They say that cats don’t like wet weather, but when the rain poured at Ruapuna last Sunday,
it was the red Lion that roared.
For the first time in the 2006/2007 Parker Enzed V8 championship, Holden Commodores swept the Race 3 podium.
Reigning champion Kayne Scott took the win in the reverse grid race, heading home Paul Manuell and Nick Ross.
On a streaming wet track where keeping a race car on the black stuff was as easy as chasing a cake of soap across a shower floor, Scott was in magnificent touch.He worked his way steadily to the front, making no rush of it, but progressing inexorably nonetheless, and avoiding the slippery-as-ice puddles that sent many of his rivals spinning out of contention.
Scott’s win in the wet race – the final of three that made up the V8 series round – combined with his second and third placings in the other two, gave him the overall round victory.
Add qualifying the Fujitsu Commodore on pole, and he had a pretty satisfying weekend, though he and the other Commodore drivers still believe the Ford Falcons have a performance edge.
To suggest that drivers were dreading the reverse grid race anyway would be an understatement. It’s not so much a matter of fear as worry about expensive panel damage – or worse – as the faster cars work their way forward among drivers not used to running at the sharp end and controlling the pace.
Throw in the heavy rain that began lashing the circuit shortly before the race start – necessitating a switch to rain tyres – and the sense of apprehension increased.
There had been debate all day about whether it would stay fine or whether the predicted late-afternoon rain would arrive.Media room forecasters with local knowledge were predicting that the easterly wind would send the rain – coming from the south – past the track.
But an unnoticed band of rain rode in on the easterly, lashing the circuit and officials declared the race wet.There was little comfort in starting off the front row and as the cars made their way towards the rolling start behind the safety car, first Ford Falcon driver Shaun Richardson and then Kevin Williams (Commodore) pulled to the side of the track and let the pack go past (Williams retired without completing a lap).
That left Andy Booth (Team Tasman Commodore) and Inky Tulloch (GT Radials Falcon) as the de facto front row starters.
At the green, Booth opened a margin on Tulloch and they roared down towards the first corner, the tricky left-hander that skirts the edge of the drag racing staging area.
Booth went to turn in and the orange and black Commodore just went straight ahead, apparently aquaplaning on the standing water in the corner’s apex.
Tulloch was off the track too.That put Mark Pedersen (United Video Falcon) in the lead, but he was another early victim of standing water.
Australian David Besnard (Hydraulink Falcon) was charging up the order, and Scott had begun the move to the front that would ultimately net him the win.
Besnard was soon in trouble, the yellow and black Ford slowing and creeping around the track, hugging the edge of the tarmac as the Aussie willed it back to the pits.
The throttle cable had come adrift from the accelerator pedal and Besnard was edging the car home on idle. He made it and got the problem fixed, but he’d dropped several laps and was out of contention – a bitter pill after his strong victory in Race 2 earlier in the day.
He eventually finished 17th – one place off last – though he set the race’s fastest lap, 1m 41.832s. No-one else got below 1m 42s.
There were spins and sledge-offs a plenty, but through it all came Ross in the #007 Holden, though Paul Pedersen soon took the lead in his Caltex Havoline Ford.
Former motocross ace Darryn Henderson (Commodore) ran third, ahead of Manuell, Dean Perkins (GT Radials Falcon), Andrew Fawcet (Falcon), Scott, Clark Proctor (Falcon) and John McIntyre (Falcon).
Race leader Pedersen suffered a blow when officials slapped him with a 20-second penalty for allegedly breaching the rolling start rules. He was opening a good gap on Ross and the field, but Scott was getting closer all the time and was soon in sixth place.
All Pedersen needed was a safety car period to ruin his day even further. And along it came, around seven laps after he’d copped the time penalty.
By then Scott was fourth, looming up on Manuell who had been pressuring Ross. Restart and off they went, and Pedersen slid off the track and out of the lead. Ross was back in the lead he had held so briefly earlier in the race, and Scott found himself back in fourth place after Perkins grabbed the advantage at the restart. No matter, Scott drove around the Ford and took the place back.
Manuell, meanwhile, had the scent of victory and was pushing hard to get past Ross.
While they were lunging and parrying, a gap opened and Scott zipped past Manuell into second place.
A lap later he went past Ross on the inside line at the hairpin and took the lead. He drew away steadily, opening a 2.2-second margin by the end of the race.
Manuell worked at getting past Ross, setting up a pass several corners before he made it stick at the hairpin.
Ross survived some tail-sliding moments under pressure from Perkins, and came home third ahead of the Falcon driver.
McIntyre was fifth, ahead of Proctor and Booth. Mark Pedersen was eighth, followed by Simon Richards (Falcon) and Cam Hardy (Commodore).
Scott’s drive was meticulously judged and executed with precision: it was a champion’s drive, making good use of a carefully arrived-at chassis set-up and of the Commodore’s good front-tyre footprint.
Photography by Graham Blow.
* Ford Falcon racer Angus Fogg won Race 1 from Scott and McIntyre. Besnard won the shortened Race 2 from Fogg and Scott. For more from the Ruapuna race meeting and other motorsport, check out the Motorsport section on our website, www.autotrader.co.nz.