Chris Pither 'The Doctor' is the 2009/2010 NZV8 Utes Champion after a top performance at the final round of the series at Timaru International Motor Raceway this weekend
Pither had arrived at the South Canterbury circuit with a 40 point lead over the defending champion and closest rival Caine Lobb "The Ginja Ninja" of Whangarei. Pither began the weekend in great style on Saturday when he took his ENZED Falcon to pole position followed by two race wins. He sealed the title on Sunday when he finished second behind Lobb and his Mark Cromie Holden in the first race of the day.
The race was a reverse of the marble draw grid from the day before and Pither of Palmerston North had to come from near the back of the grid. He was in second place after three laps and crossed the line just .391 of a second behind Lobb, the result good enough to ensure himself of the championship.
Pither then finished the series with a flourish when he won the final race from Lobb. 'The Doctor' also lowered the lap record three times over the course of the round leaving it at 1 minute 13.129 seconds.
Pither who has raced in Australia for several seasons in Australian V8 Utes, the V8 Supercar Development Series and V8 Supercars was "stoked" with the championship victory. "The guys put in a big effort and we had a flawless run. I'm rapt."
Lobb finished runner- up in the championship, 48 points behind the 23-year-old Pither, after taking a win and three second placings at Timaru. The other championship podium spot went to Graham 'Snr Burner' Beirne of Christchurch.
Rookie Simon 'Sly Si' Grace of Christchurch came into the final round third in the points but had a diabolical run in Sundays two races allowing 62-year-old Beirne 'Snr Burner' to pass his points tally and take third place on the championship podium. Beirne drove superbly all weekend in his John Jones Steel Falcon accumulating a third, two fourths and a fifth placing. Beirne began eating into Grace's points margin on Saturday and then moved ahead on Sunday. Grace, who had a superb rookie season in his Wunderfloor Commodore, ended the series fourth overall.
'It was a really tough day," said Grace after Sunday cost him dearly. "In the first race we lost our powersteering fluid and our steering shaft jammed. Then in the final race I went to pass Mike Lightfoot and he didn't see me coming. I nearly put the ute on its lid." Simon just scraped home with a lot of damage including a snapped wheel.
Mike 'Buzz' Lightfoot ended the series with another great performance taking third overall for the round and promoting himself to ninth in the championship. Lightfoot had done only one V8 Ute round prior to this season but has been a high achiever in the three rounds he has contested with several podium finishes.
Series returnee Simon 'Jnr Burner' Beirne made an impressive comeback to the series when he qualified second fastest and showed good pace in his Team McDonald's Falcon throughout the weekend despite some mechanical problems. Local driver Chris Dunn scored a fine fourth place in the opening race of the round only to be a non-starter for the remainder of the races due to a gearbox problem. Jeff Kernohan also made a good debut, securing ninth overall for the round.
Geoff 'Spence' Spencer of Palmerston North efforts took him to fifth in the championship in his Commodore just two points behind Grace. 'Dirty Dave' Kernohan of Turangi in the the Kernohan Contracting Falcon and Peter 'Rocketman' Robb were 6th and 7th respectively both on 491 points while Mike Pero 'The Loan Ranger' was eighth in the championship.
The V8 Ute competitors will now contest the Trans Tasman Challenge against their Australian counterparts as part of the ITM Hamilton 400 from 16-18 April.
POINTS (FINAL - PROVISIONAL)
Pither - 756; Lobb - 708; G Beirne - 550; Grace - 538; Spencer - 536; D Kernohan - 491; Robb - 491; Pero - 465; Lightfoot - 341; Grove - 298; Elliott - 261; Ward - 204; Urquhart - 171; Dunn - 112; J Kernohan - 94; S Beirne - 79; Stewart - 25;