AUS Utes: Series Trans Tasman preview

Trans Tasman Rivalry Spills Onto The Streets Of Hamilton The Australian cricket team beat the Black Caps in their recent test match in Hamilton but this weekend trans-tasman rivalry will spill onto the streets of the Waikato city as the kiwis...

Trans Tasman Rivalry Spills Onto The Streets Of Hamilton

The Australian cricket team beat the Black Caps in their recent test match in Hamilton but this weekend trans-tasman rivalry will spill onto the streets of the Waikato city as the kiwis seek retribution!

The occasion is the Trans Tasman V8 Ute test series between the Australians and the Kiwis, part of the programme at the ITM 400 around the 3.4 kilometre Hamilton Street circuit.

The Australian V8 Ute Series is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year while the New Zealand version of the series has just concluded their third season. However both series are keenly fought with no holds barred racing and plenty of action. Add the intensity of a New Zealand versus Australian competition, place that competition on a circuit lined with concrete walls and there is no telling what may occur.

The New Zealand team is led by the newly crowned kiwi champion Chris Pither - 'The Doctor' - in his ENZED Falcon.

Pither not only showed great form to win the New Zealand title, winning all but one round, but he has also raced extensively in Australia including several seasons in the V8 Utes. "I've raced against their guys and I know where they stand. I'm looking forward to it. I'll be going out there with one thing in mind - to continue my winning streak. I'll do everything I need to do to win it for the kiwis."

While the 2008/2009 champion and the runner-up to Pither in this year's series, Caine Lobb, will not compete in Hamilton the effect of his absence has been eased by the return of the inaugural New Zealand series champion Matthew Lockwood, 'The Phantom' of Palmerston North. Lockwood burst onto the motorsport scene unheralded and has made a big impression, winning the 2008 series and finishing runner-up in the 2008/2009 championship. He has also excelled in other categories including V8 Saloons. He too has raced in the Australian V8 Ute Series on a couple of occasions including a recent outing when he was invited to take part in the "Ten Years of Legends" races at the Clipsal 500 along with Pither. Lockwood will dust off his championship winning Commodore with support from Styofit Underfloor Insulation for the first time in more than twelve months and aims to get in some laps at Hampton Downs prior to the weekend.

Also representing New Zealand are father and son Graham and Simon Beirne of Christchurch. Jnr Burner, Simon, has had a year off but returned to the final round of the local championship recently and promptly qualified his Team McDonald's Falcon on the front row of the grid. His father Graham contested the whole series in his John Jones Steel Falcon and at 62 years of age took third place in the series.

Colin Corkery of Auckland is another kiwi who has spent time in Australia. Corkery has been an impressive performer in both the Australian V8 Utes Series and the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Development Series and will drive his Supercharge Batteries Falcon at Hamilton.

Simon 'Sly Si' Grace has had an impressive rookie season and leads the remainder of the New Zealand challenge with 'Dirty Dave' Kernohan, Geoff 'Spence' Spencer, James 'Huggi' Urquhart, Peter 'Rocketman' Robb, Peter Ward and Steve 'Rusty' Elliott.

Tackling the kiwis on home turf are a contingent of Aussies featuring delightfully named Commodore drivers Kim "The Assassin" Jane and Charlie "Handelbars" Kovacs.

Kovacs and Jane came first and second respectively the last time they were in New Zealand and are keen to tackle the Kiwi contingent.

"New Zealand was one of my favourite events in my racing career, it was a lot of fun and I can't wait to get back there," said Jane.

Jane is a multiple NASCAR Series Champion in Australia and has placed second and fourth in the past two Australian V8 Ute Series while Kovacs was on the grid for the first Australian V8 Ute race at Adelaide in 2001 and brought up his 200th race in the series at Oran Park in 2008. During his ten years in the series he has frequently been a top five finisher in the championship while he has won races at most of the tracks the series utilises. Kovacs also holds the title of reigning Trans Tasman V8 Ute Champion. In 2006 the Australians brought their utes to Manfeild Park motor racing circuit in Feilding and Kovacs won the title. He returns with his Wilson Security Commodore and says he is "excited" about defending his international title.

Others due to cross the Tasman include Holden drivers George 'Hollywood' Elliot, Warren 'Wakeup' Millett and New Zealand born Allan 'King Al' Letcher. In Falcons come Robert 'Captain' Jarvis and Greg 'Freddy Willis. Also on the Australian team is the son of one of the kiwi drivers - Jeff Kernohan. Jeff, son of Dave Kernohan, was born in Australia and has joined forces with the invaders from across the Tasman.

The Trans Tasman V8 Ute competitors will hit the track for a 30 minute test session at 8.55am on Friday morning followed by a 20 minute qualifying period at 10.40am. The first two races, both over 10 laps, take place on Saturday at 9.05am and 1.20pm respectively with the third and final contest over 14 laps scheduled for 10.20am on Sunday morning.

The grids for the races will feature a driver from each country on each row of the grid, an innovation sure to add spice to this high speed trans tasman battle.

The NZV8 Utes Series enjoys support from corporate partners, ENZED, Radio Hauraki, Yokohama and Castrol for this season while the NZV8 Utes are managed by category manager, Jamie Kett of Event 1.

-source: ausv8 utes

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Series V8S
Drivers Colin Corkery