30 utes on the grid again at Hampton Downs last weekend combined with a wet track made for a nail biting Round Four with plenty of thrills and spills for spectators and competitor's alike.
Christina Orr looked the favourite to overhaul Championship leader Daniel Conner's points lead going into Round 4 of the SRS Championship, with Conner competing overseas' in a Karting world final. Orr certainly lived up to expectations, with an exceptional drive in race 2 [the top ten Reverse grid race] slicing her way back through the big field after being spun out on turn one, immediately after the rolling start, and being forced to re-join the race in last place. Despite this mishap Orr managed to salvage 11th position in the race, good enough, along with her two top finishes in race's 1 & 2, to take pole for the last race.
The rain affected last race was shortened considerably due to a serious collision between Matt Wallace and Hayden Johnston, and the race finally finished under the Safety Car, handing Orr the win for the weekend and securing her new Number 1 position in the Championship. Orr further stamped her authority on the series by setting a new lap record as she attempted to chase down the eventual winner of Race 1, Alexander Whitley. Orr later said, "Hat's off to Alexandra, she drove brilliantly and I couldn't catch her."
Series newcomer, and also leading the TRS86 championship series, Tom Alexander proved his skill and ability throughout the weekend to bag two race win's and finish 2nd overall for the weekend in the Stadium Car Ute. Eastland SsangYong’s Rowan Shepherd also proved his undoubted speed after starting from the rear of the field in race one due to an issue in qualifying, and took out third place for the round.
Regrettably, competitors didn’t get a full final weekend's race, due to a serious on track collision between two competitors that meant the majority of the race was run under safety car conditions. However as Race Director Mark Petch pointed out “With the rain making the track very slippery everyone was in the same boat, unfortunately some didn't handle it as well as other's.” “Fortunately those drivers who were involved with the accident are ok and repairs are already underway to ensure the utes will be operational in time for the South Island Rounds next month.”
It certainly was a weekend for the top female drivers in the series. Young 15 year-old Chelsea Herbert, one of NZ’s best women Karters, did a brilliant job in qualifying to grab pole position. Regrettably, she was hit from behind and spun out in the first lap, becoming a sitting duck with several utes unable to avoid her. Her vehicle was badly damaged as a result, which meant a DNF for her in Race 1. However, thanks to Deon Cooper, Chelsea was able to participate in the rest of the weekend, in his ute. Another young women, Australian Karting Champion Alexandra Whitely, has gone from strength to strength in the Series and after taking her first win in Race 1, ended up in fourth position for the weekend after receiving a penalty for a jumped start in Race 1. Whitely still had a very strong round and will also be one to watch in future rounds.
SsangYong NZ Chairman Rick Cooper, who also raced in the weekend, said “Round Four proved to be a pretty challenging round for many of our drivers. However, this is what this Series is all about – providing these talented guys and girls with some genuine racing experience so they can develop their skills, chase their dreams and become the future of NZ Motorsport. We are very proud to be doing our bit to help them realise their potential.”
“There is such great camaraderie amongst our drivers and we are really looking forward to joining everyone down the South Island, in a new environment, and seeing what happens next in the Series.”
For those that missed getting out to Hampton Downs in the weekend, an hour’s coverage of the SsangYong Racing (Round 4) will be played on TV3’s CRC Motorsport, Sunday 15 February.
For those interested in finding out more about the SsangYong Racing Series, contact Series Race Director Mark Petch on 021 721 666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org