Wills a masterful win in today's Tasman Express New Zealand Grand Prix.
Wills conquered a rain-slick Ruapuna Park circuit to head rivals Scott Dixon and Greg Murphy in the battle to have his name on the coveted trophy alongside the likes of Stirling Moss, Bruce McLaren, Jackie Stewart, Chris Amon and Graham Hill.
The GP win and a flag to flag domination of the first Formula Holden race also gave Wills the win in the four-round Tasman Express Formula Holden Series, again heading off Dixon and Murphy.
"I'm absolutely over the moon about this win," said Wills. "It's the sort of thing you dream of doing when you start racing, but it always seems such a distant dream."
Light rain minutes prior to the GP made for 10 laps of mayhem with spinning cars as drivers struggled to control the 350hp Formula Holden racers on their slick tyres
Murphy was an early victim of the conditions, sliding off the track and into Dutchman Wouter van Eeuwijk on the first lap. The New Zealander rejoined the track in 11th place, but van Eeuwijk, was out of the race.
"It was my fault," Murphy admitted. I simply tried to go too fast too early." The incident possibly cost him the win, because as the laps unfolded he was consistentlly the fastest on the track and by the flag was a comfoertable third.
Wills, meanwhile had jumped to an early lead over Dixon, whose car had developed wheelspin off the start line. However, Dixon fought back and had regained the lead by the end of the lap, stretching his advantage at one stage to five seconds.
Wills, however, bided his time and by midway through the 116km event was starting to pressure his rival. He took the lead with a stunning manoeuvre at the hairpin with 11 laps to go; attempting to repass on the next bend, Dixon slid off. Though his car was undamaged, the gap to Wills was too great to close.
Wills had already scored a convincing win in the first championship race, after making a lightning start and catapulting ahead of Dixon, who had been caught flat-footed at flag-fall. Dixon was also beaten into the first bend by Murphy but three laps later passed him in a neat manoeuvre at the end of the straight.
An overnight change of gearbox ratios had seen Wills' car gain half a second a lap and he was circulating consistently under 1m16s, nearly two seconds quicker than the old mark. However, Dixon looked set for a charge with a new lap record of 1m15.8s on lap eight, before slowing slightly. "The right rear tyre had a slow leak," he explained after the race, "so I settled for driving to finish."
For Murphy the race was one of frustration. "The car just isn't quite right," he said, "but we can't find what the problem is."
At the end of the race Wills had a comfortable three seconds buffer to Dixon, with Murphy 11s further adrift. van Eeuwijk filled fourth, ahead of team mates Jason Liefting and Chris staff.
The three-way battle between Shane Drake, Craig Baird and Grant Silvester for the Parker Enzed national TranZam championship is really hotting up. After Ruapuna, Baird leads by just two points from Drake, with Silvester the same margin behind.
However, the fastest driver of the meeting was Aucklander Kerry Jones in his six-litre Class Two car. Jones headed home Drake in the first two races, but finished well down the list in the final, rain-effected round. This race was red-flagged after four laps when Jason Ryan's Camaro was virtually demolished after sliding off on the wet main straight at 160km/h and slamming into a tyre wall..
After the restart, Baird and Drake - who had been further down the field after spinning on the first lap - both passed early leader Mark Porter.
Consistent results at Ruapuna allowed Dunlop New Zealand V8 Touring Car series leader Paul Pederson to mantain his advantage. Ashley Stitchbury, only seventh after the first round at Manfeild, boosted himself to second with a win, a second and a third. Star of the round, however, was local driver Wade Henshaw, who scored two all-the-way wins and then recovered from a spin in the early stages to place fourth in the third heat.
The FF1600 class was dominated by Southlander LeRoy Stevenson, who scored three from three for the meeting and promoted himself from third to first in the championship. Of his rivals only Keny Smith finished each race, and has moved to within four points of previous leader Brady Kennet, who tangled with Phil Hellebrekers in race two and spun out.
