Defending champion Chris Pither “The Gypsy’ took his first round win of the season when Round 3 of the ENZED V8 Ute Challenge was played out at Teretonga Park in Invercargill this weekend
The Australian based Kiwi has been plagued by bad luck this season and even this weekend had to overcome an issue in one of the races. However he got the round win he really needed after three action packed races.
Pither won the opening race on Saturday in his Gallagher XR8 Falcon to get his weekend off to a good start but then had brake problems in the second on Sunday morning. However by salvaging sixth place and then winning the wet finale he accumulated enough points to take the round win.
Championship leader Caine Lobb, ‘The Ginja Ninja’ of Whangarei, finished second overall to maintain his series points lead after winning the first two rounds in his Mark Cromie Holden while Simon ‘Jnr Burner’ Beirne of Christchurch took the final podium spot in his Team McDonald’s Falcon.
Pither had won from the front in Saturday’s race, crossing the line ahead of Graham Beirne with Dave Stewart ‘The Boss’ of Wellington third in his Holden. Later Graham Beirne received a 10 second penalty elevating Stewart to second and Mike ‘Buzz’ Lightfoot to third in his Falcon.
In race two on Sunday morning Simon Beirne was on pole ahead of Holden drivers Scott ‘Precious’ McKelvie and Peter ‘Kaos’ Ward. Beirne led away before an early safety car appearance caused by a Geoff ‘Spence’ Spencer and Mike Lightfoot tangle at the loop which sent Lightfoot off the track. After the restart Beirne continued on to win while Lobb and Chris Hanley of Auckland, who had been handily placed on the grid, worked their way into second and third respectively ahead of McKelvie and Ward at the finish.
The action continued right to the end of the race as Graham Beirne and Michael Morton collided as Beirne came back onto the track after an off track excursion. The damage to both utes was significant.
Pither had worked his way up from down the grid but he suffered a recurrence of a diff problem he had first encountered at the opening round which left him with next to no brakes. He battled home in sixth place to save some points.
Rain arrived just prior to race three making conditions treacherous as the field lined up minus Morton and Graham Beirne.
Pither was on pole with Lobb alongside followed by Stewart, Hanley, Simon Beirne and Lightfoot although Stewart started from pitlane after his windscreen fogged up.
Lobb won the start but Pither was quickly into the lead. In the conditions the safety car made a not unexpected appearance after Lightfoot touched a ripple strip sending him into two 360 degree spins.
Pither went on to win the race from Lobb while Hanley held third initially until slowed by an engine miss allowing Simon Beirne to get by. Peter Ward and Peter ‘Rocketman’ Robb held onto fifth and sixth after good drives in difficult conditions.
Pither was happy to have gained some points back against the competition. “We could have made even bigger inroads apart from race two.” Talking of the wet final race he said, ”Caine was faster than me at the final corner in the rain but I had good grip through the corners. We took no risks in race three.”
Lobb too was “pretty rapt.” “We finished with reasonable points and will be looking to do the same next week at Timaru.”
Lightfoot collected the Citizen Watches Time Out Moment Award for his ‘off’ at the loop in race two.
The next round of the series takes place next weekend at the Timaru International Motor Raceway at Levels on the outskirts of Timaru.