Wanganui-based veteran Selby Allison strengthened his grip on the points lead over the weekend when he took another three wins from three starts at Pukekohe.
Allison lead all but 3 laps over the weekend to extend his points lead over his nearest rival, Ian Foster, to 52 points. Allison drove smooth, calm races at the front of the pack and was never seriously threatened. Allison has won the last six races and looks to be firmly on target for his first championship win - even at this early stage.
Qualifying start with a bang - literally - for Sabre team mates Stefan Webling and Matthew Stubbs. Five minutes into the session the two collided at the start/finish line in spectacular fashion. Stubbs' car was thrown up into the air, narrowly missing the start/finish flag point, only to come back down in front of Webling. The two cars then impacted the barriers further down the track eventually coming to a stop about 250 metres past the start/finish line. Webling's car ended up on the track, whereas Stubbs car came to a halt off the track on the infield. Miraculously both drivers were unharmed. Others had been caught up in the incident, Speedsport Start of Tomorrow Scholarship winner Alastair Wootten was unable to stop in time and hit the back of Bryan McConkey's car. McConkey's qualifying was over with left rear damage, but Wootten was able to take part in the restarted session once his nose cone was re-fitted.
Once the session was restarted it was business as usual for Allison. Pole position dutifully fell his way with a time of 1:14.865, making him the only driver to break the 1:15 barrier.
The grid was a little empty in places as the field formed up for race 1. Stubbs' car was too badly damaged to make the first race and Webling had been stood down for the weekend - for precautionary medical reasons - when he admitted to having a headache after his qualifying crash.
As the lights went out it became apparent that Allison would not be able to run away from the field as he'd done at Manfeild. Right off the line a pack of five other cars jostled around behind Allison and it was to stay that way for most of the race, although Fountain, who was running in that chasing pack, retired with a suspected blown engine with only three laps run. Fountain's misfortune left Allison, Hardy, Foster, Lobb and Shepherd fighting position themselves for the final few laps.
As the chequered flag fell it was Allison who took the win from a determined Hardy. Hardy had perhaps performed the most amazing feat of the race, managing to stay in second the entire time despite repeated pressure from Foster. Lobb came home third ahead of Foster, who in turn had Shepherd following him. The margin from first to fifth was .796 seconds. A typically close Pukekohe finish.
Contrasting the close finish up front, the gap back to Bryan McConkey was a whopping 19.2 seconds. McConkey had driven a lonely race in 6th, a few seconds ahead of the second chasing pack of eight cars.
The second chasing pack had been having their own titanic battle with positions in a constant state of flux throughout. Bradley McDonald won the battle to finish 7th, ahead of Jamie McNee, Dom Kalasih, Dave Scammell, Robin Bennett, Phil Abel, Darren Henderson and David Ruthven. Chad Ace and Peter Dommett were next home, followed by Alastair Wootten, who's Sabre was suffering from temperature problems.
There were two runners classified as non-finishers. Zayne Martin and Ben Poulsen had both been plagued by mechanical gremlins since qualifying and both retired from the race early on in the proceedings.
Race two set out in much the same way race 1 did, although this time there would be no significantly large gaps right back through to 13th place. The race was slowed by a safety car period after only a few laps. Simon Hardy had crashed into the tyres entering the back straight. Peter Domett spun in avoidance and started a chain reaction that also took Darren Henderson and David Ruthven out of the race. Ruthven, in particular, making hard contact with Henderson's car. Hardy was able to make some very quick track-side repairs to his car during the first safety car lap, and continued on to join the rear of the field.
After the restart, Allision held on to take the victory from an aggressive Foster. The margin a mere 97 hundredths of a second. Caine Lobb once again took third place, this time from Michael Shepherd. Bryan McConkey had stayed with the leading pack this time to finish in fifth.
Next came Alastair Wootten, who seemed to have overcome his temperature issues from race 1, followed by Sabre team mate Chad Ace, Dom Kalasih, Jamie McNee, Dave Scammell, Bradley McDonald, Phil Abel and Robin Bennett. The margin back to Bennett's eventual finishing position of 13th place was 9.23 second.
Peter Domett was next home in 14th, followed by Matthew Stubbs, who was struggling with his car after it had been rebuilt from his qualifying accident.
Sixteenth place was credited to Hardy. He had actually fought his way back up to eighth but was adjudged to have infringed on the rules during the restart after the safety car period. A ten second penalty was the punishment handed out.
Ben Poulsen, content just to have finished after his troubles earlier on, rounded out the field in his Challenge.
Allison had things a little easier in race 3, winning by 1.2 seconds. Behind Allison things were as tough as ever with the five chasing cars all within .6 of a second of oneanother for the entire race. Heading the pack at the line was Ian Foster, followed by Caine Lobb, Michael Shepherd, Simon Hardy and Bryan McConkey.
Alastair Wootten was next across the line, some 8 seconds behind the chasing pack. Wootten's weekend had been beset with engine troubles and he had been nursing his car for much of the meeting. 7th place was a good result given the circumstances the young Whangaparaoa driver had to work with.
A further 8 seconds back came Bradley McDonald, followed by Chad Ace, Dave Scammell, Dom Kalasih, Jamie McNee, Darren Henderson, Robin Bennett, Peter Domett and David Ruthven.
Zyane Martin registered his third DNF for the weekend, despite work having been done to alleviate his car's problems. Ben Poulsen also had issues (although they were found to be minor later on) and failed to finish. Matthew Stubbs joined Poulsen and Martin with a DNF when his accelerator pedal broke with just over one lap to go, leaving him stranded on the back straight.
With 3 of 8 rounds now complete, Allison holds a solid 52 point lead over Ian Foster. Michael Shepherd holds onto third a further 40 behind Foster. Caine Lobb sits in fourth only 5 behind Shepherd. Alastair Wootten leads the rookie standings in fifth place ahead of Simon Hardy in sixth.
The next event on the Formula First calendar is round 4 of the National Championship, to be held at Pukekohe on January the 14th.
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