Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th January 2002

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Qualifying - McIntyre
Romps Home!

by Tony Bunyan 

Team Kiwi must be happy with winner of the 2001 Drivesafe 500 John McIntyre. Taking his turn in the Number One Nissan Primera for the third round in the 20001/02 New Zealand Touring Car Championship, McIntyre pipped his team mate Angus Fogg on a wet track in overcast and drizzly conditions at Levels Raceway, Timaru this weekend.

McIntyre 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 handling well" said McIntyre.

Team mate Angus Fogg was his usual composed self. Relaxing in the teams transporter Fogg said , "We've had no major dramas this weekend and I'm happy with my lap time".

John McIntyre had a Great Qualifying Run

The Toyota Altezzas, so strong at Pukekohe and Taupo, appeared to struggle in the difficult conditions. Barrie Thomlinson who put in the best time of the pair, slipped off the track in the last lap of the session, sustaining superficial panel damage in the process. He was let off far more lightly than last year when he had a very big accident in Geoff Short's Lexus IS200, hurting himself and destroying the gearbox mountings.

Kevin Bell had made good progress over Friday's practice, the only upset an unusual noise in the transmission. As a precaution the gearbox was changed before qualifying where Bell succeeded in push the Toyotas behind him on the grid and improving his points tally as he fights back to stay in contention for the NZTC Championship.



Team Kiwi Dents Toyotas Points Tally in Appalling Conditions
by Tony Bunyan

In appalling weather conditions John McIntyre in the Team Kiwi Pitstop Nissan Primera lead the challenge to nobble Toyotas stranglehold on the NZTC Championship at Levels Raceway, Timaru. The rain was so heavy organizers had to declare Round Three of the NZTC Championship a wet meeting as torrential rain pounded the South Island, disrupting telecommunications and closing State Highway 1 north of Timaru.

Race One
While McIntyre had secured pole position it was Angus Fogg in the Team Kiwi Vodaphone Nissan Primera who got the best start to leapfrog ahead of McIntyre, with Bell in the BMW Superproduction 320 SP maintaining third position.

NZTC under starters orders at Timaru

As the early laps of the race unfolded Fogg extended his lead, appearing to enjoy the rain soaked conditions. McIntyre had dropped back a little, but wasn't under any threat from Bell's BMW.

However situations can change very rapidly in these extreme conditions and Fogg ran wide on the sweeper out of the long fast back straight, dropping off onto the grass. While he fought to get the car back onto the track, McIntyre in the second Team Kiwi Primera made a clean exit and passed Fogg to take over the lead.

Incredibly, two laps later, with Fogg beginning to gain on McIntyre he ran wide at the same point. This time he was luckier. Kevin Bell in the BNT/Castrol BMW 320 SP was not quiet close enough to capitalize on Fogg's error. In the mean time McIntyre had extended his lead over the field.

The two Toyota Altezzas were well back, their lap times 0.5 seconds off the leaders times. Aaron Harris's engine misfire problems continued as he splashed through the puddles lying on the track to stay ahead of Tony Oliver in the Toyota Corona.

As the race neared its conclusion, Fogg had managed to open a gap on Bell to secure his second position, while Barrie Thomlinson slowed significantly at the hairpin allowing the tail of the field to close in on him.

It was a deserving win for McIntyre and although it is unlikely that a Team Kiwi driver will win the NZTC Championship, the team has once again given Nissan a very healthy manufacturers points tally.

Race Two
The wet weather front which drenched the whole of the South Island continued to produce difficult conditions at the Levels Raceway, Timaru for Sunday's racing. After several heavy showers and continual drizzle there were few patches of grass that had not been turned into mud.

Master of the start Angus Fogg once again got away the best to head off team mate John McIntyre into the first turn. Kevin Bell's BMW 320 SP was the best of the rest to drop in behind the Nissan Primeras and secure third.

The top end of the track was particularly greasy and 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. Bell managed to get back on the track to retain his third place.

As the cars settled down into the second lap, Fogg was well ahead of McIntyre, with Bell fending off Thomlinson for third place.

Aaron Harris continued his run of misery as he felt his left front hand wheel parting company from his car. With all of the wheel studs still intact, the most likely explanation was the pitcrew had forgotten to tighten the wheel nuts!

McIntyre Leads Fogg Across the start/finish Line

Johnny Mac had not given up on overhauling Fogg for the lead and the pair diced down the back straight, McIntyre blinded by the sheet of spray coming off Fogg's car. Bell found himself an orphan in third, with the two Toyota Altezza's of Thomlinson and Hellebrekers well off the pace of the leaders. It got worse for the Toyota's with Thomlinson retiring on lap six with gearbox and electrical problems.

Patience rewarded as Fogg lost traction going into the complex on the penultimate lap, McIntyre driving home the advantage, ducking up the inside of Fogg. Another one two finish by Team Kiwi, another win for McIntyre.

It was an excellent piece of driving in the wet by McIntyre and if Fogg is the benchmark, the n McIntyre scored more than championship points with the win.

Race Three
The 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. Tony Oliver's pit crew had done a fantastic job to get their car back onto the track after the car sustained heavy damage in the earlier race. 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 was drying rapidly.

Harris got the jump on Hellebrekers as the cars headed through the Esses. Angus Fogg had also made a good start and was hard on Bells exhaust pipe. As the cars exited the sweeper to head down the back straight Fogg made heavy contact between his right front and 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 difficult.

The 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.

Aaron Harris at the Front of the Dummy Grid for Race 3

By half way through the race points leader Thomlinson's weekend got a lot brighter overtaking Hellebrekers and then Harris for the lead. Hellebrekers sat in third place, with the Team Kiwi cars and Bell in the BMW trailing. Still to complete his compulsory pitstop,the back end of Fogg's car stepped out as the cars entered the Esses, allowing Bell to close the gap up on the Nissan. His progress wasn't to last and the car pulled up for Bell's third DNF of the season.

Phil Hellebrekers Immaculately Prepared Toyota Altezza

In the closing stages of the race Fogg pulled into the pits to complete his stop/go penalty. An interesting duel had developed between McIntyre and Harris. While his car was visibly slower than McIntyre's, Harris 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.

Although 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 steadying influence of Team manager Martin Collins on Team Kiwi was event over the weekend and John McIntyre's talent was undeniable. At the seasons midpoint Toyota have the upperhand, but Team Kiwi has shown they are not invincible.

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