ENZED CENTRAL MUSCLE CARS ROUND 1
ROUND 1 OF THE 2018–2019 ENZED CENTRAL MUSCLE CARS CHAMPIONSHIP FROM HAMPTON DOWNS
When 28 cars from Enzed Central Muscle Cars (CMC) lined themselves up on the grid at the Hampton 500 in early October, the argument that was brought forward with regularity last season was confirmed to all those in attendance: this is New Zealand’s premier motorsport category. Sure, you could still put up an argument against this, because it isn’t a MotorSport New Zealand Gold Star category, but it would be a brief debate. The attention that these cars and drivers are now getting has started go past a mild burbling and has become more of an eruption.
Maybe a hint of this was the fact that the Australian GT Championship invited them to be part of its grid walk — an honour that attracted a whole lot of attention.
But what makes it so palatable for the racing fan? The answer is multi-pronged. The cars look great, they sound fantastic, they race hard, and they are fast. Very, very fast. It also helps that the teams and drivers are grass roots — they, too, are as giddy about the machinery as the fans are.
It’s a category that mixes parity and driver ability across a particularly wide spectrum.
They treat their cars like show machines, and then they risk everything by taking them out onto a race track to entertain us all. They have an immense amount of pride in the equipment, while, at the same time, they are keen enough to take them out onto the tarmac to try to break lap times and fight for glory. That fighting, however, can, at times, also be their downfall. It doesn’t always go to plan. But, given that this is motorsport, they all take the risks with the rewards.
Dean Owens, Brendon Neiman, Lance Midgley, Tristan Teki, Andrew Sinclair, Ross Graham, Dean Hansen, Steve Ross, Steve Doughty. That is the list of names that ended up with ‘DNF’ (did not finish) printed beside them across the weekend. However, the long list does look worse on paper than it was in reality. Andrew Sinclair did fight like a trooper in the weekend’s second race to put a ‘third’ beside his name, and Lance Midgley had a ‘second’ appear on his record for the third race, the result of a bizarre situation.
It was a handicap start, and, when rookie
Steve Doughty tried to launch off the line, his rear tyres started spinning but the front ones didn’t. His brakes had locked up. This produced an urgent red flag from the marshals, and the race was stopped. He did manage to get off the line as the flag was being waved but never finished the race. The rest of the cars completed the lap, came back to the grid, and switched off their engines while his Camaro was being towed back to the pits.
From there, the race was restarted, but an incident between Steve Ross and Tristan Teki on the first lap brought out a yellow and, subsequently, a safety car. It took some time to extract Teki from the gravel, and, by the time this was done, so, too, was the race. In simplistic form, the race started and finished behind a safety car.
It was the only downer of the weekend, though, because the rest of it was a sensational thrill ride filled with emotion.
There was a lot of talk around two of the series’ rookies, Andrew Anderson in the XE Falcon and Michael Wallace in the Chev Monza. Both cars had been built and prepped at the AV8 Motorsport workshop, and, to add a twist to it, both cars involved father and son.
The Anderson machine was a car that harked back to the first Wellington 500. It was driven by Bruce Anderson and Dick Johnson, and, at the time, a 13-year-old Andrew Anderson was hanging around the garages watching everything unfold. Something about it certainly stayed with him, and his early passion became a reality this particular weekend when he got to race against his dad in a car that was built as a tribute to that time.
Not only did Andrew arrive with a beautifully prepared car, but he also he arrived with some gusto on the track, securing second place in qualifying behind John Midgley and taking second in race one behind Dean Perkins. To put the effort into even more perspective, he finished ahead of Grant Dalton and his father Bruce. A fairly magical start to the season for a series rookie. Michael Wallace had a family experience as well, as his dad played a massive part in building the car for his boy to drive. The Monza arrived beautifully detailed, and, even though it had only had a miniscule amount of testing, it performed admirably, and Wallace was pleased with how it turned out. “We have a few little things to sort,” he said during pack up on Sunday. “There was a small electrical fault, it needs to be put back on the dyno to give the engine a tweak, and we will play with the setup a bit, but, overall, we are happy — and we have no damage!”
Clarke Hopkins was having another up-and-down run when he was only able to push his Torana to 14th in qualifying and 12th in race one. But that poor performance, by his own standards, only made him more determined, and, when it came time for the second race of the weekend, he made the most of a safety car restart to continue his climb through the field and take the win from Mark Holland’s Group 2 car.
Andrew Sinclair secured third place in that particular race, and to say he was ecstatic about it would be understating the situation. “I’ve been away from racing for a year, and I come back and get a podium — so happy right now!” he said.
The same couldn’t be said for one of the favourites, Angus Fogg. Aside from a third place in the final race, his weekend was a points-haul disaster. Last in race one, 19th in race two, and 22nd in race three means that his fight for the championship is going to be harder than anyone thought it would be. However, the reigning champion, Dean Perkins, won’t be shedding too many tears for his fellow competitors. He will feel for them, but, at the same time, he is there to win, and his first, 8th, 19th, and second ensured a good collection of points that the others will need to try to claw back across the season.
We also shouldn’t forget two other drivers who collected valuable points over the weekend. Sean Fowler and Greig Running were first and third, respectively, in race three, and, along with Lance Midgley, they will be proudly smiling about that. So, too, will Grant Dalton, who stayed clean all weekend to bank valuable points.
Next stop for the series is the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship (VASC) round at Pukekohe. It is the most high-pressure meeting that the class has — a daunting, unforgiving race track, giant crowds in the grandstands, and a line-up of superstar VASC drivers watching on from their garages.
The Enzed CMC cars will soak it all up, put on a great show, and continue with their sensational captivation.