Early honours in the Suzuki Swift Sport Cup have gone to young Wanganui racer William Bamber
The younger brother of A1GP driver Earl, Bamber took his first step toward the Swift Championship title in racing at Pukekohe this weekend.
Another Wanganui young gun, Matt Gibson, won the first race of the 2009-2010 Suzuki Swift Sport Cup on Saturday after Bamber and Christchurch driver Cody McMaster were penalised for jumping the start. Series rookie Gibson, who is the recipient of the $50,000 Castrol Suzuki Swift Scholarship, is now fourth in the championship.
The second ten lap race on Sunday morning saw McMaster and Bamber lead from the start with Aucklander Ben Dallas in third place. These three cleared out from the rest of the 16-strong field. Behind them Gibson and Scott Harrison were locked in battle for fourth overall.
McMaster’s lead was never certain, Bamber closing right up on him under brakes at the hairpin lap after lap and Dallas poised to take advantage of any error by either of the pair in front of him.
On the sixth lap Gibson and Harrison took their fight a further step, going side by side through the hairpin as Harrison tried to force his way through. A lap later he had made sure of the position, Gibson hanging onto the rear bumper of Harrison’s car but unable to regain his fourth place.
McMaster crossed the line first, Bamber just .123 of a second behind and Dallas third.
Fastest lap of the race was by Auckland driver Marc Spring, a 1:13.636. An increase in minimum car weight for the championship means last year’s race lap record, a 1:13.184 by William Bamber, is unlikely to be broken.
The final race was run in reverse-grid format over 12 laps of the fast 2.841 km circuit.
Hastings racer Michael Paaymans led off the start. He beat the category’s female racer, Katherine Collins, into the Stables corner while behind him Sam Robinson, Bramwell King, Craig Innes and Grant Ryan fought for track position.
A lap later Paaymans had established a one second lead while Collins was coming under pressure from a charging Innes, who has switched to the Suzukis this year after winning the MINI Challenge in 2008-2009.
Innes took second place going onto Pukekohe’s long back straight, leaving Collins to fight for third with Wellington’s Grant Ryan.
Ryan showed biggest improvement, slipping past Innes a lap later to hold second. Sam Robinson overtook Katherine Collins for fourth behind Innes.
On the next lap, young Whangarei racer Scott Harrison saw his championship aspirations derailed in the esses, his car rolling spectacularly across the infield. The crash stopped the race while Harrison was extricated from his wrecked car and the track cleared of debris.
“I don’t know all of what happened, the car was just off on its own ride out there, I saw sky and grass and then just dust. My back is pretty tender, the ambos reckon it will be worse tomorrow, but I’m okay,” he said later.
At the restart Michael Paaymans was swamped by the close-bunched field. William Bamber had been working his way through the field, and surged to the lead, Ben Dallas going with him.
Grant Ryan and Craig Innes tangled at Castrol corner, Ryan going off the track into the tyre barrier. Matt Gibson narrowly missed Ryan’s car as it bounced back off the tyres. Sam Robinson had stayed out of trouble and was third as the race entered its final laps, Shaun Lawrence fourth and close behind. Lawrence and Robinson entered the last lap side by side down the front straight, with Lawrence emerging into the esses ahead of Robinson.
Their battle had allowed Bamber and Dallas to get well clear, and they took the chequered flag nose to tail with just .224 of a second between them. The fastest lap in the third race went to Mike Turley of Auckland, a 1:13.848.
Gibson says he is pleased with his progress.
“A race win, fourth on points for the weekend and we stayed out of the way of the mayhem in that last race. That is a pretty good result I’d say.”