V8 Series a success, in weekend of firsts
Following a difficult birth, many fans, officials and racers alike have deemed this weekend's Metalman United V8 Spectacular a success.
With New Zealand's three premiere V8 classes (NZ SuperTourers, and both NZ V8 Touring Car classes) on the same grid together for the first time, some expected tension between the camps. However, attitudes on both sides of the debate have been positive - with some already looking towards the future of a unified class.
"It's worked really well. But I suppose at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what we think; it's what the fans think," said Australian NZV8 Touring car driver Jason Bargwanna.
"Today, when the fans were down in pit-lane getting autographs signed, that the fans really reacted and responded and appreciate what we're trying to do. Next year, you'll find that all the cars will be competitive and close and it will produce a fantastic V8 touring car championship in this country."
Former NZV8 rival Angus Fogg expressed similar views, despite sitting on the sidelines for this weekend following a jet-skiing accident in the break.
“The medium term plan is to make the cars perform in a similar way around the track so that we have some good racing. But as much as you can try and get parity on dyno’s, the only real way to do it is on the track," said Fogg.
Fogg's weekend replacement, former full-time V8 Supercar driver Tony D'Alberto claimed his first SuperTourer victory in the first of today's two combined races - both of which ended in nail-biting fashion.
After a differential failure ended Andre Heimgartner's race two early, the lead fell into the hands of NZ SuperTourer series winner Simon Evans. The Smeg Racing driver looked to have sealed the win heading into the final lap, but traffic stalled his shot at victory.
Stuck behind the battling TLX Commodore entries of James McLaughlin and Lance Hughes, as well as a number of TL entries, D'Alberto was able to bridge the margin to Evans quickly before eventually passing for the lead at the hair-pin while still dealing with traffic.
"On that last lap we came up to a gaggle of cars. Simon got blocked by one of them, and then he tried to go around them and positioned himself not quite right. I had the luxury of picking the right line, and got him at the hairpin," said D'Alberto.
"It was a lucky one, a cheeky one. But I'll take it."
Race three also ended in spectacular fashion, with a mere 0.043 seconds separating the first two finishers. Rebounding from his race two failure, Andre Heimgartner won despite starting from 6th. However the win didn't come easily, with Simon Evans desperately trying to snatch the win away from the Super Black Racing driver in the final lap after traffic once again played a part.
Evans had lead the opening ten laps of the race, but lost out to Heimgartner after the young driver showed superior pace in the damp conditions which struck the track soon after. Heading into the final lap, Heimgartner's 3 second margin looked unbeatable. But, traffic placed the result in doubt with a mere handful of corners remaining.
"Coming up over the hill we caught up one of the TLX guys. It got a bit awkward, and I lost a bit of time. I managed to stay just in front of Evans. I could see him coming in my mirror, so I knew how close he was," laughed Heimgartner.
Despite not winning a race all weekend, newly crowned NZ SuperTourer series winner Evans took home the round win.
Behind them, a difficult weekend for Jason Bargwanna was not enough to prevent him for winning his second NZV8 title, the first for Richards Team Motorsport's (RTM) Toyota Camry.
"[RTM has] put a couple of years of hard work, and it's delivered the result that everyone wanted. So for RTM, to have been doing this for so long, to win their first championship after so much commitment to the sport is great for them."
Bargwanna's chief rival Nick Ross swept the weekend in the TLX weekend in his Nissan Altima. While in the TL class, Kevin Williams ended a dominant season in the TL class with a sweep of his own.
Attention now turns to building a revised series for next season; positivity being the main product of this weekend's racing.
"Thanks to everybody for putting this event on. There's been a lot of people behind the scenes pushing forward trying to get the cars on track," said D'Alberto.
"I know Owen Evans had a lot to do with it, and Gary [Lathrope] and a few other guys in the background. So thank you to them."