Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd December 2000

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Qualifying - Riley Pips Richards for Pole
by Tony Bunyan 

The second round in the 2000/01 New Zealand Touring Car Championship Meeting began today at the Pukekohe Park Raceway in conjunction with the New Zealand Grand Prix Series.

The weather was overcast, but fine, with a warm track as the cars headed out for their 20 minute qualifying session.

Jody Vincent and his team did well to get to the track, having worked until 3.30 am to prepare the car for the weekend.

Modifications to the exhaust system of Barrie Thomlinson's Lexus saw the car arrive just prior to the session start time.

Riley Started His Weekend Well, Putting Himself on Pole

Team Kiwi's Angus Fogg in the Nissan Primera had the most spectacular incident in qualifying spinning across the grass and repositioning a cone at the entrance to the Esses, making it difficult for cars following in his wake!

In Friday practice Current New Zealand Touring Car Champion, Jason Richards had an engine misfire as he headed over John Deere mountain, the car drifting wide, hitting the barrier and sustaining rear panel damage. So it was with a great degree of satisfaction that he set the qualifying timing sheet on fire with a 1m 6.3 seconds on his fifth lap.

Brett Riley in the BMW 320i immediately replied with a 1m 6.2 seconds to secure pole position for the first race.

Was Richards Getting a Little Bit of Advice From his Old Boss Lyall Williamson Before the First Race?

Despite not having first gear, Barrie Thomlinson put in a great effort in the Lexus IS200 to put him into third spot on the grid, just squeezing Toyota Corona driver Rhys McKay.

Despite his mishap, Angus Fogg joins the BMW of Kevin Bell on the third row of the grid, who rounded out the top six cars, all within a second of each other.



Richards Gives Team Kiwi Their First Ever Championship Win!
by Tony Bunyan 

Race One
The track was warm under a blue sunny sky for Race One at the Pukekohe Park Raceway. Brett Riley in the International Motorsport Castrol BNT BMW 320i got off to a great start, with Jason Richards in the Team Kiwi Pitstop Nissan Primera in hot pursuit.

As the cars headed down the back straight and to the hairpin for the first time, it was Riley, Richards, Thomlinson and Bell. Problems continued for the Harris Motorsport Team, with driver Aaron Harris limping back to the pits before completing a lap with a blown clutch. "The engine problems we had at Manfield are sorted. Its just part of the learning curve" commented a philosophical Rex Harris.

As the cars pushed up over the John Deere Mountain Richards managed to tuck up under Riley and overtake him down the main straight. "I think Brett was a little surprised to see me take him on so early in the race on cold tyres." said a beaming Jason Richards.

As Richards and Riley battled for the lead, further down the field Barrie Thomlinson found himself on a lonely vigil in third spot. He managed to break away from the pack, but couldn't close the gap between him and the to lead cars.

Behind him a second BMW - Nissan International Motorsport/Team Kiwi battle was being fought. Angus Fogg in the Placemakers Nissan Primera made assault after assault on International Motorsport driver Kevin Bell, on lap 4 running short of real estate and running over the grass at the hairpin.

Riley was unable to match the straight line speed of Richards down Pukekohe's very fast back straight or over the mountain, the Nissan Primera stretching its lead.

On lap 6 Rhys McKay's patience was rewarded as he got passed Foggs Nissan at the hairpin, Kevin Bell now firmly in his gun sights. As the race drew to a close the Toyota driver had caught Bell, filing his rear vision mirror, but not managing to get past before the end of the race.

Brett Riley (l) and Jason Richards (r) are Great Mates, but on the Track They Won't Give Each Other an Inch

Richards crossed the line almost 1.5 seconds ahead of Riley, with Thomlinson in third and Kevin Bell holding out Rhys McKay for third.

"We're thrilled with our win. Not only is it our first win in the 2.0 litre class, but its our first win full stop" commented Team Kiwi's principle David John. "We see the 2.0 litre class as the premiere class in New Zealand circuit racing and we are determined to give it our best crack. We have had so little time for testing. With more development time over Christmas we believe the cars can only get more competitive" beamed John.

Two Wins in Two Races! It was Only Going to be a Matter of Time Before Team Kiwi Started Making Their Mark in the New Zealand Touring Car Championship

Race Two
In Sundays reverse grid race Angus Fogg bolted from fifth to place tremendous pressure on leader Jody Vincent through the Esses. Kevin Bell also got away to an excellent start, falling in behind Fogg. The close contact racing seen at Manfeild continued with Aaron Harris in the Dynapack BMW 320i Coupe making contact first with Peter Butler's Ford Telstar and then Rhys McKay's Toyota Corona, the Telstar loosing the back bumper and the Corona the front right panel.

An incident at the hairpin between Barrie Thomlinson and Jody Vincent left Thomlinson's Lexus without an oil cooler. Blue smoke bellowed from the car down the back straight, Thomlinson pulling the car up short to conserve the overheated engine.

Current NZTC Champion Jason Richards and series leader Brett Riley battled their way through the pack, with Richards ahead until lap five when he spun exiting the Esses. His wild ride across the grass, the track and the kitty litter clogged the Nissan's engine cooling, overheating the car and terminating the Pitstop Primera's race.

Riley managed to avoid the mayhem and set out in pursuit of of Fogg and Bell. By the last lap he was snapping at his BMW team mates heals, but had run out of time. Fogg had pushed on, building a substantial lead over the BMWs, crossing the line nearly six seconds ahead of them. Fogg was elated with his win, quipping that it would only be a matter of time before both Team Kiwi Primeras were running reliably. "The car was still incredibly nervous through high speed turns despite some changes we made to the car" he conceded. "There was no rear grip throught the sweeper which made it hard to keep the car on he track".

Race Three
Apart from Angus Fogg's advance to fourth on the grid due to his lap time in the previous race, the grid for the 12 lap compulsory pitstop race remained the same as Saturday's. Riley had been starved of a win all weekend and starting from pole position giving him his best chance of securing another 32 points. Unknown to the other teams, Jason Richards joined the grid with a blown head gasket, his priority and Team Kiwi's, to finish and gain valuable points, rather than repeat Saturday's win.

Riley, Fogg and Bell' all got off the line cleanly, with Fogg harrying Riley as they dived through the Esses and on to the back straight. Richards quickly became swamped by the pack and the car's mechanical problems looked terminal. Fogg was using all the track and more to try and overtake Riley's BMW. But unlike the first race Riley kept the door firmly closed on the Primera. The Primera was still suffering from rear end instability through high speed turns and twice it appeared that Fogg had completely lost control of the car. The crowd was on its feet as Fogg careered and spun down the grass verge of the main straight at well over 160 km and hour. "I don't know how I managed to save that one" an exhausted Fogg commented after the race. Kevin Bell had been getting quicker all weekend and he capitalised on Fogg's loose drive to make up time

The compulsory pit stops effectively ended the Riley/Fogg battle. Unlike the Manfield meeting, there were no major dramas in the pits - only coming out of them! It was the radar gun reader who determined the race result after Riley, Fogg, Harris and Homewood were all deemed to have speeded in pit lane and as a consequence incurred a five second time penalty.

Although Riley crossed the line first the time penalty relegated him to second behind his team mate Bell. "Its not how I like to win races" reflected Bell, "But the points are helpful to the team and it caps off a great weekend for me".

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