play for as Formula Ford titles to be decided in Taupo this weekend

| Photographer Credit: Geoff Ridder

Three races at the Taupo International Motorsport Park in Taupo will decide eight different Formula Ford titles as the final rounds of both the 2024 NAPA Auto Parts New Zealand Formula Ford Championship and the 2023/24 Giltrap Group North Island Formula Ford Series simultaneously take place.  Such is the competitiveness and closeness of both series that there are no clear favourites heading into the weekend as they combine as a support category for the New Zealand round of the Supercars Championship.  This includes several drivers competing for both national and North Island titles at the meeting.

With a maximum of 227-points available, Blake Knowles has a 24-point lead over Seb Manson in the national competition, with Will Neale a further 35-points behind second place.  Manson may be the one to watch given his form at the last encounter at the Taupo circuit, setting pole and winning all three races against Knowles, Neale and Dylan Grant.

#28 Will Neale – photo Geoff Ridder

In theory, six drivers, including Mason Potter, Dylan Grant and Izaac Fletcher, all have a mathematical chance of winning the title.  Also on the line are the Class 1 & 2, plus the Rookie titles in which the overall victor will claim Class 1, Cameron Freeman is likely to win Class 2 and Izaak Fletcher the Rookie title.

“Obviously we have a little bit of work to do,” commented Knowles.  “I’m looking forward to it. Anything can happen, although we did not do to badly last time we were there, finishing in the top three.   Having a good quali will be important.  Taupo is hard on tyres, so we also need to manage them.  It will be a matter of having good pace and staying out of trouble.”

Five different drivers have the opportunity to win the overall North Island Series title.  After five rounds with several lead changes, it is more than likely to come down to three drivers with Mason Potter just five points ahead of Dylan Grant and Blake Dowdall 35-points behind Potter.  Mason is on a roll having stood on the podium at the last six races including winning the last two.  Again, the overall winner will take the Class 1 title while Shane Drake has tied up Class 2 and Toby McCormack is battling with Reagan Edwards to win the Rookie title and 237-piece SP Custom Series Tool Kit worth $3000, provided by NAPA Auto Parts and SP Tools.

#6 Blake Dowdall leads #28 Will Neale and #35 Izaac Fletcher – photo Geoff Ridder

“We have not gone particularly well there but really excited heading to the weekend,” said Mason.  “It’s more technical than Hampton Downs or Manfeild so need to be consistent.  There will be added pressure with Supercars crowd which I don’t mind as we did well at the last one at Pukekohe.”

Friday afternoon sees qualifying at 3:15pm with the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy $1,010.10 cash prize for fastest qualifier.  The first race takes place Saturday morning at 10:55am with the final two deciding races on Sunday morning at 8:45 and 11:20am.  Qualifying and Races 1 & 3 will be shown live on Sky Sport.

The NAPA Auto Parts Driver of the Day will be an award to watch for.  With close racing expected, one driver may shine above the rest to take the $300 trade voucher and it is not necessarily given to the quickest on the grid.

Up for contention is the Ron Frost Memorial Trophy to be awarded at the final race of the national series and the Stephen Gillard Memorial Trophy which will be awarded to the highest placed Rookie at the end of the championship.

The winner of the overall NZ Formula Ford title will receive a fully funded two-day Formula 4 test in the US with Kiwi Motorsport.  They will also have a FT60 test compliments of the Tony Quinn Foundation.

A reversal in form sees #20 Dylan Grant second in NIFF and fifth overall in NZFF – photo Geoff Ridder

NAPA Auto Parts 2024 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship Points after Rnd 3/4
1/ Blake Knowles 701
2/ Sebastian Manson 677
3/ Will Neale 642
4/ Mason Potter 597
5/ Dylan Grant 527
6/ Izaac Fletcher 522
7/ Caleb Byers 433
8/ Zach Blincoe 427
9/ Toby McCormack 353
10/ Dylan Petch 348
11/ Daniel Kelly 334
12/ Cameron Freeman 286
13/ Keith Miller 252
14/ Cameron Tanner 252
15/ Jack Noble-Adams 234
16/ Simon Hunter 143
17/ Jacob Cunniffe 134

NIFF Overall Points after Round 5/6 (Top 10)
1/ Mason Potter 927
2/ Dylan Grant 922
3/ Blake Dowdall 892
4/ Zach Blincoe 847
5/ Toby McCormack 708
6/ Blake Knowles 664
7/ Sebastian Manson 656
8/ Shane Drake 652
9/ Will Neale 624
10/ Reagan Edwards 613

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

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