FHOLDEN: NRC Racing wins at Pukekohe

Australian Formula Holden Team NRC Racing has won the 2000 Tasman Express New Zealand Grand Prix along with the 2000 Tasman Cup when Hamilton (NZ) driver Andy Booth won the 40 lap New Zealand Grand Prix at Auckland's Pukekohe circuit today.

Australian Formula Holden Team NRC Racing has won the 2000 Tasman Express New Zealand Grand Prix along with the 2000 Tasman Cup when Hamilton (NZ) driver Andy Booth won the 40 lap New Zealand Grand Prix at Auckland's Pukekohe circuit today. (Sunday December 3).

25 year old Booth drove his Propecia / NRC Reynard 95D to perfection after taking over the lead of the race when leader and pole setter Simon Wills suffered an engine failure during the mid stages.

Booth's Team mate and Turners Auctions / Empower NRC Reynard 95D driver Matthew Halliday set the second fastest lap of the race (53.587s) in his relentless chase of his team mate, a late race spin costing him the chance to challenge for the win. The Auckland driver took a superb second place in the NRC Racing team's first ever 1, 2 finish and a popular national result in the country's most significant motor racing event.

For Booth this result has made him the first driver ever to win the Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy, the New Zealand Grand Prix and the Tasman Cup Series, automatically making the Propecia sponsored driver one of New Zealand's most successful.

For the Melbourne based NRC Racing Team, this brilliant result has capped off a fantastic year in 2000. The Melbourne based team scored five victories in the Holden Australian Drivers' Championship on their way to the runner up honours this season, then travelling to New Zealand with two new drivers taking the first and second Tasman Cup Series placings with a single point separating them, proving beyond doubt the expertise of this energetic team.

Race review 2000 Tasman Express New Zealand Grand Prix
Both NRC Racing drivers had slow starts to the 40 lap New Zealand Grand Prix, Booth dropping from 3rd to 4th into the first corner. Halliday also lost a position to 5th after his start, but it wasn't long before Booth - half way through the first lap, powered his way past Leroy Stevenson to resume the chase of Simon Wills from second position.

Wills was driving in his usual strong style, Booth refusing to let up on the charge to stay with the double NZGP winner as the race progressed to quarter distance. On the 7th lap Halliday passed Stevenson to take third place after a spectacular main straight flat spin by the Birrana Team driver, which allowed Halliday to carefully power past the wayward Birrana machine. Plumes of tyre smoke made the passing manouvre even more difficult, but Halliday was in no mood to back off in his chase of Wills and Booth.

By lap 16 Booth was six seconds behind Wills, setting consistently fast laps to maintain a strong pace to capitalise on any misfortunes or mistakes which may beset the leader. On lap 19 this strategy proved correct, Wills suffering a rare engine fuel pump failure, which saw the defending Champion retire, handing the lead to the Propecia / NRC Racing Reynard 95D driver.

This also promoted Turners Actions / Empower NRC Reynard 95D driver Halliday to second, the Auckland driver now given an even greater incentive to battle for victory with the appearance of the Safety Car after a spin by American driver Emerson Newton-John on lap 23 out of 40.

At this stage Halliday suspected a deflating rear right tyre and his NRC Racing crew prepared for a pit stop to change it, but once the safety car exited the circuit, Halliday radioed through to the team that he was able to drive around the problem, which turned out in fact to not be a deflation but a suspected shocker problem. The Aucklander then set about catching Booth and in the process set the second fastest lap of the race, a 53.5 second lap, closing the gap to 2.4 seconds by lap 30.

Halliday then hunted down his team mate and race leader Booth in the closing stages, but had to pass two lapped cars in the process. Once he had done that the NRC Racing pair approached further lapped traffic and while Booth was able to edge past, Halliday was shut out and sent into a spin in taking evasive action. Halliday recovered from the spin to not lose second position but the gap by lap 32 was 13.7 seconds to Booth who was commanding the race pace and could afford to take care of his car to the finish.

Lucky for Booth that he did take care of his NRC Racing machine as he reported misfires on the straights from his Holden V6 engine in the closing stages, but his cool driving saw the Hamilton driver greet the chequered flag to become a popular home country winner of the 2000 Tasman Express New Zealand Grand Prix, also earning the NRC Racing driver the 2000 Tasman Cup.

Halliday finished a superb second, one postion higher than his finish in the 1999 NZGP after a strong drive which has stamped his name along with team mate Booth and rival Simon Wills as being the finest young drivers that the land of the long white cloud has ever produced.

Testimony to this and to the team's effort in giving these two Kiwi drivers the best possible opportunities to shine in their major national open wheeler series was the fact that Booth won the Tasman Cup by a solitary point from his team mate Halliday.

Australian Paul Dumbrell finished third in the 2000 NZGP after a race long battle with Australasian Cup winner Steve Owen who took fouth with fellow Australian Peter Hill rounding off the top five in a strong performance.

