Motorsport Wrap: Exotics hit the south island
Mad Mike, Tom Blomqvist, Nick Cassidy among those in action as GTs shake Invercargill
Just about everyone has weighed into the argument that V8 formulas in this part of the world have had their time in the sun, and should now be superseded by GT categories. It's an argument that you'll typically find being debated between our mates over the ditch regarding the Supercars Championship and the quickly growing Australian GT Championship, and tempers do flare from time to time.
The same argument has been staged in New Zealand, though to a much lesser extent. As the NZ Touring Car Championship continues to try and claw its way back from the dead following the well-publicized infighting of previous years, our GT scene has grown to quite a healthy size.
Following on from another successful season of the Mahindra North Island Series, the Carters Tyres South Island Endurance Series kicked off over the weekend with the opening round of their season. And much like their Northern counterparts the grids were excellent and the racing tight. While some might not yet be asking whether domestic GT racing will rival the V8s for supremacy, rest assured that the question will become a talking point sooner rather than later.
Ferrari squad continue winning ways in Invercargill
After claiming their maiden national championship through unprecedented means at the final round of the North Island Endurance Series, Trass Family Motorsport packed their things and headed south for the South Island Series — winning the three-hour series opener on Saturday with drivers Sam Fillmore and Richard Muscat.
They hadn't been race favourites; that title arguably went to the SaReNi Camaro GT3 of John McIntyre and Simon Gilbertson. But a flat tyre early in the race threw them off the lead lap and into recovery mode.
Various other cars tried to challenge the TFM Ferrari for the top step, including the M2 Motorsport SuperTourer-chassis Commodore of Simon McLennan/Richard Moore, and the new-to-NZ Mercedes-AMG SLS GR3 of Matt and Dwayne Carter, but technical problems halted both of their challenges. This left the Ferrari to take a one-lap win from McIntyre and Gilbertson in the Camaro.
In the one-hour curtain raiser, Auckland's Hugh Gardiner took another win in his Porsche, taking the flag comfortably over Chris Henderson's wild V8-powered Toyota Levin.
Luck deserts Mad Mike as big result goes begging
Photo / Larry Chen, Formula D
‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett has had a shocker this season in the Formula Drift series. And even over the weekend in Texas, where he looked to have hit a new rhythm, luck wasn't on his side.
Qualifying 10th with a 91, Whiddett looked good through his first two battles. A rough start against Cameron Moore was soon overcome after a rerun, then Tyler McQuarrie's Mobil 1 Camaro was defeated — Whiddett laying down one of the best lead runs of the night to stay in the game.
But a throttle issue resulting in a blown intake plenum in his last run against McQuarrie sadly resulted in Whiddett having to drop out of the competition on the edge of a rare top-eight berth.
The weekend wasn't all bad for Whiddett however, after it was confirmed that he would be swapping the slideways life for a circuit racing debut in October with Klark Quinn and his STIX McLaren 650S GT3.
Former TRS champ misses F3 podiums
Photo / FIA European Formula 3 Championship
We all know that Nick Cassidy has the talent and speed to rival and beat FIA European F3 Championship leader Lance Stroll on his day.
But sadly Cassidy, nor anyone else, has been able to enjoy many of those days in the recent past. And so it came to pass that Stroll won two out of three of the F3 series' races over the weekend at the Nürburgring. Cassidy meanwhile had to settle for a fourth, DNF, and fifth over the weekend's three races.
Race one was his best shot at a win, having started from the front row. Cassidy initially won the start, but locked a tyre into turn one to let Stroll back by. Stroll from there couldn't be stopped, leaving Cassidy under pressure from teammate Maximilian Günter and George Russell. The pair eventually passed the Kiwi after he grabbed first gear by accident — leaving Cassidy to finish fourth.
It would prove to be the former TRS champion's best result of the weekend, after a DNF in race two due to a lap-one incident and a fifth in race three followed.
Blomqvist back on the DTM podium for BMW
Photo / BMW Motorsport
Expat Kiwi Tom Blomqvist enjoyed a consistent weekend with his factory BMW outfit, with the DTM headlining the same Nürburgring attended by Cassidy and the F3 crew.
His highlight would be a second-place finish in race one. Starting from second, Blomqvist forced to play second fiddle to teammate Marco Wittman. His results dipped slightly in race two, finishing eighth, but the competitive weekend as a whole solidifies his grasp on an impressive sixth place in the championship.
“I’m very happy with this result. We had a few problems in practice yesterday and today,” he said after race one.
“However, BMW Team RBM got to grips with this magnificently by the time qualifying came around. My start was really good, but then, I made a little mistake and dropped out of the DRS window to Marco. That was the moment in which the race became really tough for me
“The race was very tough with some close battles. I had to fend off a number of attacks. I managed that, and am very happy with the podium and the 18 points.”
Michael Scott makes American debut in USF2000
Photo / sourced
Former New Zealand Formula Ford champion Michael Scott has made the big trip to the United States to try and crack the American open-wheel segment.
With Formula 1 as hard (cough, expensive) to try and enter, the IndyCar Series in which Scott Dixon has carved out a name for himself is becoming one of the leading alternatives; evidenced by the steady flow of drivers from European categories like GP2 joining the series. Look no further than who won this year's Indianapolis 500 for more evidence.
Scott (that's Michael, not Dixon) competed over the weekend at Mazda Laguna Seca in the USF2000 series — a feeder to Indy Lights and IndyCar. Sadly it wasn't exactly a fairy-tale weekend, with mechanical woes stunting any chance of Scott claiming a big result. Scott had the pace to be competitive, qualifying seventh for the opening race. But an engine failure ended the race prematurely.
Race two was a fraction better, Scott making the finishline to claim 14th. This in the racing industry is what they call ‘character building’, and Scott will return to the race track stronger than ever next time.
Read more about the South Island Endurance Series: 1 hour race / 3 hour race
Read more about Mad Mike Whiddett in Texas
Read more about Nick Cassidy's F3 weekend: race 1 / race 2 / race 3
Read more about Tom Blomqvist's DTM results: race 1 / race 2
Read more about Michael Scott's Laguna Seca debut