NZV8 Utes: Series Hampton Downs Sunday report

TIEBREAKER REQUIRED AT HAMPTON DOWNS It took the NZV8 Ute Series equivalent of a tiebreaker to find the winner of Round 3 of the 2009/2010 championship at Hampton Downs this weekend. Chris Pither of Palmerston North and Caine Lobb of Whangarei...


It took the NZV8 Ute Series equivalent of a tiebreaker to find the winner of Round 3 of the 2009/2010 championship at Hampton Downs this weekend. Chris Pither of Palmerston North and Caine Lobb of Whangarei won two races each and then finished runner-up to each other in the other two contests. That meant the duo was absolutely equal on points after the four races. Series rules state that the overall winner in such cases is the victor in the final race of the round and that gave Pither his third straight round win.

However there was plenty of action, excitement and drama before the duo arrived at that point. Pither, 'The Doctor' in his ENZED Falcon was comfortably fastest in qualifying on Saturday ahead of Lobb, 'The Ginja Ninja', in the Mark Cromie Holden. Lobb led away from the start of the first race but Pither got past on the opening lap and wasn't troubled from then on. On his way to victory Pither established a new lap record.

In the second race on Sunday morning Lobb started from pole with Pither down the field due to the marble draw grid. Lobb led away again while it took Pither some time to get through the traffic. When he did a wonderful battle raged. Pither got past on the run to the flag but Lobb won the drag race to the line to even the score at the midway point of the round. Consolation for Pither came in the form of another lap record, lowering his mark from the previous day to 1 minute 17.680 seconds.

The third race, from a reverse marble grid, provided the drama. Lobb sliced through from 13th on the grid to win the race but Pither had to overcome some challenges. As he made a passing attempt around the outside of two cars he was run off the circuit. He recovered well and came back to cross the line second behind Lobb. However he was initially penalised sixty seconds which dropped him to the rear of the field. However after an appeal the penalty was rescinded and Pither was reinstated to second, sending the pair into the final race with Lobb narrowly leading the point count for the weekend.

The finale provided yet more drama as again Lobb led away before Pither got past. The race featured a compulsory pitstop and that was the defining moment for Lobb. The Whangarei driver came into the pits in his own words "way too hot" and was faced with the choice of hitting the pit wall or going around for another lap. Lobb took the lesser of two evils - the extra lap - but it was a mistake Lobb estimated cost him 4 or 5 seconds. However he later frankly admitted the order probably would have stayed the same even without that problem. Pither went on to even the score with another win as Lobb fought back to take second place.

The series rules then dictated that Pither would win the round from Lobb and Mike 'Buzz' Lightfoot of Auckland.

Lightfoot had what he described as "a brilliant weekend." In just his second outing in a V8 Ute Lightfoot finished third overall for the round. "It's given me a real buzz," joked the man whose nickname is Buzz. It was appropriate that Lightfoot went so well as he is also the series sponsor (Lightfoot is the General Manager of ENZED). His ute is supported by Radio Hauraki, Volvo Penta, DHL, Jayco and Elf. "I love the circuit," he said, still clearly elated with his success. "The IPV team was on fire. They really dialled the Falcon into the circuit. Hampton Downs is techncial. I love it. It is a thinkers track. It is very different. It was great once I got my brain into gear. It made me feel young again." Lightfoot put together a superb weekend. He qualified 7th and then scored a 6th and 4th place in the first two races. In the third contest he made a bad start from 11th on the grid and drove an impressive race for 3rd place, a result he repeated in the final race.

Graham 'Snr Burner' Beirne of Christchurch finished fourth overall in his John Jones Steel Falcon ahead of Bob 'Sly & Dirty' Grove of Auckland in his Falcon and Geoff 'Spence' Spencer of Palmerston North in his Commodore. All three ran consistently in the top six all weekend.

Pither maintained his 40 point series lead over Lobb while rookie Simon Grace of Christchurch remains third in the point standings.Grace qualified third fastest in his Wunderfloor Commodore but could not start the first race after a brake problem surfaced prior to the opening race. He returned for the remaining races for a third, eighth and ninth.

Geoff Spencer is now just 5 points behind Grace with Graham Beirne only 4 points further back. Not far behind them Grove, Mike Pero 'the Loan Ranger, 'Dirty Dave' Kernohan and Steve 'Rusty' Elliott are all engrossed in a tight points battle in the championship.

The series now moves to the South Island with the final two rounds at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway in Christchurch and Timaru International Motor Raceway in March.

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 Chris Pither