The end of April at Pukekohe Raceway, Auckland, in 2014 had a great line-up of V8 racing for fans and spectators. The Australian V8 Supercars Championship hosted its fourth round while both the NZ V8 SuperTourers and the New Zealand V8 Touring Car Championship hosted their final rounds. We bring you the race round-ups from the weekend…….
Winterbottom claims prized JR Trophy to extend V8 Supercars lead
By Ian Hepenstall – Mark Winterbottom now holds two of the most prized trophies in V8 Supercars and just as importantly leaves the ITM 500 Auckland with no plans to stop his Championship assault.
Winterbottom is the first person to hold the Jason Richards Memorial and the Peter Brock Trophy he won at Bathurst last year with a slender points win over Kiwi hero Scott McLaughlin. Winterbottom’s young team-mate Chaz Mostert was third in the longer 200km race.
The Pepsi Max Crew FPR driver now has a 107 Championship point lead over Red Bull Racing Australia’s Craig Lowndes who is 10 points ahead of Lockwood Racing’s Fabian Coulthard. Reigning Champion Jamie Whincup is 166 points back in sixth.
Lowndes finished in twentieth today with Whincup in tenth.
As he said after his win on Saturday, Winterbottom intends to keep extending his lead at the next event in Perth which is followed by the SKYCITY Triple Crown in Darwin and the Townsville 500.
“I wanted to lead the Championship leaving here on Sunday. I didn’t want to lead on Friday and someone takes it back off you on Sunday. We now have two weeks to enjoy it.
“Triple Eight are having a rough run which is surprising because (Shane) Van Gisbergen in the same car is going quite well. That’s interesting.
“I am rapt they had a bad weekend and normally we don’t capitalise on it when they do. But they’ve had two and we have out-scored everyone both times. We are getting it right at the right time.
“Hopefully we can maintain it. It is good that Chaz and Dave are doing well – we have more cars up there doing well. The more we have up there the more we take points off everyone else.”
In a race which did not feature a single safety car period Winterbottom and McLaughlin duelled out in front all day with only the final stop of the day determining the outcome. It snared Winterbottom the treasured Trophy for the best performed over the Anzac weekend.
“That’s amazing. The Jason Richards Trophy in particular is very special. He was an amazing guy. To win it is very special. I am holding this one and the workshop have got the Peter Brock Trophy for Bathurst. It is pretty cool. I was rapt to win this and very honoured to win it,” Winterbottom said.
“To race on Anzac Day was really special. To see the crowd – Friday seemed like a Sunday. That was awesome and to race three days was great. If you were a fan you would love it. It was an amazing weekend.”
Winterbottom beat McLaughlin out of the pits at the last stop, having entered behind the young Kiwi. It appeared a case that Winterbottom took slightly less fuel with his team doing a great job to get him to the front.
Not only did they exchange the places it also swapped the lead in the Jason Richards Trophy hunt, putting Winterbottom narrowly in front.
McLaughlin was ‘shattered’ to miss the Jason Richard’s Trophy by a place.
“Yeah, that’s what happens,” he said.
“It was a pretty good battle up until then but actually, I thought we might have edged in front of Frosty because we probably took on a little more fuel at the first stop but yeah, he got me.
“Our car was set up for a first stint, we didn’t really compensate for the track ripping up so you know, come back here next year, we’ll have a bit of thinking to do, but we’ve got a direction.”
Heartache struck for Supercheap Auto Racing’s Tim Slade when he lost clutch control on the starting grid, a devastating blow for the Holden driver who had just celebrated scoring a front-row start next to McLaughlin.
The initial start was aborted when Slade began waving his hands just as the starter’s signal was about to come on. The field did a second formation lap with Slade heading from the front row to pit lane, a terrible blow for the popular Gold Coaster.
Yesterday’s winner Shane van Gisbergen, Nissan’s Michael Caruso, Jason Bright, Erebus’ Will Davison, Rick Kelly, Fabian Coulthard and Whincup completed the top 10.
Others to note include Garth Tander 12, James Courtney 14, David Reynolds 17 after a great start and setback with a punctured tyre, and Lowndes 20th – another tough day for the Red Bull Racer.
The V8 Supercars will next hit the track at the Perth 400, from May 16-18 at Barbagallo Raceway.
V8 championship 12 years in the making
By Bernard Carpinter – Nick Ross claimed the New Zealand V8 Touring Car Championship today after 12 years of trying.
The Cambridge driver ended his campaign in nervous fashion at Pukekohe’s ITM 500 meeting, where the Kiwi cars supported the V8 Supercars.
Ross needed only to finish the final race to secure the title, but his Holden Commodore started misbehaving.
