FOUR TO FIGHT IT OUT
After one of the most exciting racing seasons in the 10-year history of the Porter Group NZ V8 Utes category, the fight for the title will go down to the wire at the last round at Hampton Downs on March 11 and 12 when four drivers battle it out to become the official NZ V8 Ute Racing Champion.
Reigning champion Paul ‘Auto’ Manuell has led the series all the way since round one at the ITM V8 Supercars event back in November. Unlike last season, however, he has not had it all his own way, and the 56-point lead he held over secondplaced Richard ‘Danger’ Moore after round one reduced to just 28 points with three races left.
Manuell and his Orix-sponsored Holden won at Pukekohe and Teretonga, but Moore fought back impressively over the course of the season, with wins for Mitre 10 Trade Racing at the second round at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo, then again at the third round at Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch, before he took the last round at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Manfeild Autocourse last month. Had it not been for misfortune at the first round at Pukekohe, when he was caught up in an accident ahead of him, that 28-point gap would be even narrower.
So, Manuell has the clear advantage on points, but Moore will hope to have a circuit advantage at the final round at Hampton. As a driving instructor at the circuit, he has completed literally thousands of laps and knows every groove, bump, and square inch of the racing line. He won the round there on his NZ V8 Utes debut in 2015 and will be extremely confident he can be at the sharp end of the field.
Third- and fourth-placed, respectively, Matthew ‘Stinger’ Spratt and Brett ‘The Scud’ Rudd are the mathematical underdogs in the title fight. However, this has been a season of many curve balls, and almost every driver has had a poor result or unexpected twist somewhere along the line during the last five rounds. If Spratt and Rudd are competitive in their respective KPH Transport and Loscam Holdens, and they have been for the last two rounds, they could be in with a real shot if Manuell and Moore hit problems.