ANDY BOOTH - "This has been the most incredible two weeks of my life!

"I came into this series hoping to raise my profile in my home country to help my American racing aspirations for next year and what has in fact transpired has totally exceeded all of my expectations.

"The Grand Prix was a tough race, I knew it was going to be difficult after not being able to get in front of Leroy Stevenson at the start, but I made a bold move around the outside of him at the hairpin and set my sights from then on to Simon Wills. He had already opened a gap by this stage and I set about doing the most consistently fast laps that I could to bridge that gap. When I saw Wills slowing on the back straight I continued racing hard as I was aware that my team mate was catching me.

"The Safety Car period closed everything up but I was fortunate to have had two lapped cars between myself and Matthew which allowed me to get away to a clean re-start and concentrate on maintaining the gap to my team mate to the finish.

"Late in the race my car developed a severe misfire at high revs and Matt was closing the gap, but the Propecia / NRC Reynard 95D held on to bring the bring me the most significant victory of my career. I must thank everyone at NRC Racing for their relentless pursuit of victory in this series against formidable opposition."

MATTHEW HALLIDAY - "I got the worst start of my Formula Holden career and it took a few laps to pass Emerson and Leroy. When the pace car came out I knew that it would be a straight fight between Andy and I but I had two lapped cars in front of me.

"I suspect that I had a problem with the left rear shock or a tyre deflation which was making the car very unstable. After a number of laps I changed my driving style to suit and started to catch Andy by about half a second a lap. Unfortunately, as I came up to the back of Andy, we were on the tail of two backmarkers, Andy went to the inside - and as I followed through, the backmarker cut across on me and pushed me up on to the kerb, which caused the car to spin which destroyed my chances of winning.

"That was particularly annoying considering that the car involved was damaged and should not have been there at all. To take second position in my national Grand Prix and second in the Tasman Cup Series was a good result and I can't thank the NRC Racing team enough for working so hard to ensure that my engine problems were solved. I would also like to thank Turners Auctions, Empower and all of our associate sponsors for their fantastic support in this series."

NRC Racing Team Owner Arthur Abrahams - "I can't find the words to express my excitement and exhilaration at finishing 1,2 in both the New Zealand Grand Prix and the Tasman Cup Series. For the drivers to be separated by the merest margin of one point at the end of this gruelling four race series is a testament to the dedication of the drivers and this fantastic crew. My sincere thanks to Andy Booth, the 2000 New Zealand Grand Prix Champion, and Matthew Halliday, the runner up in both the Grand Prix and the Tasman Cup Series for their fantastic efforts."


Both NRC Racing drivers Andy Booth (Propecia / NRC Reynard 95D) and Matthew Halliday (Turners Auctions / Empower / NRC Reynard 95D) approached the first Tasman Cup race of the day with increased confidence given the dramatic improvements gained by a number of engine, aero and suspension engineering changes made to their NRC Racing Formula Holdens overnight. The super fast Kiwi topped the Sunday warm up timesheets over pole setter Simon Wills, aiming towards strong racing performances.

The first Pukekohe Formula Holden battle started in warm and cloudy    
conditions with a light nothwesterly wind providing a substantial      
tail wind for the cars along the 1.3km long back straight It was       
Wills who powered off to the early lead from Booth and Halliday, with  
Paul Dumbrell close behind. A consistent 17 laps saw the NRC Racing    
duo hold their positions in the chase of Wills, when the safety car    
emerged after an incident involving Emerson Newton-John               

The race re-started on lap 21 out of 28, the field closely bunched, but second placed Booth was behind Ian Peters - about to lap him. In his rush to stay with Wills at the re-start, Booth powered past Peters prior to crossing the start finish line, incurring a five second penalty.

Halliday became progressively faster as the race entered the closing stages, setting mid 53 second laps and cementing his position in the top three all the way to the chequered flag. The order on track after 28 laps was Wills from Booth and Halliday with Leroy Stevenson third and Australian Steve Owen 5th.

Due to Booth's five second penalty being added to his race time, he dropped from second to fourth in the final standings, promoting his team mate Halliday to second and Stevenson to third. The performance gains made by the team were obvious - boding extemely well for their chances in the major event of the New Zealand tour - the 2000 Tasman Express New Zealand Grand Prix.

Sunday Morning Warm Up Report

NRC Racing topped the timesheets after the extensive changes made to the Reynard 95Ds of both Andy Booth and Matthew Halliday during the ten minute Sunday warm up at 9:30am. Data logging revealed Booth Propecia / NRC Reynard 95D thundered along the Pukekohe back straight at a top speed of 268kph.

1. Andy Booth - 53.437s 2. Matthew Halliday - 53.737s 3. Simon Wills - 53.882s 4. Emerson Newton-John - 53.979s 5. Leroy Stevenson - 54.275s

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Matthew Halliday , Denny Hulme , Simon Wills , Steve Owen , Paul Dumbrell , Peter Hill , Emerson Newton-John , Andy Booth