Ashburton driver Kerry Bartlett made a good start to the 2006/2007 Kumho Sport Saloon Series at Powerbuilt Tools International Raceway in Christchurch on Sunday.
. Bartlett had set the best qualifying time at the 3.3 kilometre circuit yesterday and went on to provisionally win the round over the three races today. Bartlett and Mike Small of Timaru were the dominant drivers on the day, taking one win each. Both found it difficult to overcome their handicap positions in the third and final handicap race, Bartlett making it through to 8th and Small 9th.
Bartlett had pole position for the first race after his qualifying effort but botched his start with too much wheelspin. Bartlett's slow start allowed fellow front row dweller Small to get away to a good lead in his Nissan Skyline GTR with Phil Hood and Arron Black following him through. Bartlett emerged from the first lap in 4th place but by the end of lap 2 he was second and in hot pursuit of Small. However Small held the lead all the way to the flag with Bartlett in second place. After the race Bartlett said, "it's hard work to catch that GTR with that sort of head start"! However the Ashburton driver did have the satisfaction of setting the race's fastest lap.
Meanwhile Hood used the straight line speed of his EVO to hold off Black all the way to the finish. Black, the defending series champion, was mystified at the end of the race, his lap times slower than last year while he felt the car was actually turning in better. His Toyota Starlet also lost a side window during the race as the Bartlett Mazda swept past. However after the race he was promoted to 3rd when Hood was excluded for an infringement.
John Hepburn of Timaru made an impressive car racing debut as he swept through the field to 4th place. The former motorcycling and truck racing champion had qualified second fastest on Saturday but unfortunately the turbo boost light activated, negating his times and sending him to the back of the grid for the first race. After qualifying he said the boost light had gone on as he slowed down after setting his time. However he showed he will be a force in the sport as he sliced through the field in his first race car outing on Sunday morning. Fellow Timaru drivers Neville Stowell and Matt Dunn completed the top six.
The second race featured a reversed top six on the grid with Matt Dunn and Neville Stowell on the front row. Hepburn and Black shared the second row with Bartlett and Small next. Stowell got the best of the start leading away from Small, Hepburn, Bartlett and Black. Hood and Christchurch driver Brent Russell were off the back of the grid after their exclusion from the first race and had to thread their way through the field.
Stowell was still in the lead at the end of the first lap but Small was through at the hairpin on lap 2 although the duo battled through the next few corners before Small prevailed. Bartlett then slipped through into the lead at the kink on the back straight on lap 3 after Small's Skyline jumped out of 4th gear - something that happened on two consecutive laps. Blenheim driver Phil Hood stopped on the same lap, his Mitsubishi EVO having damaged an engine. The main interest over the closing stages was the battle between Stowell and Black for 4th place. This was resolved when Stowell stopped on the final lap without any gears in the Subaru Legacy he is using in the early part of the series. Nathan McAuley of Timaru had a brief off on the 5th lap while Glen Hodgson and Noel Parish had a coming together on the final lap.
Bartlett cruised to his Mazda RX7's debut win taking the flag from Small and the impressive Hepburn. Black was 4th and happier with the Starlet while Mark Robertson of Christchurch, Dunn, Aaron Yarrall, Raymond Hart, Brent Russell and Matt Edgar of Wanaka completed the top ten.
The final race was the traditional handicap event with Noel Parish, Glen Hodgson and Nathan McAuley away first. Hodgson of Upper Moutere led initially but McAuley was in the lead before the end of the lap. The trio had too much in hand and McAuley led to the flag to win from Hodgson and Parish.
Stowell and Robertson had a coming together on lap 2 dropping Stowell to the rear and sending Robertson into retirement.
There was some good racing in the main pack between Raymond Hart of Timaru, Dunn, Yarrall and Russell. This went on for much of the race before Aaron Yarrall of Nelson took 4th place, ending a fine debut that netted three top ten placings. Brent Russell was 5th in his EVO followed by Dunn and Hart, who had recovered from a quick spin. Then came Bartlett and Small with Edgar rounding out the top ten. Bartlett had a big moment on the fourth lap when he selected neutral at the first corner and had a massive brake lock - up as he retrieved the situation.
