FHOLDEN: Wills hot in Pukekohe qualifying

Simon Wills (Birrana Racing/ Lighting Direct - Reynard 94D) continued his Tasman Express Grand Prix Series dominance when he claimed pole position for tomorrow's preliminary 28 lap event, the precursor to tomorrow afternoon's demanding 40 lap New...

Simon Wills (Birrana Racing/ Lighting Direct - Reynard 94D) continued his Tasman Express Grand Prix Series dominance when he claimed pole position for tomorrow's preliminary 28 lap event, the precursor to tomorrow afternoon's demanding 40 lap New Zealand Grand Prix. Wills scorched around the frighteningly fast 2.8 kilometre Pukekohe circuit, near Auckland, in a sub-record time of 52.803s - an average of 191.1km/h - which is fractionally faster than the category's previous fastest average speed set at Victoria's Phillip Island circuit in March of this year.

New Zealand drivers filled the top four grid spots at the end of an incident free 20-minute session held in dry, cloudy and warm conditions. Last week's Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy winner, Hamilton's Andy Booth (NRC Racing/ Propecia - Reynard 95D), claimed second fastest time of 53.360s, to line up 0.557s behind Wills, with his NRC team mate Matthew Halliday (Empower/ Turners - Reynard 94D) next quickest on 53.653s. Invercargill's LeRoy Stevenson (Birrana Racing/ Lighting Direct - Reynard 94D) was fourth ahead of the fastest Australian driver Paul Dumbrell (Wynn's Racing). Dumbrell, like many, evaluating some ultra low-downforce set-ups on his hybrid 93D Reynard, and at one point actually tried a short stint without the entire upper rear wing element in an attempt to gain maximum speed down the long 1.3 kilometre, 165mph (255km/h) back straight.

In an ever improving sixth was Steve Owen in the Hocking Motorsport Reynard 98D. The young Melbourne based Aussie finding more and more speed with every outing. The same couldn't be said for his Hocking team mate, Western Australian Stuart Kostera, who failed to register a time when the car suffered a drive-train failure at the commencement of the session. Peter Hill returned to his regular 95D, the same car driven so well by Victorian teenager Rick Kelly at Manfeild last weekend, and this year's Silver Star champion was immediately among the top runners, although his team mate, American Emerson Newton-John, was once again struck down by misfortune when he too failed to join the qualifying session when his clutch failed for the second time in two days. A fired up Newton-John, who's luck must surely be due for a change, will be one to watch in this afternoon's all important qualifying session. Doctor Roger Oakeshott (Sportsmed - Reynard 97D), driving very well indeed, was eighth ahead of Canberra's Terry Clearihan and Ian Peters (Camtech/ Drake - Reynard 91D), who, after a week-long engine rebuild rewarded his hard-working crew with a solid top ten result.

<pre> Top Ten Qualifiers - Determines Grid for Race 1 on Sunday Pos Driver Team Car Laps Fastest Gap On 1 Simon Wills Birrana Racing Reynard 94D 16 52.803 16 2 Andy Booth NRC Racing Reynard 95D 20 53.360 -0.557 17 3 Matthew Halliday NRC Racing Reynard 95D 22 53.653 -0.850 17 4 LeRoy Stevenson Birrana Racing Reynard 94D 20 53.783 -0.980 17 5 Paul Dumbrell Wynn's Racing Reynard 93D 20 53.963 -1.160 10 6 Steve Owen Hocking Motorsport Reynard 97D 20 54.413 -1.610 20 7 Peter Hill Murphy Motorsport Reynard 94D 18 54.785 -1.982 16 8 Roger Oakeshott Sportsmed Racing Reynard 98D 21 55.431 -2.828 19 9 Terry Clearihan Terry Clearihan Ralt RT23 18 56.719 -3.916 18 10 Ian Peters Camtech Racing Reynard 91D 12 56.769 -3.966 10

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