CRC Motor Race Series - Round Three, Ruapuna - December 6:
Tasman Express Formula Holden Series -
Race 1: Simon Wills - NZ (Reynard 94D), 1; Scott Dixon - NZ (Reynard 92D), 2; Greg Murphy - NZ (Reynard 92D), 3; Wouter van Eeuwijk - Netherlands (Reynard 95D), 4; Jason Liefting - NZ (Reynard 92D), 5; Chris Staff - Australia (Reynard 91), 6.
Race 2, 1998 NZ GP: Wills, 1; Dixon, 2; Murphy, 3; Wills, 3; Liefting, 4; Staff, 5; Les Crampton - Australia (Reynard 91), 6. Tasman Express Formula Holden Campionship: Wills, 67, 1; Dixon, 62, 2; Murphy, 59, 3; Staff and Lieftig, 26, 4; Brenton Ramsay - Australia (Reynard 91D) and van Eeuwijk, 20, 6.
Bruce McLaren Trophy for New Zealand drivers: Wills. Tasman Express
Australasian Cup for non-New Zealanddrivers: Crampton.
Enzed NZ TraNZam Championship -
Race 1: Kerry Jones (Chev Camaro), 1; Shane Drake (Camaro), 2; Craig Baird (Camaro), 3; Grant Silvester (Ford Mustang), 4; Craig Gilbert (Chev Lumina), 5; Mark Porter (Camaro), 6.
Race 2:Jones, 1; Drake, 2; Silvester, 3; Baird, 4; Peter Knight (Camaro), 5; Gilbert, 6. Race 3: Baird, 1; Drake, 2; Porter, 3; Silvester, 4; John Harcourt (Camaro), 5; Gary Nash (Camaro), 6.
Enzed NZ TraNZam Championship points -
Class 1: Baird, 87, 1; Drake, 85, 1; Silvester, 81, 3.
Class 2: Jones, 90, 1; Knight, 89, 2; Gilbert, 42, 3.
Dunlop NZ V8 Touring Cars -
Race 1: Wade Henshaw (Holden Commodore), 1; Ashley Stichbury, Commodore, 2; Paul Pedersen t, Commodore, 3; Andrew Fawcet, Commodore, 4; David Barton, Commodore, 5; Mark Pedersen, Commodore, 6.
Race 2: Henshaw, 1; Paul Pedersen, 2; Stichbury, 3; Fawcet, 4; Greg Brinck, Commodore, 5; Michael Wallace, Commodore, 6.
Race 3: Stiichbury, 1; Barton, 2; Paul Pedersen, 3; Henshaw, 4; Harcourt (Camaro), 5; Gary Nash (Camaro), 6.
Enzed NZ TraNZam Championship points - Class 1: Baird, 87, 1; Drake, 85, 1; Silvester, 81, 3. Class 2: Jones, 90, 1; Knight, 89, 2; Gilbert, 42, 3.
FF1600 NZ Championship -
Race 1: LeRoy Stevenson (Van Diemen), 1; Phil Hellebrekers (Spectrum), 2; Daynom Templeman (Swift), 3; Brady Kennett (Van Diemen), 4; Matthew Halliday (Van Diemen), 5; Ken Smith (Van Diemen), 6.
Race 2: Stevenson, 1; Smith, 2; Robert Henderson (Van Dieman), 3; Nicolas Ross (Van Dieman), 4; Simon Richards (Swift), 5; Simon Gamble (Van Dieman), 6.
Race 3: Stevenson, 1; Halliday, 2; Smith, 3; Kennett, 4; Hellebrekers, 5; Ross, 6. FF1600 Championship points: Stevenson, 121, 1; Kennett,112, 2; Smith, 111, 3; Templeman, 82, 4; Halliday, 81, 5; Hellebrekers 74, 6.
Wayne Munro, firstname.lastname@example.org