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Tight fight for lead of North Island Formula Ford Series after Dowdall wins Hampton Downs round

A three-way battle is looming for the overall 2023/24 Giltrap Group North Island Formula Ford Series title after the fourth round was held at the Legends of Speed meeting at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park over the weekend. Sitting third placed heading into the round, a win and two third placings has seen Blake Dowdall jump into the lead, a narrow one-point ahead of Dylan Grant (Van Diemen RF03) with Zach Blinco four-points further back. With two rounds remaining, the series has a real fight on its hands.

“I’m stoked about it,” commented Dowdall. “Luck went our way this weekend. It was a little bit hard to get the setup right heading into the round but got some good advice and we went ok.”

While Zach Blinco (Mygale SJ07) was fastest qualifier, winning the $500 Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy cash prize, it was Dowdall who took the lead after an early safety car period holding off the charging pole sitter.

“The track conditions were changing after initially starting off in the wet,” said Dowdall (Spectrum 015). “With it drying out, this favoured my car setup as we took a bit of a gamble not going for a full-wet setup. By the end of the race, lap times had dropped by around seven seconds, so it worked out in our favour.”

Sunday’s two races saw the return of South Island champion Seb Manson (Spectrum 015) who won Race two. Unfortunately for Manson, a clash with leading NZ Formula Ford rookie Izaak Fletcher (Ray GR20) in Saturday’s race saw both failing to finish, meant that he started from grid nine. Mason Potter (Spectrum 015) initially held the lead until Manson got passed having carved his way through the field. Dowdall came in third behind Mason, banking important points.

In his first full season of Formula Ford, Fletcher made an impression in the South Island Formula Ford Championship finishing fourth over all and top rookie. He also sits fourth overall in the national championship, within striking distance of the overall lead.

“The third race was quite uneventful for me,” said Dowdall. It was a 12-lapper, so we had extra fuel on board. There were no safety car periods and other than passing the Historic cars, it was a relatively straight forward race.”

Dowdall again finished on the podium in third while Manson took his second win having exchanged the lead numerous times throughout the race with Mason Potter in a real see-saw battle. Potter finished second for the round ahead of Blincoe and won the NAPA Auto Parts Driver of the Day $300 voucher. Unfortunately for Grant, an electrical problem dropped him down the finishing order to seventh and out of the series lead by a mere one-point.

“We started the weekend in a strong position after setting fastest lap in qualifying,” said Blincoe. “After a poor start, I got back to second in the opening race then finished in fifth for Race 2 after a couple of issues. Then I lost fourth gear in the finale and limped home in tenth. Happy to finish third for the weekend so onwards and upwards!”

In the rookie standings, Toby McCormack (Van Diemen RF01 Scholarship car) has increased his lead to 74-points over Reagan Edwards (Spectrum 015) with a 237-piece SP Custom Series Tool Kit worth $3000 for the winner, provided by Napa Auto Parts and SP Tools. Shane Drake continues to lead the Class 2 competition.

The penultimate fifth round takes place at the Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in Feilding, 5-7 April 2024, and also doubles as the third round of the NAPA Auto Parts 2024 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship. The round will feature four races and will see a number of South Island competitors joining the grid.

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