The motorsport championship season is getting into full swing, with one new championship just started and two long-running ones – New Zealand V8 Touring Cars and NZ Formula Ford — kicking off this weekend.
Former NZV8 champion Angus Fogg won the debut round of the Toyota Finance 86 championship at the new Central Otago circuit of Highlands Motorsport Park over the weekend – in a car he was not expecting to drive.
The experienced Aucklander had gone south to help English driver Chris Lewis with his Toyota campaign but then Lewis decided to hand the car over to Fogg, who won the first and third races at the meeting and enjoyed the close competition.
“The cars are so evenly matched that if you make even the smallest mistake you are instantly on the defensive,” Fogg said. “Miss a gear and two cars will be past you. It’s great racing.”
Young Wellingtonian Jamie McNee, who had been a front-runner in the single-seater Toyota Racing Series, won the other 86 race at Highlands.
The New Zealand V8 Touring Cars championship (formerly known as NZV8s) sees two reigning champions in the same team at Pukekohe’s Thunder in the Park meeting this weekend.
Australian Jason Bargwanna last season won the inaugural NZV8 TLX title for the fast new cars, while Kiwi teenager AJ Lauder claimed the TL championship for the traditional NZV8s.
Now both are racing Toyota Camry TLX cars for Richards Team Motorsport, which is based in Paeroa.
“It’s a last-minute deal, just put together last week,” Bargwanna said.
“I haven’t tested the Toyota but I’m confident I’ll feel comfortable in it because the chassis, gearbox and brakes are the same as in the Holden I drove last season. Just the engine will be different.
“AJ is quick and I’ll be able to give him some help, along with his uncle Paul Radisich.”
The Holden Commodore that Bargwanna raced in the 2013 championship is now in the hands of former BMW racer Lance Hughes, while Nick Ross returns with the Holden he drove last season and Shaun Varney moves up from the TL to the TLX class in the Ford Falcon driven last season by Haydn Mackenzie.
Lauder’s young brother Brad takes over the TL Falcon that carried AJ to the TL title last summer, and series chairman Ian Booth said there would be another eight or nine TL cars at Pukekohe.
More TLX cars were being built, including at least one Nissan Altima, but they would probably not be completed in time to race this season, Booth said.
The championship is contested over six rounds, concluding at the V8 Supercar meeting at Pukekohe on April 25-27.
Also starting this weekend, at Timaru, is the NZ Formula Ford championship, traditionally aimed at young drivers seeking to make their mark in the sport.
The early favourite looks like 17-year-old Christchurch driver Michael Collins, who finished third in the 2013 championship with his Van Diemen Stealth.
“We’ve lightened the car, stripped and repainted it.” Collins said. “We have another engine for this year which we are leasing and expect some more horsepower.”
Collins aims to win both the national and the South Island titles, which will involve a busy schedule of nine separate race weekends, up and down the country.
Attached photograph of Jason Bargwanna is free to use.
For full race championship details visit www.nzracechamps.org.nz