Break-through win for Phill Ross in the V8 Utes
After his C & R Construction crew had worked tirelessly to solve mechanical hiccups all weekend, Phill Ross won Race Three of the NZV8 Utes round at Manfeild. After solid results in the weekend’s previous races, Phill earned enough points to win the round. It was not such a successful Race Three 3 for championship leader Brad Kroef, sliding into the kitty litter on the last lap.
Sunday’s racing began with the reverse-grid Race Two on a warm and dry Sunday morning. Push and shove started right on the first corner when Paul Fougere and Bruce McRae closed in on Stu Monteith. Seeing the ute sandwich up ahead, Phill Ross moved around them and by turn two was in the lead having started 5th. Alex Fougere and Brad Kroef were not far behind.
Just a few turns later, Daniel Ludlam spun and Simon Ussher was caught in the crossfire. Just one turn later, Paul Fougere spun Daniel and both slipped back through the field. The V8 Utes were certainly turning on some nail-biting action for the Sky Sport cameras.
By the second lap Alex had found around Phill to take the lead, with Phill, Brad, Bruce and Greg in hot pursuit. Greg Kroef was having a hard time getting around Bruce McRae who was proving a formidable roadblock. It was another two laps before he’d overtaken Bruce to claim 4th.
Alex held the lead he held until lap 7 when a brake lock-up unlocked his grip on the lead and Brad Kroef stormed through for the lead. So Race Two finished with Brad Kroef the winner, Phill Ross 2nd, Greg Kroef 3rd and Alex Fougere 4th.
Afterwards, the pits looked more like a casualty ward with suspension arms on three utes and panel repairs on almost the entire field. With Race Three just 2 hours later, the crews worked in overdrive to get some wounded warriors back into battle.
Rain was falling for Race Three with all ten V8 Utes repaired and on the grid. As they accelerated away on the rolling start, Alex Fougere and Phill Ross ran side by side into turn 1, with Brad Kroef and Simon Ussher close behind. Two turns later, Phill Ross was firmly in the lead, with Alex Fougere was followed by Brad Kroef, Simon Ussher and Greg Kroef. Even as the Open V8s and TA2s began lapping the V8 utes, Phill Ross remained in control – and in the lead.
Then on the last lap, a rare slip-up from Brad Kroef sent him into the kitty litter and out of the points. So after ten faultless laps, Phill Ross stepped onto the top of the podium, Alex Fougere was just over 3 seconds behind in 2nd and Simon Ussher a well-deserved 3rd.
Yet there were more outstanding results not far behind them. After starting 10th, Blair Gribble-Bowring finished 5th – his best result so far. This drift racer loves the rain. The weekend was also Bruce McRae’s best so far, finishing 8th.
The NZV8 Utes now head to Hampton Downs 15th – 17th March with Brad Kroef still leading the championship, but some big improvers snapping at his heels just behind him.