Former NZ V8 champion Paul Manuell will be behind the wheel of a Ford for the season finale in Taupo on 20 and 21 March, and at the ITM 400 Supercar event in Hamilton starting 16 April
Manuell, who’s been assisting series officials with the evaluation of a new one-make engine block – essentially a Ford – for the BNT-backed racing series, says the opportunity cam out of the blue.
“We’ve been reviewing our options for some time now, and evaluating all opportunities for next season, because the pending rule changes for both makes are under scrutiny at this time. After 15 consecutive seasons running one of the top Holdens in the series, we’ve wondered if it was time to see what the fuss with the Fords is all about. This is an ideal opportunity to evaluate the differences between the makes under the current rules and identify where the Holden is currently lacking or the Ford has an edge.
“The chance to drive the Ford in the season’s last two events – Taupo’s NZ V8 series finale and Hamilton’s ITM 400 – came completely from leftfield, thanks to Peter Cunliffe of Autotek Engineering in Christchurch and Dean Howard of New Balance Shoes.
“We will utilise the engine I’ve been running for the last two rounds without incurring any penalties, and thoroughly check the set-up before heading to Taupo later this month.”
Manuell says a mid-season change is never ideal.
“However this is an opportunity to actually race a new car in the heat of competition before any firm decision to swap from Holden to Ford is made.
“At this point, it’s just for these two events, and I’m very excited about the prospects with this car – I am a race driver through and through and am really looking forward to having a serious crack in a new car,” says an enthusiastic Manuell.
“This is a significant change of direction; we will go to Taupo with a clean sheet of paper and it is great to be able to provide our valued sponsor group with a fresh approach. There’s no doubt the chance to drive the Autotek Ford will assist us in making decisions for the 2010-11 season.
Manuell says his East Tamaki business, Eastern Automotive Performance Centre is often perceived to be a Holden-only set-up. “The fact is we offer performance enhancements for both Ford and Holden, so I’m equally happy to be linked with either marque.”