The first Manfield qualifying session to determine the grid positions for Sunday's opening Formula Holden race saw the previous day's fine weather deteriorate to drizzle and rain as soon as the cars took to the circuit at 10:45am. An early red...
The first Manfield qualifying session to determine the grid positions for Sunday's opening Formula Holden race saw the previous day's fine weather deteriorate to drizzle and rain as soon as the cars took to the circuit at 10:45am.
An early red flag to the slippery session due to two on circuit spins gave the NRC Racing Team time for a quick pit stop to change to wet tyres and to increase the downforce on both cars.
NRC Reynard 95D drivers Matthew Halliday and Andy Booth set a number of fast laps, Halliday taking the qualifying fight all the way to early session leaders Australian Paul Dumbrell and Kiwi Simon Wills.
Halliday occupied the second spot to Wills in the qualifying order for most of the session with his fastest lap of 1:09.110s, but the NRC Racing driver dropped to third when compatriot Leroy Stevenson posted a faster lap by a mere two one thousandths of a second (1:09.110s) in the closing stages of the treacherously wet session.
For Halliday's team mate Andy Booth, the session was tough. A change in suspension settings did not suit his driving style in the wet, visiting the pits to make subtle changes to gain speed. On his 18th lap he managed a 1:09.433 second lap, just over three tenths of a second behind Halliday, placing the Hamilton driver 5th on the grid for the first race on Sunday. <pre> The top six grid positions for race one follow: 1. Simon Wills - 1:07.618 (NZ) 2. Leroy Stevenson - 1:09.110 (NZ) 3. Matthew Halliday - 1:09.112 (NZ) 4. Paul Dumbrell - 1:09.246 (AUS) 5. Andy Booth - 1:09.433 (NZ) 6. Emerson Newton-John - 1:09.752 (USA)
</pre> The exciting second session started at 1:55pm in cool and overcast conditions, the circuit totally dried out after the morning's downpour, allowing the NRC Racing Team drivers to drive their Reynard 95D's to front row starting positions for Sunday's main race - the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy.
The twenty minute session saw the leaderboard change dramatically with six drivers sharing the top three positions until the dying moments. 25 year old Andy Booth displayed his skill along with the dramatic improvements the team had made with his car to qualify second behind Simon Wills, with his fastest lap of 1:02.075s.
21 year old Matthew Halliday was also impressive throughout the session, missing out on a front row start to his team mate by a mere 6/100ths of a second to claim the third spot on Sunday's second race starting grid at Manfield. <pre> The top six grid positions for the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy (Race 2) 1. Simon Wills - 1:01.236s (NZ) 2. Andy Booth - 1:02.075s (NZ) 3. Matthew Halliday - 1:02.131s (NZ) 4. Rick Kelly - 1:02.157s (AUS) 5. Leroy Stevenson - 1:02.202s (NZ) 6. Paul Dumbrell - 1:03.225s (AUS)
</pre> ANDY BOOTH - "Starting from the front row of one of my country's major races of the year is fantastic result for me and the team. We compromised between our two testing session set ups yesterday and it paid off well. The car was improving with each lap on the circuit as the new tyres came up to temperature. The major improvements that we have found were in the medium to high speed corners but the car was a little unstable through the esses and the hairpin. We know what to do to get the car right and I have no doubt that we will be racing to win here at Manfield tomorrow."
MATTHEW HALLIDAY - "I struggled with power down (traction under acceleration) problems throughout the session. This held me up on the corner exits and I am sure that without this problem you would have seen an NRC Racing 1-2 in qualifying today. To qualify third was good given the circumstances. The team will work towards finding the solution that we will test out during the warm up tomorrow."
New Zealand motor racing fans can look forward to the fast open wheeler racing action at Manfield Park with the warm up scheduled for 10:30am, the 20 lap first Tasman Cup race at 12:40pm and the 30 lap Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy Race at 4:15pm.