FHOLDEN: Manfield qualifying

A morning downpour immediately prior to today's first qualifying for tomorrow's opening Tasman Express Grand Prix round at Manfield NZ could do nothing to stop two-time Tasman champion Simon Wills (Birrana Racing - Reynard 94D) from setting the ...

A morning downpour immediately prior to today's first qualifying for tomorrow's opening Tasman Express Grand Prix round at Manfield NZ could do nothing to stop two-time Tasman champion Simon Wills (Birrana Racing - Reynard 94D) from setting the fastest lap and pole position. On a track streaming with water, Wills set a stunning 1:07.61s time to claim the coveted pole for tomorrow's preliminary race to the prestigious Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy.

The session started on a greasy track and with all drivers on slicks, drama struck early. Ian Peters, Rick Kelly and Steve Owen all spinning out on their out lap's. Peters and Kelly rejoined but Owen was out with suspension failure, which was a shame as the talented Aussie youngster is a wet-weather demon and he would take no further part in the session. The remainder of the field chose to change to full wets as the weather intensified and 18-year-old Paul Dumbrell was the first driver to record a time. Dumbrell actually sat fastest until Wills took pole away from him, but the Wynn's driver was ousted by an engine problem and retired to the paddock. He did, however, just manage to cling on to fourth fastest time.

Making it an all Birrana front row was LeRoy Stevenson who whittled his times down to finish the session 1.4s behind team mate Wills. Matthew Halliday wound up third to make it three wet-footed Kiwi's in the top three spots, with Dumbrell the first of the Aussies. Andy Booth was fifth, executing four spins on his way, and narrowly held off American driver Emerson Newton-John. Newton-John's Murphy Motorsport team only just managed to get him into the session after an all-night engine change, and with the Malibu based driver ending the session in the tyre-wall the weary crew were in for yet more hard work. Rick Kelly was seventh in his first outing in the wet ahead of Terry Clearihan in a surprise eighth place, claiming pole in the Silver Star Class in the process. The second twenty-minute qualifying session to determine the line-up for tomorrow's feature race will take place at 1.55pm this afternoon.

Top Ten Qualifiers - Determines Grid for Race 1 on Sunday <pre> Pos Driver Team Car Laps Fastest On 1 Simon Wills Birrana Racing Reynard 94D 17 1:07.618 16 2 LeRoy Stevenson Birrana Racing Reynard 94D 18 1:09.110 15 3 Matthew Halliday NRC Racing Reynard 95D 17 1:09.112 13 4 Paul Dumbrell Wynns Racing Reynard 93D 10 1:09.246 7 5 Andy Booth NRC Racing Reynard 95D 18 1:09.433 17 6 Emerson Newton-John Greg Murphy Racing Reynard 92D 16 1:09.752 13 7 Rick Kelly Greg Murphy Racing Reynard 95D 18 1:10.608 16 8 Terry Clearihan Terry Clearihan Ralt RT23 12 1:12.865 9 9 Stuart Kostera Hocking Motorsport Reynard 97D 13 1:14.345 12 10 Roger Oakeshott Sportsmed Racing Reynard 98D 18 1:14.499 16

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Matthew Halliday , Denny Hulme , Greg Murphy , Rick Kelly , Simon Wills , Steve Owen , Paul Dumbrell , Stuart Kostera , Emerson Newton-John , Andy Booth