Mo­tor sport

Motor Equipment News - - CONTENTS - By Bernard Carpin­ter

Pukekohe be­came V8 City dur­ing the ITM 500 meet­ing over the long An­zac Weekend. Aus­tralia’s V8 Su­per­cars topped the bill, of course, and the Kiwi sup­port acts com­prised the BNT V8 Su­perTour­ers, New Zealand V8 Tour­ing Cars, UDC V8 Utes and plenty of V8s among the Cen­tral Mus­cle Cars and the GTRNZ ma­chin­ery.

The An­zac tim­ing played up the long-stand­ing sport­ing ri­valry be­tween New Zealand and Aus­tralia, which was par­tic­u­larly apt, be­cause the three Ki­wis who are full-time Su­per­car driv­ers – Shane Van Gis­ber­gen, Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaugh­lin – had all made great starts to the 2014 cham­pi­onship.

In­deed, all three had won races. McLaugh­lin’s vic­tory had come in the non-cham­pi­onship races at the Aus­tralian Grand Prix, but the young Kiwi grabbed the lime­light by win­ning in a Volvo and talk­ing about “giv­ing it some jan­dal”, which be­came an in­stant catch­phrase ea­gerly adopted by his team, Garry Rodgers Mo­tor­sport.

The Su­per­car driv­ers were com­pet­ing not only for cham­pi­onship points, but also for the Ja­son Richards Me­mo­rial Tro­phy, awarded to the driver gain­ing the most points over the weekend’s four races.

Last year, the first time the tro­phy was of­fered, it was fit­tingly won by Ja­son Bright, who had been Richards’ team-mate at Brad Jones Rac­ing, and a friend of the Kiwi driver, who died of cancer in 2011.

Un­usu­ally, the first Su­per­car race was on the Fri­day af­ter­noon, which was An­zac Day. Bright qual­i­fied his Holden on pole, but reign­ing cham­pion Jamie Whin­cup grabbed the early lead and pulled away un­til a me­chan­i­cal prob­lem forced him into the pits.

Bright took over the lead and won, while Van Gis­ber­gen got the bet­ter of a bat­tle with for­mer cham­pion Craig Lowndes to take sec­ond. Coulthard was sev­enth and McLaugh­lin, who had made a poor start, eighth. All these ex­cept McLaugh­lin drove Hold­ens.

Satur­day brought two more rel­a­tively short races. Holden Rac­ing Team driver James Court­ney claimed pole for the first Satur­day race, but Mark “Frosty” Win­ter­bot­tom won the start and zoomed away for a clear-cut vic­tory from Court­ney and fel­low Ford Per­for­mance Rac­ing driver racer Chaz Mostert.

Whin­cup came in fourth, hotly pur­sued by Van Gis­ber­gen, who had passed McLaugh­lin. Coulthard was 10th and Lowndes only 16th as the Triple Eight team’s Red Bull Com­modores were hav­ing a tough weekend.

The big crowd’s wish for a Kiwi vic­tory was sat­is­fied in the next race as Van Gis­ber­gen pulled off some nice over­tak­ing moves on his way to the front. Whin­cup jumped pole-win­ner McLaugh­lin at the start, but the Kiwi struck back im­me­di­ately by shoot­ing up the in­side at the hair­pin.

Bright’s hopes of re­tain­ing the tro­phy dis­ap­peared as he crashed at the rail­way cor­ner leading on to the back straight, bring­ing out the safety car. On the re­sump­tion Van Gis­ber­gen passed Whin­cup and then, on lap eight, McLaugh­lin, to seize the lead, which he re­tained un­til the end of the race. Win­ter­bot­tom later passed McLaugh­lin, but could not quite catch Van Gis­ber­gen. Coulthard was 11th this time.

Sun­day’s fi­nale was a much longer race, 70 laps or 200km. McLaugh­lin started from his sec­ond pole po­si­tion of the weekend, and he kept the blue Volvo in front for most of the way, al­though Win­ter­bot­tom caught up and ap­plied great pres­sure.

They pit­ted to­gether for their fi­nal stop, nose-to-tail with McLaugh­lin still in front. But the Ford crew got their driver out ahead of the Kiwi; per­haps they did not need to put in as much fuel. Win­ter­bot­tom then pulled away to win the race and the tro­phy – and to es­tab­lish a use­ful 107-point lead in the cham­pi­onship.

“That’s amaz­ing,” Win­ter­bot­tom said. “The Ja­son Richards Tro­phy in par­tic­u­lar is very spe­cial. He was an amaz­ing guy. I was rapt to win this, and very hon­oured to win it.”

McLaugh­lin very nar­rowly missed win­ning the tro­phy; vic­tory in that fi­nal race would have made all the dif­fer­ence. He ad­mit­ted to be­ing “shat­tered” at miss­ing out, but re­ally it was an­other fine per­for­mance by the young Kiwi, sec­ond over­all for the weekend with two poles.