“It was smoky and it got noisy in the car, I think the extractor popped off on the left hand side,” he said. “I slowed down then, I just wanted to get to the finish.”
The car survived and Ross had the title at last – after short-lived celebrations earlier in the day.
Ross headed off his main rival, Australian Jason Bargwanna, in today’s first race and everyone thought that wrapped up the championship. Bargwanna, the defending champion, had led the series coming into the weekend but yesterday the Toyota driver suffered two engine failures.
Later however Ross was demoted to fourth in that race because he had been going too slow as he led the field to the rolling start.
The last part of that race was run behind the safety car as officials cleaned up after a crash.
“I was hoping the safety car would come in so we could race to the end,” Ross said. “It would have been nice if Bargs had been racing beside me or behind me all weekend, but reliability is part of motorsport.
“It’s my 12th season in this championship. I’m pretty happy.”
Bargwanna said the two non-finishes yesterday had killed his bid for a repeat championship. In today’s first race he had been slowed by a mechanical problem.
“The power steering failed on lap one,” he said. “The cabin filled with smoke and I backed off so I could see what the problem was and then I worked out how to drive it without power steering.”
Bargwanna finished his season with a clear-cut victory in the final race, finishing second in the TLX category for the fast new-generation cars. Third was Hamilton’s Lance Hughes in a Holden.
In the TL class for the original cars, Hamilton’s Ian Booth – the category chairman and director – showed the advantages of reliability as he won the championship with just two race victories over the six rounds in his Holden.
“We’ve had no DNFs [non-finishes] all season,” Booth said. “The secret is the maintenance of the cars and I’ve got to thank my mechanic, Mark Dalton.
“He’s worked really long hours, there till midnight sometimes.”
Booth’s two main rivals, James McLaughlin from Lower Hutt and 17-year-old Brad Lauder from the Coromandel, both dropped back with non-finishes during the weekend.
McLaughlin, who raced for most of the season with virtually no sponsorship, finished second in the championship in his Holden, and Lauder held on to third in his Ford Falcon.
Booth finished second in today’s first race, behind the Holden of Manukau driver Kevin Williams and ahead of Auckland rally driver Glenn Inkster’s Ford.
Inkster claimed the final race, followed by Williams and Wellington Ford driver Brock Cooley.
Murphy graceful in defeat in BNT V8 SuperTourers
By Bernard Carpinter – Greg Murphy was happy to lose the last race of the 2014 BNT V8 SuperTourers championship at Pukekohe today.
Murphy had already claimed his second straight championship and the final race was one of the best of the season as he and team-mate Richard Moore fought tooth and nail for the victory.
Moore squeezed inside Murphy going into turn five, the start of the new chicane, but a little later the young Aucklander overshot the same corner and dropped to third.
Then just before the end of the 16-lap race Moore forced his Holden inside Murphy’s similar car at the railway corner leading on to the back straight, and held on for a narrow victory – his first as a solo driver, although last year he won an endurance race with Australian V8 Supercar driver Tim Slade.
After the race Murphy clapped his team-mate on the back and said he was not upset to suffer only his second defeat of the season.
“It’s about racing and entertaining, that’s what people love to see,” he said. “It’s not about me winning all the races.
“It was fun to race with Richard, he’s been driving absolutely superbly.”
It was great to see young drivers like Moore, Simon Evans and Ant Pedersen develop and come to the fore, which was one of the ideas of the category. Murphy reckoned success in the BNT V8 SuperTourers could be a route into V8 Supercars for fast young Kiwis.
Moore had been getting frustrated at not achieving a solo victory and he put it all on the line for the final race.
“It got a bit stressful at one stage, I got carried away [when he made the mistake],” he said. “It was so loose.”
The victory was a milestone in his career, Moore said.
Murphy wrapped up the championship yesterday with two more victories, and he also won today’s first race.
Another young Aucklander, Simon Evans took second with a fine drive in that race, after starting fifth and dropping to sixth early in the race before moving relentlessly forward with some cleanly executed overtaking moves.
Evans, who was robbed of a probable victory yesterday when he was hit by Ant Pedersen, took third in the final race and finished second in the championship; he has really clicked this season.
Moore was third in the championship and Hamilton’s Pedersen, who had a bad day yesterday in his Ford, fourth.
Auckland teenager Andre Heimgartner had been in strong contention for a top placing but today but his Holden stopped in race one and he did not start the final, which dropped him to fifth.
Australian Steve Owen raced his Holden to third in today’s first race but went off the track next time out.
Final championship points:
1 Murphy 1155,
2 Evans 836,
3 Moore 821,
4 Pedersen 817,
5 Heimgartner 732,
6 Tim Edgell (Auckland, Holden) 564.