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.

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