FHOLDEN: Pukekohne qualifying

Following first hostilities in official practice at Auckland's high-speed, low-downforce Pukekohe circuit, and in sunny but blustery conditions, reigning New Zealand Grand Prix winner Simon Wills (Birrana Racing - Reynard 94D) topped the time ...

Following first hostilities in official practice at Auckland's high-speed, low-downforce Pukekohe circuit, and in sunny but blustery conditions, reigning New Zealand Grand Prix winner Simon Wills (Birrana Racing - Reynard 94D) topped the time sheets. Fastest in all three thirty-minute sessions, the former Aucklander, but now Melbourne based Wills, threw down the gauntlet to fellow competitors prior to tomorrow's official qualifying session for Sunday's New Zealand Grand Prix.

After a heart-breaking loss at last weekend's Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy race at Manfeild, Wills looks set to become only the third driver to win three NZGP's. A victory in Sunday's gruelling 40 lap affair would see him match Australia's Jack Brabham and fellow Kiwi Craig Baird's feats and place him amongst the elite group of multiple NZGP winners.

Of those hoping to upset Wills' plans are last weekend's Denny Hulme Trophy winner Andy Booth (NRC/ Propecia - Reynard 95D), who finished today in second spot, Invercargill's LeRoy Stevenson (Birrana Racing/ Allied Concrete - Reynard 94D) and Auckland's Matthew Halliday (NRC/ Empower/ Turners Auctions - Reynard 95D). These drivers, all Kiwi's, filling the top four spots at the end of today's activities. The best of the rest were Melbourne based teenager Paul Dumbrell (Wynn's Racing - Reynard 93D), and fellow Melbourne based drivers Peter Hill (M ONE 11 - Reynard 95D) and Steve Owen (Hocking Motorsport - Reynard 97D). One point each of these can draw solace from is Wills, such is his speed out of the gate, rarely finds large chunks of time between the Friday and Saturday sessions. That said, it will take an enormous effort to destabilize his and his Birrana team's plans to secure a third New Zealand Grand Prix and Tasman Cup win.

Two twenty-minute qualifying sessions will be held tomorrow. The first will determine grid positions for Sunday's 28 lap preliminary race, the second, the starting order for the coveted 40 lap New Zealand Grand Prix, which looks certain to be threatened by inclement weather. [TB] Top Ten Combined Times From Practice 2 & 3 Pos Driver Team Car Fastest Session 1 Simon Wills Birrana Racing Reynard 94D 53.09 3 2 Andy Booth NRC Racing Reynard 95D 53.61 3 3 LeRoy Stevenson Birrana Racing Reynard 94D 53.70 3 4 Matthew Halliday NRC Racing Reynard 95D 53.96 3 5 Paul Dumbrell Wynn's Racing Reynard 93D 54.27 3 6 Peter Hill Murphy Motorsport Reynard 95D 54.73 2 7 Steve Owen Hocking Motorsport Reynard 97D 55.41 3 8 Emerson Newton-John Murphy Motorsport Reynard 92D 55.36 2 9 Stuart Kostera Hocking Motorsport Reynard 97D 56.33 3 10 Roger Oakeshott Sportsmed Racing Reynard 98D 56.60 3

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Matthew Halliday , Denny Hulme , Jack Brabham , Simon Wills , Steve Owen , Paul Dumbrell , Peter Hill , Stuart Kostera , Emerson Newton-John , Andy Booth