16th January 2002
GIVES TOYOTA A WAKE UP CALL
it is unlikely that a Team Kiwi driver will win the NZTC Championship,
John McIntyre and Angus Fogg have once again given Nissan a very
healthy manufacturers points tally. It was an excellent piece
of driving in the wet by McIntyre and if Fogg is the benchmark,
then McIntyre scored more than championship points with the win.
Toyota Altezzas, so strong at Pukekohe and Taupo, appeared to
struggle in the appalling weather conditions at Level Raceway
in Round Three of the New Zealand Touring Car Championship.
Team Kiwi's 2001 Drivesafe 500 winner John McIntyre, taking his
turn in the Number One Nissan Primera pipped his team mate Angus
Fogg on the rain soaked track in overcast and drizzly conditions
to take pole position.
made his run early in the session, the track becoming progressively
slicker and muddy conditions as time went on. "I've been
happy with our performance so far this weekend. In practice we
were on the pace until our tyres started to go off. In the wet
setup is all important and the cars are handling well" said
rain was so heavy organizers had to declare a wet meeting as torrential
rain pounded the South Island, disrupting telecommunications and
closing State Highway 1 north of Timaru.
Team Kiwi dominated the first two races, McIntyre on pole, but
Fogg getting the best start in both races.
The extreme conditions caused problems for "Master of the
Start" Fogg who ran onto the grass in the first race and
lost traction going into the complex on the penultimate lap of
the second, McIntyre capitalising to collect two wins.
Bell's BNT BMW 320 SP was the best of the rest to drop in behind
the Nissan Primeras and secure two thirds. The going wasn't all
plain sailing for Bell in the second race, finding the top end
of the track particularly greasy. All hell broke loose as Bell
and then Tony Oliver in the Toyota Corona found a patch of oil.
Oliver came off worst, sliding backwards into the tyre barrier
and shortening the back end of the car by almost half a metre.
Oliver's pit crew did a fantastic job to get his car back onto
the track for the third race. Bell managed to get back on the
track to retain his third place.
two Toyota Altezzas were well back, their lap times 0.5 seconds
off the leaders times. It got worse for the Toyota's with Thomlinson
retiring on lap six of the second race with gearbox and electrical
Aaron Harris's engine misfire problems continued as he splashed
through the puddles, his run of misery complete as he felt his
left front hand wheel parting company from his car in race two,
his pitcrew neglecting to tighten the wheel nuts!
final race of the meeting was reverse grid, with the sixth fastest
car sitting on pole. Because the race programme was running over
an hour late the race was shortened from 12 to 8 laps. Aaron Harris
in the Dynapack BMW 320 coupe shared the front row of the grid
with Phil Hellebreker's Toyota Altezza. The rain had held off
for 30 minutes prior to the start and the track dried rapidly.
got the jump on Hellebrekers and as the cars exited the sweeper
to head down the back straight Fogg made heavy contact on his
right front with Bell's left rear, sending the BMW careering off
onto the grass. This writer saw nothing deliberate about the incident,
the condition of the track playing its part to make close racing
marshals saw it differently. As the cars streamed past the start/finish
line Fogg in the heavily damaged Primera was shown the black flag
and informed he had incurred a 10 second stop/go penalty. It effectively
destroyed his race as the incident did Bell's the BMW pulling
up to signal Bell's third DNF of the season.
half way through the race points leader Thomlinson's weekend got
a lot brighter, climbing into lead.
While his car was visibly slower than McIntyre's, Harris in the
BMW 320 coupe was making the Primera driver work very hard to
get past. The pass was inevitable, McIntyre taking the BMW on
the back straight on the last lap.
the Toyotas had struggled all weekend to find a set up that suited,
the team's perservance had paid off, finishing the weekend on
a strong note.
the seasons midpoint Toyota have the upperhand, but Team Kiwi
has shown they are not invincible. Round four of the NZTC Championship
at Pukekohe on 19th/20th January is set to be a duel between the
super quick Toyotas and Nissans. Don't count the BMWs out, International
Motorsport have continued to develop their Superproduction car
at a rapid pace. The lifting of engine rev restrictions should
also help their cause. Also expect a larger field of cars as the
cars once more head north. The next round of the Championship
is at Pukekohe Raceway, Auckland on 19th -20th January 2002.
more information contact:
New Zealand Touring Car Website