Got anywhere to go on April 22 and 23? If you want to see some of the fiercest and closely fought V8 Touring Car racing, beat a path to Pukekohe for the Placemakers Australian V8 Supercar meeting.
Not just to see the Aussie series aces and Kiwi hotshoes Greg Murphy, Paul Radisich and Jason Richards in action against their Australian rivals, but also to see the final three races of the Parker Enzed NZ V8 championship.
For they're sure to be among the hardest-fought saloon car races ever seen in New Zealand. After last weekend's penultimate round on the redeveloped and extended Taupo racetrack, three drivers - John McIntyre, Kayne Scott and Angus Fogg - are running almost neck-and-neck, McIntyre leading.
He might have been further ahead than the 12-point advantage he holds over Scott: he won the first two races at Taupo in dominant style, and was quickly into the lead of the reverse grid Race 3 when he began falling back. The Hydraulink Ford Falcon was suffering fuel pressure problems and eventually stopped.
That left Fogg to take then win in his Caltex Star Mart Falcon, and he also took the overall round victory. That has moved him to just 12 points behind Scott's Fujitsu Holden Commodore as the series heads to Pukekohe.
There was a new face among the drivers at the post-event press conference. Second overall for the meeting, ahead of final podium finisher McIntyre was GT Radials pilot Dean Perkins who was having his best round since the series-opener at Pukekohe.
The delight was evident on the smiling Perkins' face.
"We started the season with a hiss and a roar, but everything since has been a disaster," said the Pukekohe driver. With no championship prospects, Perkins said he had given the drivers in with a chance plenty of racing room.
McIntyre said his car's fuel pressure started to drop early in the race. Initially he thought it was a malfunctioning sparkplug lead that was causing a misfire. "Then it just died on me."
He said he had been "hanging on okay" in the early stages though it had been like driving "without another 100 horsepower."
McIntyre had qualified on pole and won the weekend's first race on Saturday. He went into the series lead after Scott retired following a tangle with Paul Pedersen's Caltex Havoline Falcon.
Scott had qualified second fastest, but Pedersen squeezed past on the inside line in Turn 1. McIntyre began driving away from Scott, and Pedersen looked safe enough in second place until Scott caught him up. Fogg ran sixth behind reigning champion Andy Booth's Video Ezy Commodore. Then came Kent Youlden (Powerbuilt Falcon), Mark Pedersen (United Video Falcon) and Kevin Williams' Strapping Systems Holden.
Fogg and Youlden both got past Booth. Fogg spun and dropped a few places, and Scott got alongside Paul Pedersen going into a corner. Pedersen was on the inside line. The cars touched and both left the track, Scott later retiring with a punctured tyre. Pedersen finished second behind McIntyre, but was subsequently excluded from the results for his part in the incident with Scott.
That elevated Youlden to third place. Fogg finished seventh.
McIntyre was equally dominant in Sunday's first race, winning it from Fogg, Paul Pedersen and Scott who both produced superb drives through from the back of the field. Then came Perkins, McLean, Clark Proctor (Falcon), Williams, Booth and Nick Ross (Commodore).
The race was in its 16th lap when officials red-flagged it because of an incident on pitlane. Andrew Anderson was on pitroad when the hot brake pads on his Eframe/Valvoline Holden caught fire. Andrerson inhaled fire extinguisher fumes, blacfked out and needed medical assistance.
Williams started Race 3 from pole but the race lasted initially only two corners before there was a multi-car shunt after John Roberts' Hydraulink Falcon got out of shape and spun, bouncing off the infield banking and regaining the track at a 90-degree angle. Several cars hit as they tried to avoid the spun-up Ford.
The race was red-flagged and restarted. Proctor took the early lead in the Metalman Falcon, and McIntyre was soon through to third, Perkins stepping aside to let him pass.
McIntyre was quickly past second-placed Williams, then dispatched Proctor and looked set to sail to another clear win until the Falcon began misfiring with fuel pressure problems.
Fogg had worked his way forward, and closed in on Proctor. McIntyre hung on to third for many laps before stopping two laps from the finish.
Fogg had taken the lead off Proctor with a superb pass in the corner on to the main straight, but Proctor fought back in the closing stages, eventually finishing second, ahead of Paul Pedersen who held off a determined challenge from Scott. McLean was fifth, ahead of Perkins, Dale Lambert (Falcon), Mark Pedersen, Booth and Williams.
And so Fogg closed in on Scott on series points, and McIntyre wrested the championship lead away from the Holden racer: the scene is set for a sensational three-way battle in the final round at Pukekohe.
* See next week's Auto Trader for more coverage from Taupo, including the Toyota Racing Series.by Mike Stock with additional reporting by Bernard Carpinter. Graham Blow took the photographs.Results of ENZED V8 Touring Car NZ, Taupo Motorsport Centre.Race one, 10 laps, March 18
Race two, 18 laps, March 19
- John McIntyre, Ford BA Falcon, 16m 59.945s.
- Luke Youlden, Ford BA Falcon, 13.595s behind.
- Dean Perkins, Ford BA Falcon, 14.371s behind.
- Paul Manuell, Holden VY Commodore, 18.107s behind.
- Shannon O'Brien, Holden VY Commodore, 18.999s behind.
- Cameron McLean, Ford BA Falcon, 20.739s behind.
- Angus Fogg, Ford BA Falcon, 24.367s behind.
- Simon Richards, Ford BA Falcon, 26.235s behind.
- Hayden Mackenzie, Ford BA Falcon, 35.687s behind.
- Gene Rollinson, Holden VY Commodore, 37.296s behind.
Race three, 18 laps, March 19
- John McIntyre, Ford BA Falcon, 25m 32.660s.
- Angus Fogg, Ford BA Falcon, 4.870s behind.
- Paul Pedersen, Ford BA Falcon, 14.770s behind.
- Kayne Scott, Holden VY Commodore, 15.235s behind.
- Dean Perkins, Ford BA Falcon, 21.399s behind.
- Cameron McLean, Ford BA Falcon, 27.867s behind.
- Clark Proctor, Ford BA Falcon, 32.842s behind.
- Kevin Williams, Holden VY Commodore, 38.866s behind.
- Andy Booth, Holden VY Commodore, 44.179s behind.
- Nicholas Ross, Holden VY Commodore, 52.916s behind.
Championship points standing
- Angus Fogg, Ford BA Falcon, 30m 56.542s.
- Clark Proctor, Ford BA Falcon, 4.209s behind.
- Paul Pedersen, Ford BA Falcon, 5.662s behind.
- Kayne Scott, Holden VY Commodore, 6.025s behind.
- Cameron McLean, Ford BA Falcon, 10.092s behind.
- Dean Perkins, Ford BA Falcon, 18.336s behind.
- Dale Lambert, Ford BA Falcon, 21.266s behind.
- Mark Pedersen, Ford BA Falcon, 21.660s behind.
- Andy Booth, Holden VY Commodore, 22.574s behind.
- Kevin Williams, Holden VY Commodore, 36.285s behind.
Drivers': John McIntyre, 973; Kayne Scott, 961; Angus Fogg, 944; Andy Booth, 803; Mark Pedersen, 735; Paul Pedersen, 720; Paul Manuell, 658; Luke Youlden, 604; Cameron McLean, 594; Dean Perkins, 539.