NZ Utes: Series Hampton Downs preview

HAMPTON DOWNS PROVIDES NEW CHALLENGE FOR V8 UTE COMPETITORS The NZV8 Ute Series ventures into fresh territory when it makes its first appearance at the new state-of-the-art Hampton Downs Motorsport Park at Meremere this weekend. The new venue...


The NZV8 Ute Series ventures into fresh territory when it makes its first appearance at the new state-of-the-art Hampton Downs Motorsport Park at Meremere this weekend.

The new venue which hosts Round 3 of the five round series is sure to present unique challenges for competitors.

The series is delicately poised with Chris Pither of Palmerston North, 'The Doctor', leading the point standings after dominant performances at the first two rounds. Pither has been fastest in qualifying at both rounds before going on to claim overall honours, winning 5 of the 6 races. His closest rival, Caine Lobb of Whangarei 'The Ginja Ninja', broke Pither's winning streak in the final race at the second round.

Pither is looking for a solid round in his ENZED Falcon to extend his points lead over Lobb and his Mark Cromie Holden. That would ease the pressure a little as the series heads south for the final two rounds next month. At present the lead is 40 points and as Pither points out, just one race where he does not finish would see that lead evaporate.

Pither is yet to drive at Hampton Downs but he has seen the circuit and has formed an opinion of what it will take to be successful there. "I think its a set-up track, more technical to drive. Set-up and driver input will be important."

Defending champion Lobb needs a good weekend and says, "I have to try and turn it around. I need to be getting some points on Chris. It's unknown territory. I've had a test day there but there is no benchmark to measure times against yet." He describes the circuit as "cool". "It's short and quite technical. It is hard to put a lap together, the corners lead onto each other. If you get one wrong it snowballs on you. It is surprisingly tight, it's interesting. A lot will come down to gear ratios."

Simon Grace of Christchurch, third in the series points, says he is looking forward to racing at Hampton Downs. "I've seen other classes racing there on video and it looks to be an exciting, flowing circuit with heaps of passing opportunities. The infield section will give the Fords a definite advantage with the gearing they've got. The run uphill will suit the VE Commodore with its extra torque. The Fords and my older Wunderfloor Commodore should go well there." Grace, a series rookie, says the new track is "similar to Taupo which I'm used to now so it should not take as long to learn it."

Drivers such as Graham 'Snr Burner' Beirne, 'Dirty Dave' Kernohan, Geoff 'Spence' Spencer, 'The Loan Ranger' Mike Pero, Peter 'Rocketman' Robb, Bob 'Sly & Dirty' Grove, Steve 'Rusty' Elliott and Mike Lightfoot will provide plenty of spice in this action packed category while Aucklander James 'Huggi' Urquhart is one of those who have driven at Hampton Downs. "It's different. There will be different lines for qualifying and racing. The best lines are wide and controlled going in but there will be a lot of diving in under brakes during the races. That will mean defensive lines. It could be great for the panel beaters!"

A newcomer to both Hampton Downs and the NZV8 Utes is Dave Stewart of Wellington. Stewart, well known as a competitor in the NZV8 Touring Car Series, is leasing a Mike Pero ute for the event. "I've been considering the V8 Utes for a while and I am having a go to see what I think. It's a coincidence that the opportunity comes at Hampton Downs. I am sponsored by Altherm and I am involved in a media day they have organised here to promote an upcoming event. The two came together. I haven't even seen the circuit yet. I'm looking forward to it."

Testing for competitors in the 2009/2010 NZV8 Ute Series takes place during two twilight sessions on Thursday evening as well as on Friday. A 20 minute qualifying session will be held on Saturday morning at 11.00am. Later that afternoon the first race, an 8 lap contest is scheduled for 2.30pm. The second race is another of 8 laps duration from a marble draw start on Sunday morning at 9.50am. At 11.10am a reverse marble draw race over 8 laps will be held before the final race over 10 laps at 2.35pm which will be from a grid based on round points to that time.

The Hampton Downs layout in use this weekend is a 2.8 kilometre circuit with an elevation difference of 11 metres. The track features six corners, four right-handers and two left. It is situated midway between Hamilton and Auckland.

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

-source: nzv8uteracing

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Series V8S
Drivers Dave Stewart , Chris Pither