NZ: Round four report, results

New Zealand Touring Car Championship 2001/02 Thomlinson Edges Ever Closer To Title With four of the six rounds of the Wynn's New Zealand Touring Car Championship completed, as the cars head to Manfield Autocourse on 2/3 February, Barrie...

New Zealand Touring Car Championship 2001/02
Thomlinson Edges Ever Closer To Title

With four of the six rounds of the Wynn's New Zealand Touring Car Championship completed, as the cars head to Manfield Autocourse on 2/3 February, Barrie Thomlinson has a tight grip on the 2002 drivers' championship. Thomlinson has not only driven his car superbly all season but is the mastermind behind the creation of the new look Toyota team. The slick professional outfit has looked the team to beat all season . With great performances by individual drivers, but no consistent driver line-up, Team Kiwi's chances of retaining their driver title has vaporised and BMW's inconsistent performance have ruled them out of contention. Only Thomlinson's team mate Phil Hellebrekers has an outside chance of stealing the title. Toyotas re-entry into the championship has also seen them dominate last year's manufacturers champions Nissan and push old rivals BMW back into third place.

This year's championship has once more demonstrated that it is ideally suited to manufacturer backed production car racing. There is no other class of racing that provides a place to showcase multiple brands and models of currently available vehicles. While there has been a surge in the popularity of the V8 formula, only the two-litre class provides an opportunity for Japanese and European manufacturers, who make up a huge part of the car market, to demonstrate the drivability of their product.

The increased popularity of BMWs in New Zealand can in part be attributed to their participation in New Zealand Motorsport. The Championship also has the potential to create popular motorsport heroes like Craig Baird and is no less affordable for privateers than the V8 or Trans Am formulas.

Toyota has realised the value of participation in the New Zealand Championship and the legions of Toyota fans milling around their garage indicate that they approve of the decision. Both Toyota and Team Kiwi have found fans keen to purchase their favourite teams merchandise.

While there is a perception that motorsport is expensive, but as a percentage of the total advertising budget of a major New Zealand car manufacturer, participating in the six round championship is exceedingly cost-effective. The credibility of a car's performance on the racetrack far outweighs the glossy promises of slick arty advertising. Manufacturers don't have advertising budgets large enough to secure the amount of free media coverage generated by a successful race season.

It is therefore curious that there is not more enthusiasm amongst New Zealand manufacturers to participate in the Championship given the benefits. The international standard for two-litre racing, Superproduction, is based on the Schedule S regulations pioneered in this country. It is time that other manufacturers followed Toyota's lead and take advantage of the exposure and marketing opportunities the Wynn's New Zealand Touring Car Championship has to offer. <pre> Championship Points After Round 4 of 6 1 Barrie Thomlinson Auckland 377 2 Phil Hellebrekers Auckland 283 3 Kevin Bell Auckland 241 4 Aaron Harris Paraparaumu 232 5 Angus Fogg Auckland 218 6 Tony Oliver Porirua City 199 7 Rhys McKay Auckland 194 8 John McIntyre Auckland 163 9 Peter Millener Auckland 128 10 Ted Jarvis Auckland 75 11 Patrick Hodgson Auckland 69 12 Wayne Moore Australia 55 13 Bruce Miles Christchurch 40 14 Adam Brook Christchurch 39 15 Matthew Farmer Manukau City 36 16 Mike Eady Auckland 35 17 Ed Lamont Auckland 34 18 Tony Rutherford Auckland 26 19 Owen Evans Auckland 9 20 Grant Aitken Queenstown 2 21 Mark Lorenzen Pukekohe 1

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Series General
Drivers Craig Baird , Barrie Thomlinson , Mike Eady , Wayne Moore , John McIntyre , Kevin Bell , Rhys McKay , Aaron Harris