James Penrose and Billy Frazer have won the opening two races of the ITM NZ Formula Ford Championship at Pukekohe Park. The opening race of the weekend ended in bizarre circumstances while the afternoon race had the crowd on the edge of their seats.
Penrose took the opening race which saw just one racing lap completed. A clean start off the line saw Penrose take the early lead. Despite running two-wide through turn one through the entire field, no-one came unstuck or banged wheels.
At the end of the back straight, into turn five, Brody McConkey locked up and collected Thomas Boniface in an unfortunate incident. The contact turned Boniface around on the grass leaving him stranded while McConkey retired to the pits.
The incident prompted the release of the safety car as the car approached the completion of the first lap. Upon the restart on lap five, a technical fault with the track lights saw the yellow light illuminated whilst the green flags were waving causing confusion amongst the drivers.
Adding to the drama of the race, as the cars completed the lap they were greeted with a last-minute safety car, with the actual safety car on the circuit at a much earlier point than usual, prompting emergency braking from the train of drivers. The majority of the field avoided incident apart from Alex Hawley, who made light contact with the wall and Blake Evans who spun on the final corner.
The race then finished under the safety car, with Penrose crossing the line first. Zac Stichbury finished second with Callum Crawley coming through to third from the back end of the grid.
Billy Frazer would too move from the rear of the field to finish in fourth ahead of Bailey Paterson. Blake Evans finished sixth with Australian racer Andrew McInnes claiming seventh.
Ronan Murphy, originally finishing third, ended the race eighth after receiving a five-second penalty for a false start. Jordan Mountfort took ninth place with Kaleb Ngatoa, who too fell back after a penalty, took tenth.
Keith Miller ended the race 11th ahead of Cameron Tanner who finished well inside the top ten before receiving a penalty. Alex Hawley, Brody McConkey and Thomas Boniface all failed to finish.
Frazer stormed to a come-from-behind victory in the second race of the weekend. The race came down a last-lap battle with Penrose narrowly finishing second by just 0.82s.
It was on from the get-go with the top five cars all vying for the lead on the opening half of the lap. In what would be the first of many ‘escapes’ by the drivers was Murphy, avoiding the battling duo of Ngatoa and Stichbury by taking the turn five escape road.
Whilst the racing was tight, Penrose managed to hold the lead until lap three when Stichbury briefly got by this mornings race winner. This tussle allowed the top five to bunch up again and duke it out in a dynamic and exciting battle.
During all this Frazer had made his way through to the front pack from the rear of the grid and took the lead of the race from Penrose on lap six. It wasn’t plain sailing from then on for Frazer though as he traded places with Penrose for the remaining two laps before taking the win despite a drag to the flag from Penrose.
Stichbury would be the victor in the battle for the final podium stop with Murphy taking fourth. Ngatoa dropping two spots on the final lap and finished fifth with fellow Spectrum driver Crawley taking sixth.
Boniface and McConkey recorded seventh and eighth in their first ITM Formula Ford finish ahead of Evans and Tanner. Alex Hawley grabbed 11th spot ahead of Paterson while Mountfort won a close battle with McInnes for 13th. Miller finished 15th.