Andrew Waite of Auckland took the honours at the opening round of the 2011/2012 UDC V8 Ute Championship at Pukekohe Park Raceway, south of Auckland this weekend
It was a typically exciting weekend of UDC V8 Ute action. The first two races produced their own share of excitement before a huge accident in diabolical conditions curtailed the final race.
Waite, 'DJ48', won the round by virtue of setting the fastest time in qualifying, winning the opening race on Saturday followed by a fourth from the back of the grid in the second race on Sunday morning. He was classified second in the shortened final race to seal the round. Another Aucklander, Chris 'Hammer Time' Hanley, was second overall in his PB Technologies Holden. He could only qualify fifth after changing an engine after Friday testing and then drew marble number thirteen in the draw for the opening race. Despite having his race compromised after being hit by another ute he climbed to sixth place. He then collected two wins from the front row of the grid in both of Sundays races to complete a great comeback from several months of adversity. Third overall was Palmerston North driver Geoff 'SOS' Spencer in the TWL/The Barn Company Holden. Spencer crafted an excellent weekend culminating in a second and third place on Sunday.
Waite, in his first weekend in the Hydraulink/Valvoline Falcon said, it was a good start to the series and we now know what to expect moving forward."
Waite drew pole position in the marble draw for the opening race grid on Saturday and led all the way to win. Peter 'Kaos' Ward of Auckland in his Ward Demolition Holden also drew well and finished second while series rookie Steve 'Stig' Taylor of Hamilton in the Protecta Insurance Falcon took advantage of an incident filled final lap to grab third on the line after Dave 'The Boss' Stewart of Wellington and Scott 'Precious' McKelvie tangled. McKelvie and the ICOM Holden were out on the spot while Stewart in the Metro Brick Holden lost momentum allowing Taylor through on the line. Stewart was eventually disqualified for the incident. That promoted James 'Huggi' Urquhart of Karaka in the Mitre 10 Trade Holden to fourth ahead of Spencer and Hanley.
Sunday mornings race was a reverse marble grid start with Hanley on pole and McKelvie alongside. McKelvie got a good start but Hanley fought back, the pair going through turn one side by side. Hanley held firm and took the lead under brakes for the esses and was untroubled from then on. Spencer settled into second ahead of McKelvie with Jeff and Dave Kernohan next. Waite was moving through from the back of the grid but experienced an exciting moment at the start of lap two when Peter 'Kaos' Ward spun at the high speed turn one. Waite was forced to lock up, flat spotting a tyre, but managing to avoid Ward in a moment he described as "scary". Ward glanced the barrier as he spun off causing damage to the left front wheel which was to end his race. Meanwhile 'Dirty Dave' Kernohan of Turangi was in trouble after a great start. The KCL Contracting Falcon died and it took several attempts to get it going again. He lost a lot of time but eventually continued, albeit well in arrears.
Hanley in his own words "cruised' to victory at the front while Spencer maintained second in what he called a "tidy run" with McKelvie third. Waite relieved Jeff 'Ripples' Kernohan of fourth a couple of laps from the finish while James 'Huggi' Urquhart was sixth. McKelvie was pleased with third after overnight repairs from the extensive damage suffered on Saturday. "It is not handling all that well," he confessed. Meanwhile Ward admitted his spin was entirely his fault. "I locked it up and came face to face with Andrew (Waite)," he said.
As the field lined up for the final race it was raining and the track was very wet. Waite had pole with Hanley alongside with Spencer and Urquhart behind. Hanley made the best start and led into the first corner only to have a massive moment. That allowed Urquhart into the lead but Hanley was back in front by the hairpin. Hanley had another 'moment' over the Mountain but the Safety Car was out soon after when Jeff Kernohan slid off the track and hit the barriers in the Lonking Falcon. The damage to the barriers was extensive and the Event Director and the Steward made the decision to call the race off as repairs could not be effected before the race ran its course. Waite was classified second, Spencer third with Ward, Mike 'Buzz' Lightfoot and Taylor next. After his impressive start Urquhart had pitted to clear a foggy windscreen, dropping him to the tail of the field.
Waite also claimed the Nulon Award for his performance in the opening race of the weekend.
The next round of the UDC V8 Ute Championship takes place at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna in Christchurch over the weekend of 9-11 December.