The drama during Round 6 of the ENZED V8 Ute Challenge at the Taupo Motorsport Park on the weekend featured more twists and turns than the tricky 3.3 kilometre Taupo circuit
Defending champion Chris Pither ‘The Gypsy’ won the round from series leader Caine Lobb ‘The Ginja Ninja’ with newcomer Andrew Waite ‘DJ48’ gaining his first podium with third overall in only his second weekend in the category. However Lobb of Whangarei maintained his championship lead after Pither was slapped with a drive through penalty in the second race of the round.
The fortunes of the main championship contenders ebbed and flowed throughout proceedings. Pither began the weekend with a vengeance taking pole position in his Gallagher XR8 Falcon in qualifying and then winning the opening race convincingly, breaking the lap record in the process.
After Saturday’s action Pither had made significant inroads into Lobb’s series points lead. Lobb could only qualify fourth in his Mark Cromie Holden and then came through to third place behind Pither and Christchurch based championship contender Simon Beirne in the opening race of the round.
That meant as the field lined up for Sunday mornings race Pither had put himself right back into championship contention. Andrew Waite of Auckland in the Ideal Standard Commodore took advantage of pole position to drive away to win the 8 lap race but much interest was centred on Pither and Lobb as they came through the field. They were involved in a tense battle until a tap from Pither resulted in a drive through penalty - one that he thought was harsh. That dropped the Queensland based kiwi down to eleventh. Lobb had continued on to place second behind Waite with Scott McKelvie of Auckland delivering another good drive in the ICOM Holden to place third. Another Aucklander, Mike ‘Buzz’ Lightfoot, was fourth followed by Graham ‘Snr Burner’ Beirne of Christchurch in his John Jones Steel Falcon and Turangi driver Jeff ‘Ripples’ Kernohan in a Ford.
With Lobb and Pither both well placed on the grid for the final race they were soon running in close company at the head of the field again. Pither led but Lobb seized the initiative briefly after a safety car period mid race. However Pither was soon back in front and led across the line to win the race and wrap up the round. Lobb was second while McKelvie completed an excellent weekend with another third place ahead of Simon ‘Jnr Burner’ Beirne in the Team McDonald’s Falcon, Lightfoot in his BSL Falcon and Waite who fell back with a lack of straightline speed.
Pither was happy with the round win but disappointed he did not claw back as many points from Lobb as he wished. Runner-up Lobb on the other hand was pleased to be heading to the final round with a decent buffer again.
Waite joined them for his first podium. “The best thing from my point of view was our qualifying pace. We were third fastest and quicker than Caine,” said the V8 Ute rookie who has stood in for Chris Hanley since he was injured in January. Hanley was at Taupo to watch the action and is making a good recovery.
Simon ‘Jnr Burner’ Beirne won the Citizen Watches Time Out Moment Award when he went off the circuit in the second race of the round on Sunday morning.
The title will be decided at the final round at the Hamilton 400 next month.
Series Points: (After Round 6)
Lobb – 1554, Pither – 1483, S Beirne – 1402, McKelvie – 1044, Lightfoot – 974, Spencer – 948, Robb – 896, Ward – 865, G Beirne – 698, J Kernohan – 688, Urquhart – 679, D Kernohan – 656, Hanley – 600, Stewart - 505, Waite – 432, Jarvis – 419, Grove – 164, Morton – 146, Pero - 75