31st December 2001
BREAKS THOMLINSON'S PERFECT SCORE
second round of the Wynns New Zealand Touring Cars Championship
2001/02 at Taupo's tight Centennial Park circuit provided the
large summer vacation crowd with the most entertaining racing
of the year. "Without doubt the 2.0 litre Touring Cars produce
the best racing of any class" commented Motorsport Vice President
the Toyota New Zealand Team of Barrie Thomlinson and Phil Hellebrekers
were untried at Taupo the outstanding performance of the team
at Pukekohe made them the odds on favourites at the meeting.
in the Toyota Altezza once again topped the qualifying time sheet
(42.35 sec) and showed the new car has balance as well as horsepower.
International Motorsport's engineers had made huge progress since
round one with their super production BMW, Kevin Bell finding
seconds and becoming the meat in an Altezza sandwich. "We
believe that we are even closer to Barrie than the times suggest"
beamed Bell. "What really pleases us is the potential for
even more performance". The Nissan Primeras didn't fire as
expected with a disappointed Angus Fogg commenting "We went
slower than in practice. The cars are capable of more".
made an excellent start in Race One, getting much better drive
off the line than Bell. Fogg made a great one too beating Hellebrekers
to the first corner. It wasn't to last as Fogg ran very wide on
the entrance to the main straight, sliding into the tyre barrier
and ending his race before it had really started. That left Rhys
McKay in the ex Jason Richards Nissan to hound Hellebrekers, the
pair swapping positions for lap after lap.
Harris in the Dynopack BMW had begun the meeting second in the
championship standings, but he saw his lead evaporating, as an
engine management problem left the car underpowered out of the
hairpin cost him both in qualifying and race.
BNT/Castrol BMW battled with Thomlinson's Altezza, matching the
Toyota for pace, probing for any weakness. His best opportunity
came as the cars swept onto the main straight for the sixth time.
Despite pulling out of Thomlinson's slip stream and slipping ahead
down the main straight, Bell waved Thomlinson through, believing
that a no passing yellow flag might be still in force as a result
of Fogg's incident. Thomlinson shut the door firmly on Bell as
the pair headed into the left hander before the hairpin, never
allowing Bell to get as close again.
McKay performed well to hold Hellebrekers out to take the third
Bell's assertion that the BMW was every bit as fast as the Toyota
proved right with his fastest lap in Saturday's race (42.30 sec)
promoted him to pole position for race two, Thomlinson joining
him on the front row of the grid. Unfortunately Bell couldn't
capitalise on his position, the BMW not getting enough drive off
the line to hold off the Toyotas. As the cars reached the end
of the main straight it was Thomlinson and Hellebrekers followed
by Bell in third. Angus Fogg and Peter Millener also made excellent
starts and almost swallowed Bell up as they went through the left
hand sweeper. The back of Bell's car stepped out through the hairpin
and Fogg tagged him as the cars exited the turn. Peter Millener
in the second International Motorsport BMW ran wide at the same
place that Fogg had in the previous race managing to get the car
back onto the track but lost several places in the process.
was making good progress on his team mate, showing the flare that
had made him New Zealand Formula Ford Champion only to spin at
the end of the main straight on the fourth lap, collecting Kevin
Bell in the process and forcing Rhys McKay in Team Kiwi's Nissan
Primera into the run off zone. It was the break Thomlinson had
been looking for, a comfortable buffer between him and the rest
of the field.
real action was with Bell and Fogg. The Primera got past Bell
in the mayhem of Hellebrekers spin and Bell was determined to
regain his second place. Fogg wasn't having a bar of it, the Nissan
riding on three rather than four wheels for most of every lap
as he pushed the car to the limit and beyond. There were several
heart stopping moments as the cars entered the left hander at
the end of the main straight two wide and at full race pace.
the end Thomlinson made his win look easy, Fogg crossing the line
ahead of Bell and the rest of the field lead across the line by
Harris, McKay and Hellebrekers unable to recoup the time they
lost at the start of the race.
the 16 lap reverse grid third race, Angus Fogg who had thought
his relatively slow lap times were a disadvantage now found himself
on the front row of the grid and relishing the opportunity for
a clean start. He didn't disappoint his Team Kiwi fans, blasting
off the line with a catch me if you can attitude. Thomlinson and
Bell had a lot of traffic to pass if they were going to!
Bell's BMW was an early casualty - A tap on the front right bending
a steering arm and terminating his race. Taupo is notoriously
difficult to pass on, but Thomlinson sold a dummy first to Harris
and then later in the race to Millener, running wide at the end
of the main straight before diving down the inside of the left
hander to take the place.
rookie Peter Millener had done a great job holding off the more
experienced Rhys McKay for second place before McKay secured the
place to give Team Kiwi a familiar one-two formation.
By lap 11 Thomlinson had advanced to third place and Hellebrekers
was also making progress to slot in behind Thomlinson. More problems
for Harris, a gearbox failure ending his race prematurely.
In the dying laps of the race Thomlinson was making some do or
die moves at the hairpin, forcing his nose into the gap but failing
to find the exit speed McKay had to take the place. As the chequered
flag dropped it was a Team Kiwi double, followed by the Toyotas.
Taupo round showed that the Toyotas are not unbeatable, that the
differences between Super Production and modified Schedule S are
not great, that the new cars are developing at a phenomenal rate
and the racing will be as close and exciting as ever. The next
round of the Championship is at Levels Raceway, Timaru on 12th
-13th January 2002.
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Fogg holds off Kevin Bell to secure second place in Race
Two at Centennial Park, Taupo
more information contact:
New Zealand Touring Car Website