When thirty SsangYong Actyon Racing Utes lined up on the grid at Pukekohe Park Raceway last weekend for the latest round of battle, most eyes were looking towards the Championship Points leaders, Daniel Connor, Christina Orr and Marty Irvine, expecting them to continue with their show of form seen over the first two events.
This prediction of many was put to bed when series rookie Matthew Griffin arrived in a brand new SRS Ute with only 7 kilometres on the clock, and proceeded to carve up the incumbent front runners, proving that to win in the Ssangyong Racing Series, you must have a ute with plenty of hard racing kilometres on the clock, is just a fallacy.
It was by no means a walkover for Griffin to take the overall weekend honours as he had to fight against tough opponents like Christina Orr who took pole, won the first race and finished second overall for the weekend. And the likes of Faine Kahia who finished the weekend with third and Cory Holmes who became the first driver to claim a second race win in the series. Young 14 year old Trey Nairn also demonstrated lots of car speed, only to fall fowl of the sports regulators costing him any chance to take out the round win.
The weekend also provided extra thrills for some with incidents requiring post-race panel repair. The most dramatic being Ben Forrest who managed to barrel roll his ‘Test and Tag’ sponsored Ute twice, but fortunately landing back on its wheels and raised a huge cheer from spectators when he proceeded to drive it back to the pits! In his own humorous way Forrest was unsure what the fuss was about. “I was going to carry on with the race as the ute was in a drivable condition, however I couldn’t see through the shattered windscreen so I played safe and went straight back to the pits.”
In testament to the SsangYong Racing Series, Forrest has expressed his gratitude to the form of camaraderie that has existed from the beginning, when post-race, teams came from all garages to offer help and support to ensure he would be back racing the rest of the weekend. With 27 Utes confirmed – and 3 available for lease – for the next round at the end of January 2015, the return to the Hampton Downs Circuit might play into the hands of current series points leader Daniel Connor. Although his 300 point lead has whittled down to 117 from the last event, he will again be considered one of the favourites.
However any slip-ups in any race have proven to be costly. The very experienced ‘special guest’ driver Ben Dallas who appeared at Pukekohe for what many hope will not be a one-off appearance is a demonstration of this as he went from 2nd spot with one lap to go, down to 6th, all from one tiny error on a single corner. He gave his summation of the field and the series in simple terms. “With so many of these things on the track at once and all very much equal, if you make one mistake – which I did – it’s like NASCAR, you get swamped and lose a heap of spots.”
While the fans adore the fun and entertainment on track, it is a slightly different scenario for the drivers themselves, and the loss of track positions from simple gaffes, and the fact that the racing is fierce and competitive has set a warning to them all, especially those at the top of the Championship table – there is very little room for error.
Rick Cooper, Chairman of Ssangyong New Zealand, said “I was just so excited to see every one of our 30 Actyon Sport Utes pouring down the front straight I just about wet myself! Our Dealers, who were all there for the big day are fizzing and keen to be involved in whatever way they can to support the series.”
For those that missed getting out to Pukekohe in the weekend, an hours coverage of the SsangYong Racing (Round 3) will be played on TV3’s CRC Motorsport in a couple of weeks.
For those interested in getting involved with the SsangYong Racing Series, contact Series Race Director Mark Petch on 021 721 666 or email email@example.com