Simon Evans has claimed victory in the first race of the BNT NZ Touring Cars at Pukekohe Park Raceway.
The first of three of the weekend’s races, the opening encounter saw Evans in his Smeg Holden locked in a heated battle with the Total Lubricants Nissan Altima of Cambridge driver Nick Ross.
Ross was holding off a charging Simon Evans for the first half of the race, before one of the bonnet pins on his Altima failed, causing the front left corner to lift up, the gaping hole slowing his progress and allowing Evans to slip by.
Ross held on for second place, with a fast approaching Sam Barry driving a Toyota Camry rounding out the Class One podium.
Evans says Ross drove well, and that completing a clean pass was proving difficult on the fast Pukekohe circuit.
“Nick was driving really well, the performance between the two cars was very even. There were parts of the circuit where my car was strong and parts where he was strong. It certainly wasn’t going to be easy to get by,” says Evans.
“It was a shame that his bonnet came up because I think it would have been a good battle between us right to the end.”
“He got me at the start, I just missed it slightly, he held it around the outside of turn one and got the lead.”
Evans says that with two races left to run for the weekend, tyre management will come into play for all drivers.
“I was managing the tyres there towards the end and to try make them last for tomorrow if it stays dry. Even though it might look like it’s going to rain, you have to have a plan up your sleeve.”
Despite a bonnet pin coming loose, Ross says he is happy with the performance of his Nissan Altima.
“I loaded the engine on the start and used the torque to get away cleanly, I knew that if I could get ahead of him into turns two and three then I could probably hold him off.”
“I don’t know what caused the bonnet to come up, because Simon and I didn’t really touch, once it did come loose, it acted liked a parachute and slowed me down. I think it was just one of those things.”
“We’ll look at it tonight and make sure it doesn’t happen again tomorrow.”
“I’m pleased with the pace of the car at the moment, it’s looking promising and good to be up the front battling with Simon.”
“If it rains tomorrow, so be it. I don’t mind racing in the wet.”
In Class Two of the championship, it was Brad Lathrope [above] who took a largely unchallenged victory ahead of Nick Farrier and Steve Taylor.
Lathrope, who was last season’s runner-up, says he relieved to have performed well in the opening race of the season.
“We’ve put in a massive effort in the off season to get the car prepped and ready for the first round, so to come away with a win in the first race is mega for myself and the team. It’s a relief and a confidence boost to come out strong,” says Lathrope.
“The race was actually pretty straight forward. From the start I just looked to get a good start, establish a gap and hold it.”
With rain forecast to fall tomorrow, Lathrope says he relishes the wet conditions.
“I go alright in the rain. I actually got my first win here at Pukekohe last season in the rain, so we’ll see if we can repeat that again.”
The BNT NZ Touring Cars race again tomorrow with two further races at Pukekohe.