NZ Utes: Series Timaru preview

CHAMPIONSHIP SHOWDOWN AT TIMARU FOR V8 UTES Two young stars of New Zealand motorsport will battle it out for championship honours when the 2009/2010 V8 Utes title is decided at Timaru International Motor Raceway this weekend. Series leader...


Two young stars of New Zealand motorsport will battle it out for championship honours when the 2009/2010 V8 Utes title is decided at Timaru International Motor Raceway this weekend.

Series leader Chris Pither of Palmerston North 'The Doctor' in his ENZED Falcon and defending champion Caine Lobb 'The Ginja Ninja' of Whangarei in his Mark Cromie Holden top the point standings and have been so closely matched that they have actually tied for points at the last two rounds. When that occurs in this series the round honours go to the driver who has the best finish in the final race of the round. At Hampton Downs that rule worked to Pithers advantage while at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway in Christchurch last weekend Lobb was the beneficiary.

The duo arrive at Timaru with Pither leading the series by 40 points with 604 points to Lobbs 564. However one race win in the series is worth 39 points.

Series leader Chris Pither 'The Doctor' took the lead at the opening round back in October and has held it ever since. Pither has raced in Australia for several years, running with distinction in Australian V8 Utes, the V8 Development Series and the V8 Supercar Series. Since returning to New Zealand for this series he has won every round apart from the most recent one last weekend. There he was heading for another victory only to suffer a fuel surge problem metres from the chequered flag in the final race, costing him the round win. However he rates the Timaru circuit as a favourite and is looking for a good, strong round to seal the championship.

Meanwhile Lobb 'The Ginja Ninja' is the defending champion. He has been a frontrunner in every category he has raced in and last year took the Ute title with a stunning charge to the title over the last few rounds. Lobb admitted earlier this week that "it would probably need Chris to have a DNF (non-finish) to be able to be right in the hunt," for his second title. However the final lap drama last weekend shows just how uncertain motorsport can be. "Timaru has treated me well in the past, " said Lobb recently.

Behind the duelling duo there is another huge battle for third place. Series rookie Simon 'Sly Si' Grace of Christchurch in his Wunderfloor Commodore, another Christchurch driver Graham 'Snr Burner' Beirne in his John Jones Steel Falcon and Geoff 'Spence' Spencer of Palmerston North in his Commodore are separated by just 10 points, meaning another huge battle is in store. Grace almost secured his first race win at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway last weekend where he did a fine job whilst suffering from the effects of a recent bout of glandular fever. Beirne at 62 years of age is driving as well as at any time in his career and to achieve a national series podium would be quite a feat. Meanwhile Spencer is trying to make it an all North Island championship podium. Behind this trio 'Dirty Dave' Kernohan of Turangi, Peter 'Rocketman' Robb of Wanganui and Christchurch driver Mike Pero 'The Loan Ranger' are also engaged in a mammoth battle over sixth place.

The wildcard this weekend will be Christchurch driver Simon 'Jnr Burner' Beirne in the McDonald's Falcon. The son of Graham Beirne, 'Jnr Burner' has been a frontrunner since the inaugural V8 Utes series three years ago. However this season Beirne has been absent due to various other commitments. 'Jnr Burner' is really looking forward to his return and says he will do his best as always. "However I am aware there is a championship in place and this weekend decides it. I wish the drivers in contention all the very best." Beirne is proud to be McDonald's ambassador in the series and will be at the Timaru McDonald's on Friday to meet and greet fans.

Local interest is provided by Chris Dunn of Timaru who made his V8 Utes debut last weekend in the Bob Grove Falcon after Grove, a series regular, was unable to travel south. Dunn is running on a sheostring and only assistance from category manager Jamie Kett allowed him to stay on track last weekend after damage in the first race. Dunn, who is widely experienced in a wide range of machinery, has partnered John Bowe to a podium at Bathurst in a Mustang, and underlined his ability with a best placing of fourth last weekend.

Another to watch this weekend is Mike "Buzz" Lightfoot of Auckland who is proving to be very quick in his Falcon while 'Dirty Dave' Kernohan's son Jeff may well join him on the grid this weekend in his driving debut in yet another Falcon.

The V8 Utes will qualify for grid positions for their first race of the final round at 10.35am on Saturday morning. Later that day they will battle it out at 1.00pm in an 8 lap race followed by a 10 lap marble draw grid race at 3.15pm. On Sunday, the final day of the championship, the third race of the round takes place at 11.40am with a reverse marble grid over 10 laps. The season concludes with a race from a grid based on accumulated points at 2.35pm over 8 laps.

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: nzv8 utes

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Series V8S
Drivers John Bowe , Chris Pither , Bob Grove