Paul Radisich said he was looking for a fistful of points from the second round of the 2007/2008 NZ Truth V8s series at Ruapuna, near Christchurch, last weekend.
And that’s exactly what he came away with, guiding the HPM Ford Falcon to victory in the two grid-start races, and fighting his way through to third in the 22-lap, reverse grid final. “The fun of winning never goes away,” said Radisich, whose two wins last weekend were from start to finish.
“It’s the first time for years that I’ve led a race from start to finish.
“We’ve had a superb weekend for reliability.”
It was probably always going to be a matter of time before Radisich won, and in the three weeks between Round 1 at Pukekohe and the Ruapuna round at Powerbuilt Tools International Raceway, the Tracer Motorsport team had ironed out the engine misfire that blighted Radisich’s showing at Pukekohe.
He underlined his potential with an emphatic lap of 1m 30.320s during the Top 10 shootout to grab pole starting position for Saturday’s first 14-lap race.
He had been spurred to that time by former champion Kayne Scott, who had clocked a sizzling 1m 30.571s earlier in the session.
Scott had the Mark Petch Motorsport Falcon better hooked-up in its second race meeting and went home happy with two second placings and a fifth.
That has lifted him to second on championship points, 51 behind reigning champion John McIntyre (BP Ultimate/Squawking Magpie Falcon).
Initially, McIntyre had an indifferent weekend. He had been fastest in the second qualifying session and then gridded the Ford fourth.
But he was three-tenths of a second away from Radisich on a track where starting position is crucial.
McIntyre, who had been absolutely dominant at Pukekohe, was puzzled by a relative lack of car speed in the first two heats.
He finished Race 1, where he had started fourth, behind Radisich, Scott and Angus Fogg (Caltex Havoline Falcon).
In Race 2 he was fifth, behind Radisich, Scott, Fogg and Paul Manuell (Orix Holden Commodore).
He saved the best for last, threading his way through the pack in the reverse-grid 22-lapper to take the win and preserve his series lead.
McIntyre was satisfied with the way his Hawke’s Bay-based team bounced back after the fire which destroyed the team’s truck and a load of spares as it was being driven home from Pukekohe after Round 1.
He won the reverse grid race by a comfortable 14.218 seconds from Kevin Williams (Strapping Systems Commodore).
“(In) the third race we got an amazing run through the middle, which gave us a lucky weekend result to keep the lead in the series,” said McIntyre.
Radisich was third, followed by Manuell, and Scott.
Radisich and Manuell had fought a torrid battle for third place that finally went Radisich’s way.
Manuell had been consistently the fastest Holden driver.
He was happy with the way the car handled and was happy with its power, but said he had no answer for the Fords.
He said running in the Targa New Zealand tarmac rally (his first ever rally) in a road-going replica of a VE Commodore Australian V8 Supercar had sharpened his driving going into the NZ V8s series – “It’s a driver’s dream, six hours seat time a day for a week.”
Fellow former champion Andy Booth (Tasman Motorsport Commodore), who runs out of the same garage under the eye of Wayne Anderson, had the kind of weekend he’d rather forget.
He had gone to Ruapuna buoyed by an excellent performance at Pukekohe and holding second place in the series.
He managed to scrape into the Top 10 shootout and gridded the Tasman car 10th, 1.5 seconds off Radisich’s pole time.
He came home 11th in Race 1, 10th in Race 2, and parked the Commodore in the reverse gridder.
In the bashing and bumping early laps, Booth had picked up some panel damage, which was to have a deciding effect on his race.
Worse, the dashboard was going crazy, flashing every conceivable warning light, and Booth suddenly found the cockpit filling with smoke.
He switched off and parked out on the circuit.
The smoke turned out to be nothing more than the result of a tyre rubbing on a fender.
The warning lights turned out to be false alarms caused by a fault in the dashboard. When he fired the car up after the race, it started immediately and he drove it back to the pits.
Booth has dropped to sixth on points, 140 behind series leader McIntyre.
Booth had been playing down his Ruapuna chances – it’s a track that has seldom been kind to him.
“That’s the bogey track out of the way,” he said. “Now we can go to some places I like.”
Having an equally bad time – though after a promising start – was Mark Pedersen in the United Video Falcon.
The Pedersen camp had been over the moon during qualifying. It’s been their bogey track in recent years, but Mark was quick in qualifying, got into the shootout with an eigth-fastest in the 20-car second session and gridded ninth in the Top 10 session.
Better, Pedersen was confident the Falcon had good race pace, and he finished a solid eighth in Race 1.
He was going nicely in Race 2 when the Falcon faltered on its way out of the corner on to the pit straight. Pedersen had gone from second to third gear, heard a clunk and suddenly had no drive.
It was a newly-rebuilt gearbox and still it had let go. The Pedersen crew worked at fever pace to repair it for the reverse grid race – and the same thing happened. Mark suspects they’d been supplied with a bad batch of parts, probably bearings that were faulty.
In the opening two NZ V8s rounds, Radisich, McIntyre, Fogg and Scott have established themselves as the fast four, and the title looks likely to be taken by one of them.
All are still refining their cars, and ace engine builder Tony Marsh is working to make sure McIntyre has the best possible motor.
Fogg was unsettled by, and furious about, a controversial decision to restart him third and not second in the red-flagged first race, but has plenty of raw pace.
Radisich, a perfectionist, is working on keeping en edge in the HPM Falcon; and Scott, another perfectionist, is still fine-tuning the Fujitsu Ford’s handling, seeking better bite into the corners.
Radisich’s round win wasn’t as dominant as it might appear on paper.
In Race 1, there had been doubt about whether officials would slap him with a time penalty for going too fast before the race-starting lights went green for the rolling start.
That had caused him to push very hard as he strove to try to build a 10-second buffer over his pursuers, and thus negate the expected penalty.
In the end he came home 2.198 seconds ahead of Scott.
Scott’s team owner Mark Petch said Scott had eased back, also expecting the penalty to be applied to the race-winning car.
In the end, officials decided not to apply the penalty, regarding the restart as the start of virtually a new race.
The second race – also red-flagged after a lap one incident – was won by Radisich after strong mid-race pressure from Scott, whose Falcon had started slowly but came into its own as the lap count rose.
Scott had closed right in on Radisich, who he said was clearly in trouble with diminishing grip.
Then came a Safety Car period – Radisich was able to cool down the tyres and hang on to take the win by 0.430 of a second.
Scott had a couple of nibbles to get past in the final laps, tucking under Radisich’s Falcon on the way into the final corner.
But probing is one thing, passing is another and Radisich is one of the hardest men to pass.
Scott backed out of the move each time. He said he could have tried to muscle his way through by rubbing fenders, but both cars might have ended up off the track; and Scott’s aim is to build a string of consistent results as he bids to win the title.
He set the fastest laps in Race 2 and Race 3, the latter in a car that was overheating from around lap two, its temperature gauge off the clock.
The series now takes a break until the A1 GP meeting at Taupo in January. If you want to see some of the finest motor racing in the southern hemisphere, make sure you’re there when the NZ V8s roar again.