The penultimate round of the 2017/18 Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship saw a dramatic set of events, shaking the championship up. Now only three drivers can take the glory, and with just 69 points between all three of them, the championship will no doubt go down to the last race!
Saturday morning saw Taylor Hurst surprise everyone by stealing pole position at the last minute from Reece Hendl-Cox who was fastest for the entire duration before Hurst’s lap. Kaleb Ngatoa secured a front row start with second, while Liam Foster was fifth fastest ahead of then series leader Callum Crawley.
The afternoon’s race didn’t start off very well for Crawley, falling down the back of the pack while Ngatoa and Hendl-Cox pulled a gap out in front. The later phase of the race saw Hendl-Cox run wide and bunch up the field, allowing Crawley to sneak his way into second place by the finish. Taylor Hurst converted his pole to his maiden podium finish with third.
Sunday morning’s Race 20 saw drama up and down the field, beginning at the drop of the flag when Hendl-Cox failed to get away from the line, eventually getting going to just latch onto the very rear of the field. The next incident came on lap three when Shaun Logan ended up in the gravel on the exit of turn one, prompting a safety car to recover him.
The safety car allowed Hendl-Cox to regather himself up the front and upon the restart, he was back racing in the front. Liam Foster and Billy Frazer took over the lead of the race, while Ngatoa and Crawley battled behind them for the championship lead.
The racing was side by side, tit for tat across the entire field who were all battling for the lead. Unfortunately, the nature of the close racing saw an unlucky incident at turn five where minor contact resulted in Taylor Hurst arrowing across the circuit, collecting Brody McConkey and Conrad Clark along the way and taking them into the gravel.
Foster went on to take the win by just 0.092s over Hendl-Cox while Crawley secured a podium finish. Ngatoa crossed the line fourth ahead of Frazer.
The final race of the weekend saw the close racing finally boil over, leaving Ngatoa to walk away with the win and control of the championship. The boiling point was the start of the final lap when the top five fanned out four wide heading into and through turn one before settling back into a three-wide affair on the exit. Unfortunately, the trio of Hendl-Cox, Foster and Hurst all came together resulting in a spectacular crash which unfortunately saw Hurst retire from the race.
Just two corners down the road, Crawley led Ngatoa until the former missed a gear and Ngatoa was unable to avoid him and rode over his rear wheel which caused a puncture to Crawley. Crawley had to limp the car home to eventually finish eighth.
The championship is now wide open between Ngatoa, Crawley and Foster. Ngatoa leads Crawley by 26 points with Foster 69 points off the lead. With 225 points still on offer over three races the title fight is set to go down to the final race and with Foster being the only driver of the three to have driven the Pukekohe circuit it will be a really intense, dynamic and dramatic battle.
The season finale takes place at Pukekohe Park Raceway on March 31st to April 1st as part of the SpeedWorks Motorsport Championship. In the meanwhile, highlights of Round 7 can be viewed at formulafirst.co.nz/tv with full race replays available next week.