Former champion Paul Pedersen makes a one-off return to the NZ V8s series and comes away with a race win and second overall for the Taupo meeting. He says he'll be back for the non-championship Hamilton street race in April, and will return to NZ V8s next year.
A drive of controlled aggression took former champion Paul Pedersen from 27th to the lead in today’s exciting reverse grid NZ V8s race at Taupo.
Pedersen was having a one-off appearance in the 2007-2008 series, driving the Caltex-Havoline Ford Falcon raced previously by Angus Fogg.
Fogg was debuting a brand-new car which got off to a rocky start to the weekend, but came right in the first two races, netting Fogg third overall for the weekend behind Pedersen.
Reigning champion John McIntyre won the round in his BP Ultimate Falcon, winning the first two races, and coming home seventh in the carnage-plagued final 22-lapper after being turned around by another car as he threaded his way through the pack.
McIntyre had crossed the finish line second behind Andy Booth (Tasman Motorsport Holden Commodore) in Race 2, but officials later docked Booth 50 seconds for knocking McIntyre out of the way on the run to the first corner.
That put McIntyre into the race win. He has extended his series lead to 105 points, and Fogg has moved into second place headkng into thed next round at Manfeild in mid-February.
The reverse grid race was notable for several fine drives, including Pedersen’s charge through from the back of the grid on a track he says has one racing line.
Pedersen says that at Taupo, to make progress a driver has to go for every gap he sees, poking his car’s nose on to the apex of a corner.
That forces the driver in front to move wide and into the “marbles” (tiny pieces of tyre rubber and dust that accumulate off the racing line making the track surface ultra-slippery) where they lose momentum and have to concede the placing.
Pedersen says he got through the field by “aggression. You have to be aggressive on this track. If gaps are there, you have got to get your nose into them.”
The race was also notable for the drive of his career by one of the series’ true privateers, Kevin Williams in the self-sponsored and self-prepared Strapping Systems Commodore.
Williams started from the front row but was initially shaded by Falcon racer John Penny.
Williams soon got past Penny, and opened a reasonable gap before the faster cars came through.
First of the big guns to attack was Australian V8 Supercar driver David Besnard (Falcon) who fought a cat and mouse battle with the Pukekohe privateer for lap after lap.
But Williams fought tooth and nail with the Australian through the infield corners, and consistently made use of his car’s strong braking ability and stability under brakes to deny the Besnard at Turn 12, the corner at the end of the main straight.
The corner, tightened for this year, was unpopular with most drivers but Williams loved it.
Things looked bad for him when a Safety Car period was called on lap 14 while course workers extracted a spun-up car from a scoria trap.
That bunched the field, with Besnard re-starting on Williams’ tail, and Pedersen right there too.
Williams had failed to warm up the rear brakes sufficiently and they locked going into Turn 1. Besnard dived into the gap left as the Holden ran wide.
Williams managed to keep the Australian at bay, but Pedersen swept into the lead and then Besnard went by.
A lap or two later, Besnard pulled off on the infield and retired.
Pedersen had a good lead by now and Williams was under attack from former V8 champion Booth.
But he used Turn 12 time and time again to keep Booth at bay, to whoops of delight, clapping and cheering from the crowd who were right behind the underdog driver.
It wasn’t just in Turn 12, either. In Turn 11, the sweeper that leads on to the main straight, Williams kept the Strapping systems Commodore ahead of the Tasman car.
Williams eventually crossed the line second, nine seconds behind Pedersen, and 0.264 of a second ahead of Booth.
Dean Perkins (GT Radials Falcon) was fourth, followed by the Falcons of Australians Cameron McLean and Luke Youlden.
Williams said his partner and pit manager, Shelley, had coached him through the race, radioing details of which drivers were closing on him and urging him to hold his line and drive his own race as Besnard and then Booth made their repeated attacks.
It was an outstanding drive, and his second place was hugely popular with the vocal crowd.
Race winner Paul Pedersen (blue-nosed car).
Williams leads Besnard during the Pukekohe privateer's sensational drive.