NZ: Level Raceway: Round three report

New Zealand Touring Car Championship Round 3 @McIntyre gives Toyota a wake up call Although it is unlikely that a Team Kiwi driver will win the NZTC Championship, John McIntyre and Angus Fogg have once again given Nissan a very healthy ...

New Zealand Touring Car Championship Round 3
@McIntyre gives Toyota a wake up call

Although it is unlikely that a Team Kiwi driver will win the NZTC Championship, John McIntyre and Angus Fogg have once again given Nissan a very healthy manufacturers points tally. It was an excellent piece of driving in the wet by McIntyre and if Fogg is the benchmark, then McIntyre scored more than championship points with the win.

The Toyota Altezzas, so strong at Pukekohe and Taupo, appeared to struggle in the appalling weather conditions at Level Raceway in Round Three of the New Zealand Touring Car Championship.

Team Kiwi's 2001 Drivesafe 500 winner John McIntyre, taking his turn in the Number One Nissan Primera pipped his team mate Angus Fogg on the rain soaked track in overcast and drizzly conditions to take pole position.

McIntyre made his run early in the session, the track becoming progressively slicker and muddy conditions as time went on. "I've been happy with our performance so far this weekend. In practice we were on the pace until our tyres started to go off. In the wet setup is all important and the cars are handling well" said McIntyre.

The rain was so heavy organizers had to declare a wet meeting as torrential rain pounded the South Island, disrupting telecommunications and closing State Highway 1 north of Timaru.

Team Kiwi dominated the first two races, McIntyre on pole, but Fogg getting the best start in both races.

The extreme conditions caused problems for "Master of the Start" Fogg who ran onto the grass in the first race and lost traction going into the complex on the penultimate lap of the second, McIntyre capitalising to collect two wins.

Kevin Bell's BNT BMW 320 SP was the best of the rest to drop in behind the Nissan Primeras and secure two thirds. The going wasn't all plain sailing for Bell in the second race, finding the top end of the track particularly greasy. All hell broke loose as Bell and then Tony Oliver in the Toyota Corona found a patch of oil. Oliver came off worst, sliding backwards into the tyre barrier and shortening the back end of the car by almost half a metre. Oliver's pit crew did a fantastic job to get his car back onto the track for the third race. Bell managed to get back on the track to retain his third place.

The two Toyota Altezzas were well back, their lap times 0.5 seconds off the leaders times. It got worse for the Toyota's with Thomlinson retiring on lap six of the second race with gearbox and electrical problems.

Aaron Harris's engine misfire problems continued as he splashed through the puddles, his run of misery complete as he felt his left front hand wheel parting company from his car in race two, his pitcrew neglecting to tighten the wheel nuts!

The final race of the meeting was reverse grid, with the sixth fastest car sitting on pole. Because the race programme was running over an hour late the race was shortened from 12 to 8 laps. Aaron Harris in the Dynapack BMW 320 coupe shared the front row of the grid with Phil Hellebreker's Toyota Altezza. The rain had held off for 30 minutes prior to the start and the track dried rapidly.

Harris got the jump on Hellebrekers and as the cars exited the sweeper to head down the back straight Fogg made heavy contact on his right front with Bell's left rear, sending the BMW careering off onto the grass. This writer saw nothing deliberate about the incident, the condition of the track playing its part to make close racing difficult.

The marshals saw it differently. As the cars streamed past the start/finish line Fogg in the heavily damaged Primera was shown the black flag and informed he had incurred a 10 second stop/go penalty. It effectively destroyed his race as the incident did Bell's the BMW pulling up to signal Bell's third DNF of the season.

By half way through the race points leader Thomlinson's weekend got a lot brighter, climbing into lead.

While his car was visibly slower than McIntyre's, Harris in the BMW 320 coupe was making the Primera driver work very hard to get past. The pass was inevitable, McIntyre taking the BMW on the back straight on the last lap.

Although the Toyotas had struggled all weekend to find a set up that suited, the team's perservance had paid off, finishing the weekend on a strong note.

At the seasons midpoint Toyota have the upperhand, but Team Kiwi has shown they are not invincible. Round four of the NZTC Championship at Pukekohe on 19th/20th January is set to be a duel between the super quick Toyotas and Nissans. Don't count the BMWs out, International Motorsport have continued to develop their Superproduction car at a rapid pace. The lifting of engine rev restrictions should also help their cause. Also expect a larger field of cars as the cars once more head north.

- www.nztouringcars.co.nz

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About this article
Series General
Drivers John McIntyre , Kevin Bell , Aaron Harris