Alexandra Whitley gives us a review of her V8 Utes round at the NZ Grand Prix meeting over the weekend……
The New Zealand Grand Prix took place in Manfeild over the weekend of the 9-11 February, where round 2 for the NZ V8 utes were to take place. I was unsure even the night before I left that I would pull enough budget together to make the round, but with my determination and never give up attitude I was able to scrape through thanks to help from within the series, business people, friends and LDV New Zealand and re-name my Holden the LDV Porter Group V8 ute.
I travelled to Manfeild the week prior to the event to get some time in the seat after our long Christmas break, and to make sure I had a handle on the track as I had only raced their once before.
We don’t get practice at the event which helps to cut costs, so we had qualifying first up on Saturday morning. Sitting sixth all session I was comfortable we would move forward and decided to pull in and save our tyres. With two laps to go I was pipped by less than a tenth of a second which pushed me back to eighth in the 17 car field.
Race one wasn’t until 6pm that afternoon and the rain was threatening, however it held off and we had a dry race. Starting from eighth on the grid and getting a great start I then got boxed in and by the end of the lap I had dropped back to 11th place. Talk about giving myself a challenge! I pushed forward making some great passing manoeuvres and got back to eighth place. There were two penalties given further up the field which moved me up to sixth. We showed great speed and were only 0.2 of a second from the fastest lap time of the race.
Our next race was reverse top 10 grid which meant I started from fifth and on the inside of the track.
Red lights out and go! I got off to an awesome start and had the jump on the ute in front, trying to go right up the inside he moved over I swung back to the left and round the outside, but was on the dirty side of the track and was hustled back to ninth. I put my head down kept out of trouble and took every opportunity. I was charging forward and with two laps to go, about 20m from third place, I set the fastest lap of the race. I was able to catch him by the last turn and unfortunately ran out of laps to get by. We showed some serious speed and race craft and it was so much fun carving through the field to finished fourth.
The final race was hours later, being the Grand Prix there were lots of classes, and waiting. I was interviewed in the corporate tent which was a great opportunity to thank my sponsors. The top eigth utes were so close with only a few points between us all. I started from sixth and with the speed I had shown in race two I was pumped. I got another great start and within the first laps some quick reactions got me out of trouble and avoided crashing. I had my nose in here and there, but the LDV Porter Group ute wasn’t 100%. It was a really tough race and I drove my heart out to finish seventh.
I finished in front of where I had qualified every race and finished 6th overall. I am proud to come away with a clean car, have a fastest lap of the race and some great finishes which keeps me in the hunt for the title.
I cannot thank my sponsors and all the people who have helped out in anyway and for all your support. Raising the budget to make the step into the V8 Ute has been extremely tough.