It was an unforgettable weekend of racing at the New Zealand Grand Prix event at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon. The Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship returned to the NZGP support card after missing the 2017 event and certainly showed why they belong at New Zealand motorsport's premier meeting.
Reece Hendl-Cox took pole position in a slippery early morning qualifying session on Saturday with Brody McConkey setting the second fastest time. Off the second row was SpeedSport Scholarship winner Conrad Clark in third with local boy Callum Crawley beside him. Billy Frazer’s form from round four continued over, qualifying fifth in the tricky conditions while Pukekohe’s Alex Hawley will start from a personal best, sixth.
The big talking point was then championship leader Kaleb Ngatoa only setting a time good enough for seventh with fellow contenders Liam Foster and Chris Symon ninth and tenth respectively.
Saturday afternoon's race produced an epic and dynamic battle between the top six cars! Brody McConkey nabbed the win ahead of young gun Billy Frazer and Callum Crawley. The top six spent the entire race battle side by side, exchanging the lead nearly every corner.
Reece Hendl-Cox had to settle for fourth ahead of Conrad Clark, Kaleb Ngatoa and Chris Symon with Taylor Hurst and Blake Evans rounding out the top ten.
Alex Hawley and Shaun Logan came together at the final corner on lap six, sending Hawley well wide and shifting the pair to the rear of the field. They wouldn’t be the only two to strike trouble there as Liam Foster spun and beached himself on the final corner in the same spot.
Sunday morning's race 14 saw SpeedSport Scholarship driver Conrad Clark claim his maiden race win by just 0.01s! Brody McConkey fell just short at the line, taking second while Liam Foster recovered crucial championship points with a third-place finish.
The podium three were joined by Billy Frazer in a four-way fight for the race, with Clark finding himself at the rear of the battle for the majority of the race while Frazer and McConkey traded the lead. While then championship leader Kaleb Ngatoa, battling with engine issues, finished down in eighth.
Brody McConkey was back on top for the final race of the weekend. Callum Crawley snuck home in second in front of Conrad Clark as the Taupo driver racked up another podium finish with third place narrowly beating Ngatoa on track.
However on the final lap Ngatoa and Hendl-Cox would come together on the run to turn two, resulting in Hendl-Cox spearing off the track and nudging the tyres. Ngatoa would eventually be penalised for the incident and was demoted to 15th after a 25s penalty.
Ngatoa's eventual finishing position was enough to give the championship lead to Feilding's Callum Crawley. Crawley now leads Ngatoa by eight points with Liam Foster a further 20 points behind Ngatoa and Conrad Clark 112 from the lead.
The class now has a small break before Round Six of the Championship resumes at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon again on February 23 to 25. In the meantime, round highlights can be viewed at www.formulafirst.co.nz/tv
2017/18 NZ Formula First Championship Calendar:
Round 1: Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon - 20-22 October 2017
Round 2: Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park - 17-19 November 2017
Round 3: Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park - 1-3 December 2017
Round 4: Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park - 2-4 February 2018
Round 5: Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon - 9-11 February 2018
Round 6: Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon - 23-25 February 2018
Round 7: Hampton Downs Motorsport Park - 9-11 March 2018
Round 8: Pukekohe Park Raceway - 30 March - 1 April 2018
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