The sheer grunt that is the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship shook Pukekohe Park Raceway over the weekend of November 4–6. While there’s no denying the appeal of a field full of state-of-the-art race cars, it wasn’t just the supercars alone that grabbed our attention.
As it is for many others, it’s the whole atmosphere of the iconic location as it comes to life with car lovers from around the nation, and the globe, that’s special for us. Just people-watching at the event can be a sport in itself.
Not all of the crowd present were there just to watch the supercars either, with great supporting fields equally as impressive to watch, and even more accessible to those who like to wander the pits.
For us, being supporters of the Enzed Central Muscle Cars series, it was great to see the crowd on their feet when the cars hit the track. They weren’t disappointed with the action provided either, especially the battle at the front of the field, which waged all weekend long, between Dean Perkins, John Midgley, Shane Wigston, and Bruce Anderson. For a full round report, check out NZV8 Issue No. 140, coming out soon!
While not quite as high powered — OK, a long way from it — the SsangYong Actyon Racing Series utes were surprisingly fun to watch, as many drivers seemed to forget that they were in a circuit race, not a demolition derby, and, as such, carnage ensued.
The carnage wasn’t confined just to the SsangYongs though, with the NZ UDC V8 utes also keeping mechanics and panel beaters busy between rounds. Ex touring car champion Paul Manuel didn’t keep clear of the carnage, but he did manage to make it his weekend in the end.
Speaking of ex touring car drivers, Angus Fogg may have been the laughing stock of his mates by pedalling an Aussie touring car, but the smile on his face showed the pint-sized machines still provided a full-sized amount of fun. With the grid jam-packed with all different body styles, ranging from Camaros to Mercedes, Commodores to old coupes, it was easy to see the appeal of the motorbike-powered machines.
If you were there to see carnage, the Toyota 86 class was probably the one that impressed the most, with Michael Scott and his Northland Toyota–sponsored TR 86 spinning off the track on the run up to the mountain, and vaulting over the catch fencing. Thankfully he was able to climb out of the car and give the crowd a big thumbs up.
The Supercars Championship didn’t fail to entertain either, with plenty of the crowd backing hometown hero Shane van Gisbergen, and rightfully so, as he managed to record the fastest time in qualifying on the Friday.
It was van Gisbergen’s teammate, Jamie Whincup, who scored the first race win though, beating ‘The Giz’ by 6.5 seconds. Fellow Kiwi and ‘give it some jandal’ quote creator Scott McLaughlin came home in third.
Whincup’s victory clawed him back six crucial championship points on front runner van Gisbergen, but not enough to bump him from the top spot.
Race two saw the Red Bull Racing teammates at it again, racing a little too hard, with Whincup scoring a pit-lane penalty after spinning van Gisbergen at the hairpin, much to the disgust of the crowd.
Thankfully, van Gisbergen managed to claw his way back up the field to finish third behind Scott Pye and reigning champion Mark Winterbottom.
The third race of the weekend saw van Gisbergen and Whincup battle once more — this time our local hero took the chequered flag ahead of Whincup and Chaz Mostert. Scott McLaughlin’s seventh-place finish edged him closer to third place overall in the championship.
The next round takes place at Sydney Olympic Park over December 2–4, and with van Gisbergen now sitting on 3089 points — 191 points ahead of Whincup on 2898 — it’s set to be one hell of a battle.
Scott McLaughlin will also be pushing hard to beat Craig Lowndes for third spot, with Lowndes narrowly ahead with 2596 points to McLaughlin’s 2575. The next quickest Kiwi is Fabian Coulthard back in 11th place, followed by Chris Pither in 19th.
Our congratulations go out to all involved in running yet another great event, including Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED), who not only get right in behind the event, but put on a seriously cool lead-up to it also, which this year included the familiar Driver Parade up Queen Street as well as multiple free go-karting events.