“Our car was set up for a first stint,” McLaugh­lin said, ex­plain­ing why he had been faster early in the race than to­wards the end. “We didn’t re­ally com­pen­sate for the track.”

Mostert was third again, with Van Gis­ber­gen fourth and Coulthard ninth. Win­ter­bot­tom then led the cham­pi­onship from Lowndes, Coulthard, Court­ney, Van Gis­ber­gen, Whin­cup and McLaugh­lin.

Sup­port races

Pukekohe was the fi­nal round of the cham­pi­onships for both the BNT V8 Su­perTour­ers and the NZ V8 Tour­ing Cars (for­merly known as NZV8s).

For their first two sea­sons the Su­perTour­ers se­ries ran with seven rounds (four sprint rounds, three en­durance rounds) over the cal­en­dar year, but now they de­cided to fin­ish the 2014 cham­pi­onship af­ter the four sprint rounds and stage the fol­low­ing cham­pi­onships over the more tra­di­tional sum­mer sea­son.

Reign­ing Su­perTour­ers cham­pion Greg Mur­phy ar­rived with a big points lead and in­deed clinched the ti­tle on the Satur­day af­ter win­ning the first two races of the weekend.

But he did not have things all his own way, as young Auck­lan­der Si­mon Evans seized the lead in race one by pass­ing Ant Ped­er­sen’s Ford and then Mur­phy’s Holden in sep­a­rate moves at the hair­pin. Evans looked set to take his first Su­perTour­ers vic­tory, and a well-de­served one at that, only to be knocked off the track by Ped­er­sen. Ped­er­sen lost plenty of cham­pi­onship points as he re­ceived a drive-through penalty for the col­li­sion.

Mur­phy won again on Sun­day morn­ing, but the fi­nal race of the cham­pi­onship was one of the best as he be­came em­broiled in a fierce bat­tle with his M3 team­mate Richard Moore. 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 car at the rail­way cor­ner 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.

An­other young Auck­lan­der, An­dre Heim­gart­ner, had been well up in the cham­pi­onship, but dropped back when a me­chan­i­cal fail­ure put his Holden out of the last two races. Fi­nal cham­pi­onship points: 1 Mur­phy 1,155, 2 Evans 836, 3 Moore 821, 4 Ped­er­sen 817, 5 Heim­gart­ner 732, 6 Tim Edgell (Auck­land, Holden) 564.

In the NZ V8 Tour­ing Cars, Aus­tralian vet­eran Ja­son Barg­wanna ar­rived with a use­ful points lead, and looked set to be­come the first driver to win an of­fi­cial V8 tour­ing car cham­pi­onship in Aus­trala­sia driv­ing a Toy­ota or, in­deed, any­thing other than a Ford or Holden.

But en­gine fail­ures put him out of both races on the Satur­day. That left Cam­bridge driver Nick Ross, in his 12th sea­son in this cat­e­gory, and his Holden, in the box seat, and he wrapped up the ti­tle on the Sun­day.

These two com­peted in the TLX class for the faster new-gen­er­a­tion cars. The TL sub-cat­e­gory for the orig­i­nal-spec cars went to se­ries chair­man Ian Booth from Hamil­ton in his Holden, af­ter chal­lengers James McLaugh­lin (Lower Hutt, Holden) and Brad Lauder (Coro­man­del, Ford) both struck bad luck at Pukekohe. Booth praised his crew and with rea­son, as his car had fin­ished ev­ery race in the cham­pi­onship.

Fi­nal cham­pi­onship points – TLX: Ross 1228, Barg­wanna 1176, Lance Hughes (Hamil­ton, Holden) 1014, Shaun Var­ney (Auck­land, Ford) 923, AJ Lauder (Coro­man­del, Toy­ota) 487. TL: Ian Booth 1043, James McLaugh­lin 944, Brad Lauder 874, Brock Coo­ley (Welling­ton, Ford) 789, Matthew Booth (Hamil­ton, Holden) 706.

Aus­tralian vis­i­tor Kris “Killa” Wal­ton dom­i­nated the Ute rac­ing, with three wins and a fourth in his Fal­con.

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Greg Mur­phy on his way to win­ning his sec­ond BNT V8 Su­perTour­ers cham­pi­onship.

Ki­wis to the fore: Volvo’s Scott McLaugh­lin leads Shane Van Gis­ber­gen early in one of the V8 Su­per­car races at Pukekohe.

NIck Ross has won the NZ V8 Tour­ing Car cham­pi­onship in his 12th sea­son in the cat­e­gory. Photo: Euan Cameron.

Shane Van Gis­ber­gen en­joys win­ning a V8 Su­per­car race in front of his home crowd.

Kiwi Scott McLaugh­lin, now rac­ing for Volvo, has be­come a new crowd favourite.

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