The second round of the 2010/11 IRC Series was staged at the Taupo Motorsport Park over Labour Weekend, with race fans treated to a stunning weekend in the Central Plateau with great weather and close, exciting racing
Though the Taupo Motorsport Park is commonly battered by heavy winds, stirring up dust on the circuit and causing changeable track conditions, the Labour Weekend IRC races were by contrast a picture perfect setting, with a glassy Lake Taupo and snow-covered Mount Ruapehu as backdrops to the action on track.
Ten classes lined up at Taupo with much interest surrounding the opening round of the GTRNZ championship, made up of the GT1, GT2 and NZGT classes, and the 20th Centenary of the classic Pre 65s.
The GT1 battle suffered when Andy Greenslade’s new Jaguar suffering a gearbox failure in qualifying and Nick Chester’s V8 Supercar pulled out of the event at the last minute.
This left Grant Brennan to take pole position from Cameron Jones and Craig Corliss’ ex-Brad Jones Racing Falcon V8 Supercar, but it was Corliss who survived the attrition of the opening race to take the victory.
Brennan bounced back to win race two from a resurgent Andy Greenslade, and make the most of the reverse grid handicap final race, making his way up to fifth spot at the finish.
Brian Gray’s Mazda RX7 was the pace-setter in GT2, winning races one and two despite Tony Stewart taking pole position. John Telford won the final race, while NZV8 star Clark Proctor showed his hand in his heavily modified Ford Escort, better known for its successes in the Dunlop Targa.
The NZGT racing was close fought with former Pro 7 regular Shaun Judd taking pole position and Kevin Hyde taking the first race win.
Local driver Brock Cooley rose to the fore in races two and three, winning both despite not finishing the opening race, demonstrating his home pitch advantage and keeping the rest of the 27-car field in his mirrors.
The Pre 65 celebration of the classes 20th Centenary didn’t disappoint, with three winners in three races, and another taking pole position!
Bill McKinnon took pole in his Chevy Nova, with Justin Haworth, Paul Johnson and Mark Bowskill sharing the race victories.
Such was the case at Manfeild’s opening round, it’s difficult to single out a driver who holds any advantage in the Pre 65s, despite the varied field of cars spanning from Morris Minors to Ford Thunderbirds.
Formula First points leaders Kyle George and Michael Shepherd picked up where they left off at Manfeild, putting daylight between them and the rest of the field of up and coming young drivers.
Shepherd started from pole position alongside Hamilton schoolboy George, and the pair pulled an eight second gap on the field by the finish, with Shepherd taking the victory by less than half a second.
When George suffered car trouble in the second race it allowed Ryan Hellier and David Ruthven to inherit second and third spot, and Shepherd made it a clean sweep in the final, asserting his dominance and taking a handy championship lead from the chasing youngsters.
Similarly in the Formula Suzuki class, Caine Lobb and Gene Rollinson continued their duel at the head of the field. Lobb held a considerable speed advantage for the majority of the weekend, taking pole position and the first two races, with Rollinson bouncing back from a DNF in race two to win the third.
Todd Sherley dominated the Sports Car racing, which race in conjunction with the Formula Suzukis, taking outright pole position and the first two race wins. Kevin Adlington won the third, with Sherley a close second.
Controversy surrounded the Pro 7s with series leader James Parker missing qualifying to rectify an issue with his Pro 7 Plus car.
Closest rival Dean McMillan took pole by over two seconds and won the first race from the returning Parker and series stalwart Myles Fothergill. Parker took races two and three to win the round and extend his points advantage further.
The NZ6 racing, made up of the Super 6 and HQ Holden classes, saw Shane Wenzlick and Adam Newell setting the pace in qualifying and heading the field in the opening race.
But as was the case for many other IRC classes at Taupo over the weekend, the Super 6 wins were shared by multiple drivers, with series returnee Boyd Norwood winning race two and young gun Shannon Coker taking the third.
Darren Swinburne made light work of the HQ Holdens, taking pole position and three wins, with Harrison Lingard, Jeremy Hoskins and Darrell Harris sharing the remaining podiums between them.
Ian Hayr took his second pole position in as many rounds in the Bridgestone Porsches, however it was Conal Dempsey who took two races wins, with Brent Greer taking the third.
Dempsey inherited a healthy points lead when Hayr failed to complete a lap in the final race of the weekend.
In the SS2000 racing, Justin Herbert, Malcolm Glen and Rick Bone set the pace; the trio qualifying 1-2-3 and finishing in that order in race one.
Rob Sutherland was the most consistent of the field in races two and three, finishing second to Andy Duffin in race two and taking the win in race three.
In the Super Mini Challenge all manner of the classic British racers took to the 3.5km Taupo circuit, with the van Swet brothers – Rick and Mark – occupying the front row of the grid after qualifying and finishing first and second in the opening race.
Tim Pipes won race two from Elliot Heron – the youngster who convincingly swept the Mini 7 class to take the championship lead – while Laurence Axcell took his second victory of the season with his win in race three.
The next round of the 2010/11 IRC Series is a Trophy Round at Hampton Downs. Despite the event not being for championship points, another impressive IRC entry list is expected at New Zealand’s newest race facility on November 13-14.