FANTASTIC RACE KICKS OFF MANFEILD V8 UTE ACTION

Racing in the ENZED V8 Ute Challenge gets better and better. Today's opening race of Round 5 at Manfeild Park in Feilding provided plenty of action with the race decided on the final lap when local star Chris Pither 'The Gypsy' took the lead from series debutant Andrew Waite in a thrilling finish.

Pither was delighted with the result as it made a dent in the points' lead of series pacesetter Caine Lobb, the 'Ginja Ninja' of Whangarei.

The day began with Pither maintaining his record of being the fastest qualifier at every round to date. He took his Gallagher XR8 Falcon to a lap time 1.244 seconds quicker than Simon 'Jnr Burner' Beirne of Christchurch in the Team McDonald's Ford with Lobb third in the Mark Cromie Holden and Waite fourth.

When the marble draw was made for the opening race grid later in the day Peter 'Rocketman' Robb of Wanganui was on pole in his Holden with 'Dirty Dave' Kernohan of Turangi alongside in his Ford. Waite was third while 'Jnr Burner', Pither and Lobb were all toward the rear of the grid.

At the start James 'Huggi' Urquhart of Karaka burst through from the second row in his Holden only to be pushed back again in the opening exchanges. Waite was quickly into the lead in the Mainline Construction Holden, the Ute used by Chris Hanley until injury forced him out of the series. Robb was second with local driver Geoff 'SOS' Spencer next in his Holden. Pither and Simon Beirne were on the charge and the action as they came through the field was edge of the seat material. Mike 'Buzz' Lightfoot was in the wars however. He made contact with Peter 'Kaos' Ward early on, causing the bonnet on Lightfoot's BSL Falcon to fly open, necessitating a pit stop. Australian Rob 'The Captain' Jarvis and Urquhart were the next casualties, both getting caught up in incidents and losing ground.

Meanwhile Pither had sliced his way through the field to second place, albeit some distance behind Waite. Over the last few laps he closed in and through the infield on the final lap he made his move into the lead. He greeted the chequered flag to a great round of applause from his home crowd. Waite completed an excellent debut race with second place while Beirne got through to third position a few laps from the end.

The other local driver in the field, Geoff Spencer, crossed the line in fourth position. Spencer was very happy with the result as he had been Best Man at a wedding in Raglan the previous day and had only flown in shortly before qualifying. He credited his pace to experience in the Winter Series at the track in a 1.3 litre Toyota Corolla. Robb was pleased to hang onto fifth while Lobb eventually finished sixth.

Lightfoot had to pit a second time when the bonnet flew open again, this time smashing the windscreen while Graham 'Snr Burner' Beirne was struggling in the John Jones Steel Falcon, the vehicle far from perfect after a major shunt at Teretonga last month.

Pither was very pleased after the race. "We picked them off and I managed to chase Andy down just in time." Most importantly for Pither he had made inroads into the impressive points' lead of Lobb.

Waite had never driven a V8 Ute until Friday and said it was "completely different." "It is like chucking 13 years experience out and starting again. My goal was to make the top four. The top three are real quick. I qualified fourth and I was lucky with my marble draw."

Beirne too was happy, also having taken points out of Lobb. Meanwhile Lobb, the championship leader, was disappointed. "We struggled for speed and this track is hard to pass on. It is impossible to pass if someone is blocking. I went outside Spencer on the last lap and he ran wide so Peter Robb got past. At least tomorrow I will be on pole."

The grid from today's opening race will be reversed for the second race of the round at 11.00am tomorrow morning. That race will be over 8 laps. The third and final race over 12 laps is due to start at 1.10pm tomorrow afternoon.

The category enjoys the support of ENZED, UDC Finance, Radio Hauraki, Yokohama, Castrol, Citizen Watches, Exedy, Armorall, SCT and EFILive.

-source: v8utes nz