Simon Evans wins 2016–’17 BNT NZ Touring Car Championship
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Simon Evans has clinched the 2016-'17 BNT NZ Touring Car Championship crown after winning the category's opening race at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park earlier today.
It's the 26-year-old's third V8 title in as many years, after he took out the final BNT NZ SuperTourers title in 2014-'15 and the BNT NZ Touring Car Championship in 2015-'16. The driver ranks his new crown as one of his best ever, after claiming the title earlier today at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
"I've had some really good races with everyone. You look at the start of the year, they took a lot of horsepower out of us because they thought that we were too fast, and on track we haven't finished outside the podium," Evans told nzherald.co.nz.
"It's a credit to the team. We've had a really really strong run, and so for me it's really up there considering we were - I wouldn't say handicapped - but they took the power away from us to make it even."
Evans was in the box seat to win the title after his main championship rival - Tom Alexander - retired early with technical issues. From there Evans simply had to finish the race towards the front.
The Smeg Racing driver started from pole position, only to lose out on the run to turn one to series-long rival Jason Bargwanna.
The Australian looked to have Evans covered for the majority of the race, only for the Smeg racer to make the pass on the final lap after the pair exchanged contact through turns one and two.
"I love racing against Jason, he's a good hard racer. I knew that he was going to fight until the end," said Evans.
"I got a really good run out of the last corner [on the last lap], and was right up behind Jason. He defended going into one, and we both went quite deep and at the crest into turn one his car just stepped out and ran a bit wide.
"I knew that if I could actually get into the inside and be overlapping him that I would've made it through. Because he wouldn't be able to hang around the outside. And that's what happened."
With Evans vacating the category at the end of the season, championship honours for next season are wide open. Eyes are now on the next generation of V8 racers to battle for the title, in Evans' absence.
"Next year I hope that the class is really strong. Tom [Alexander] has come a long way this season, Sam [Barry] picked up a win at the last round - I hope they come back next year and use what they've learned this year, because they'll be so much better. Every lap you do in these cars you get better, especially when you're learning in your first and second seasons," said Evans.
"The class is in a good place, but it's probably the right time for me to move on and let there be a new champion."
Photo / Simon Chapman
Evans wasn't the only driver to secure a V8 championship on the day either, with Liam MacDonald [pictured above]securing honours in Class Two.
In a similar scene to Class One, MacDonald's lead rival for the crown - Brad Lathrope - failed to make the finish. MacDonald then took the race win over Nick Farrier and Robert Wallace.
The category's two final races of the season take place tomorrow afternoon at 12.01pm and 4.07pm.