Unfortunately in addition to Hood, Garreth Mackenzie, Kieran Parish and Mark McEntee succumbed to mechanical problems throughout the day. The championship opener featured some good racing and indications are that the series will be hard fought again this year. The next round takes place at Timaru International Raceway on 29 October.
ROUND 1 KUMHO SPORT SALOON SERIES
POWERBUILT TOOLS INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY CHRISTCHURCH
1 - Kerry Bartlett (Ashburton) Mazda RX7 - 1.32.657
2 - John Hepburn (Timaru) Mitsubishi EVO - 1.34.280
3 - Mike Small (Timaru) Nissan Skyline - 1.34.439
4 - Phil Hood (Blenheim) Mitsubishi EVO - 1.34.918
5 - Arron Black (Dunedin) Toyota Starlet - 1.35.263
6 - Mark Robertson (Christchurch) Nissan Silvia - 1.37.274
7 - Aaron Yarrall (Nelson) Honda Civic - 1.37.345
8 - Brent Russell (Christchurch) Mitsubishi EVO - 1.37.347
9 - Matt Dunn (Timaru) Toyota Corolla - 1.37.403
10 - Neville Stowell (Timaru) Subaru Legacy - 1.37.724
11 - Brett Stevens (Motueka) Mitsubishi EVO - 1.37.843
12 - Matt Edgar (Wanaka) Toyota Corolla - 1.38.505
13 - Nathan McAuley (Timaru) Mitsubishi EVO - 1.40.781
14 - Noel Parish (Motueka) Nissan 300ZX - 1.40.883
15 - Mark McEntee (Christchurch) Toyota Levin - 1.42.008
16 - Glen Hodgson (Upper Moutere) Mitsubishi EVO - 1.42.191
17 - Garreth Mackenzie (Christchurch) Toyota Corolla - 2.19.643
18 - Kieran Parish (Motueka) Mitsubishi EVO - 2.51.335
19 - Raymond Hart (Timaru) Nissan GTR 6.02.757
DNP - Graham Beirne (Christchurch) Mazda RX7
RACE 1 (GRID START) - 5 LAPS
1 - Mike Small
2 - Kerry Bartlett
3 - Arron Black
4 - John Hepburn
5 - Neville Stowell
6 - Matt Dunn
7 - Aaron Yarrall
8 - Mark Robertson
9 - Raymond Hart
10 - Garreth Mackenzie
11 - Noel Parish
12 - Matt Edgar
13 - Nathan McAuley
14 - Kieran Parish
15 - Glen Hodgson
16 - Mark McEntee
Excluded - Phil Hood, Brent Russell
DNS - Brett Stevens, Graham Beirne
RACE 2 (REVERSE TOP 6) - 5 LAPS
1 - Kerry Bartlett
2 - Mike Small
3 - John Hepburn
4 - Arron Black
5 - Mark Robertson
6 - Matt Dunn
7 - Aaron Yarrall
8 - Raymond Hart
9 - Brent Russell
10 - Matt Edgar
11 - Kieran Parish
12 - Nathan McAuley
13 - Mark McEntee
DNF - Phil Hood, Neville Stowell, Noel Parish, Glen Hodgson,
DNS - Garreth Mackenzie, Brett Stevens, Graham Beirne
RACE 3 (HANDICAP START) - 5 LAPS
1 - Nathan McAuley
2 - Glen Hodgson
3 - Noel Parish
4 - Aaron Yarrall
5 - Brent Russell
6 - Matt Dunn
7 - Raymond Hart
8 - Kerry Bartlett
9 - Mike Small
10 - Matt Edgar
11 - Arron Black
12 - John Hepburn
13 - Neville Stowell
DNF - Mark Robertson,
DNS - Kieran Parish, Garreth McKenzie, Phil Hood, Mark McEntee, Graham Beirne, Brett Stevens