PITHER PILES ON POINTS
Chris Pither got the perfect result on his home track when the ENZED V8 Ute Challenge came to the Manawatu this weekend.
The Palmerston North driver who now spends much of his time based in Queensland took a clean sweep with the fastest lap in qualifying on Saturday before going on to win all three races - one on Saturday and then two on Sunday - as he boosted his championship challenge after a rocky start to the series.
More importantly for Chris he now moves into second place in the championship points and has closed the gap to series leader Caine Lobb. Prior to the round Chris was third in the standings 142 points behind Lobb. He left Manfeild on Sunday evening second in the championship just 74 points in arrears.
Time and time again this season diff and driveshaft problems had cost 'The Gypsy' dearly but with new units installed this weekend it was a perfect round for Pither.
Saturday had seen Chris require just two flying laps in the Gallagher XR8 Falcon to set the pace in qualifying with a lap 1.244 seconds faster than the next best time. 'The Gypsy' followed that up later in the afternoon with a perfectly timed drive from near the rear of the field. He took the lead midway through the final lap to start the round with a race win.
The next race on Sunday morning saw a fierce battle between Pither, Lobb and Simon Beirne before Chris prevailed to make it two from two for the weekend. "Once I got into the lead I had clear track and didn't have to defend so I could run fast lines," he said.
Those results gave 'The Gypsy' pole position for the final race and again the Gallagher XR8 Falcon scorched off into the lead. It looked routine until a brief safety car period near the end of the race. At the restart Lobb launched an attack which Pither withstood before going on to record his third win of the round.
Pither was understandably very pleased with his weekend." It was a solid round and it has given us a crack at the championship. We are back in touch. The new diff and driveshaft held together." The home track factor was also in his favour as he alluded to after the final race. "There are tricks about getting around Manfeild and I used them." Pither also confirmed he had things under control despite Lobb's attempt to get by from the restart in the final race. "You can't pass around the outside here so I was not concerned."
Chris now returns to Australia to test a Holden Ute prior to the Clipsal 500 weekend in Adelaide late in March. Before that event he will return to New Zealand for the penultimate round of the ENZED V8 Ute Challenge at the Taupo Motorsport Park from 11-13 March.
Support for Chris in his ENZED V8 Ute Challenge title defence comes from the Gallagher Group, ENZED, KDTraining.com, Cairns Bins and Maldon Salt.