Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd February 2002

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Qualifying - Hellebrekers Takes Pole Again!
by Tony Bunyan

The weather for Saturday mornings 20 minute qualifying session was fine and warm with a mild breeze and a dry track. .

Continuing on from his top qualifying run at Pukekohe, Phil Hellebrekers put his Toyota Altezza on pole, over half a second faster than team mate and Championship Points leader Barrie Thomlinson.

Fogg and Hellebrekers Kept the Large Crowd Happy with Their Close Racing. Hellebrekers was Fastest on the Day

Fogg in the Nissan Primera and Bell's E46 BMW 320i were almost a full second off the pole setting time, however it didn't seem to phase the Team Kiwi camp.

"We don't get the kind of new tyre advantage that the Toyotas do", said Fogg. "Racing is different, we don't get the type of tyre degradation and loss of performance they do so our performance tends to improve over the weekend.".

Kevin Bell in the BMW 320i made a good start to his weekend, splitting the two Nissans and sitting only four hundredths of a second off Fogg's pace.

Problems continued for Aaron Harris, who after such a positive start to his season has struggled to keep pace with the field, due to mechanical and electronic glitches.



Hellebrekers Takes First Win!
by Tony Bunyan

For many teams, Round 5 of the NZTCC was a water shed, an opportunity to excel or to redeem, a chance for Toyota to nail home their advantage, a chance for Nissan and BMW to close the gap and prevent a white wash. Using the short track at the Manfield Autocourse the direction of the racing was anti-clockwise, the reverse of Manfield's "normal" direction, forcing teams to modify their car setups and drivers to relearn the circuit. Phil Hellebrekers finally made the breakthrough he had been building towards all season. Although Barrie Thomlinson wasn't enjoying his weekend, a comfortable setup seemed elusive, he only needed to finish races and conserve his car to ensure his championship lead stayed secure. Angus Fogg proved the Nissan Primera is a weapon in Race Two, but instigated one of the most dramatic racing incidents in recent years, effectively handing the third race to the Altezzas on a plate.

Hellebrekers Collected the Most Points of Any Driver at Manfield and Ensured that Team Kiwi didnt have an opportunity to spoil Toyota's Party

Race One
Saturday's race was held in bright sunny conditions. Hellebrekers got off the line well to ret
ain his pole position, with the two Team Kiwi Nissan Primeras hard on Thomlinson's heel. The pair eventually passed the Championship points leader and the race broke into two races.

Hellebrekers was out in the lead with Fogg and McIntyre doggedly battling each other for track position. It was an exciting close duel, with Fogg managing to keep ahead of his team mate - just!

Behind them, Thomlinson's Altezza was under pressure from International Motorsport's Kevin Bell in the E46 BMW 320i. With such close racing something had to give and it was Thomlinson who left the track and Bell who snatched the fourth place.

It was a great drive by Hellebrekers who had been a little disappointed in himself for letting Thomlinson pass him at Pukekohe the previous meeting when he had felt he had the race under control. "I was just a bit lazy on the brakes coming up to the hairpin. Both of us got a bit out of shape, but he drifted in the right direction and got through as we exited the corner".

This time there was no mistake!

Race Two
Sunday's first race was also held in bright sunshine, the occasional cloud drifting across the track to give some relief to the large crowd. The track was hot and sticky as the cars assembled on the grid.

The two Toyotas sat on the front row, with old rivals Angus Fogg and Kevin Bell sitting behind them.

The Toyotas got away to a good start, but the Nissans were better, especially John McIntyre who made a blinder! As the cars headed into the first corner the top six cars formed a tight bunch, but all managing to get through without incident. Down the back straight Fogg took the fight to Thomlinson, powering past him and zeroing in on Hellebrekers. Thomlinson came under continued pressure from McIntyre in the second Team Kiwi car, running wide at the exit of the last turn before the main straight (Coca Cola), running onto the grass and losing two places.

Peter Millener in the E36 BMW 320i had also made a great start to slot in behind Hellebrekers and the two Nissans.

On lap four the dueling between leader Hellebrekers and Fogg had reached fever pitch, the pair maintaining a healthy gap back to McIntyre. To the crowds delight as the pair exited onto the main straight Fogg used the Nissan Primera's straight line speed to out drag Hellebrekers and gain the lead. Hellebrekers fort back three corners later at the long left hand sweeper known as Higgins. Leaving his braking late he had too much momentum to avoid running wide at the exit and driving over the grass.

Kevin Bell's E46 BMW Looked Fast and Smooth All Weekend. The Car Has Huge Potential for Further Development

As the main bunch headed though the Castrol complex, Thomlinson and Millener took to the grass, allowing Bell a clear run into fourth place. With the intense battle up front it was surprising McIntyre couldn't capitalise and close in on the pair. "By about the fifth lap I decided that there wasn't much advantage in pushing on, so I decided I would conserve the tyres knowing that it would be an advantage in the longer 12 lap reverse grid race".

Having just recorded his fastest time on his previous lap, Hellebrekers made another desperate dive up the outside at Higgins, the Altezza twitching as he exited onto the Denis Hulme straight.

Further back in the field Harris, Oliver and Millener were caught up in a battle for the minor places. In the end Fogg sustained the pressure of Hellebrekers attack to take another exciting win and narrowing the points gap between the pair.

Race 3
The weather remained fine and hot for Sunday's second race. The 12 lap reverse grid format put Aaron Harris on pole, with Tony Oliver sharing the front row of the grid. International Motorsports Peter Millener shared the second row with Team Kiwis John McIntyre. Fogg sat a row ahead of the Toyotas, with Kevin Bell sharing the third row of the grid with him.

The Start of the Reverse Grid Race With Aaron Harris on Pole in the Dynapack BMW 320 coupe and Tony Oliver in the Toyota Corona Next to Him The Altezzas look a Long Way Back !!

From the start spectators could have been forgiven for thinking the race was two rather than twelve laps, such was the desperation shown by the faster cars to pass the lead cars, heading four abreast into the first corner. The Team Kiwi cars had made another great start and only the physical impossibility of all the cars getting round the corner at once thwarted their efforts to get past the front row cars.

The cars jostled down the back straight, Fogg leaving his run far too late, diving on the brakes at Higgins, but unable to reel the Primera back into line. This set off a chain reaction, with Fogg "T-boning" the unfortunate Tony Oliver. Kiwi Team mate John McIntyre got caught up in the drama, bouncing over the uneven grass sideways at speed and almost rolling. Kevin Bell also made a cross country excursion in the mayhem. Only the Toyotas and the BMWs of Harris and Millener cleared the carnage unscathed.

The safety car was dispatched and the cars reassembling behind it. The order was Hellebrekers, Thomlinson, Millener, Harris, Bell and Oliver. Fogg and McIntyre took the opportunity to return to the pits and have their cars checked over before returning to the track a lap down on the field.

The race resumed on lap five, but only Kevin Bell provided any entertainment for the crowd as he worked his way through the field to try and put some pressure on the lead cars. Aaron Harris was his first victim, followed by Peter Millener

Hellebrekers had made a jump on the field from the safety car start. With the cars well spread out, both Team Kiwi cars effectively out of the race, and neither Thomlinson or Bell able to make any further impression on the car in front, the race became processional. It was a pity because all other things being equal, this years racing has been incredibly competitive and entertaining.

Hellebrekers had a great weekend and his domination of the weekends racing must give him renewed confidence for the final round of the Championship at Manfeild in April 2002.

All text and photographs are copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 & 2002 TR Bunyan