Heading into the final round of the BNT NZ Touring Car Championship 2016–’17 season, the current points gap means there is plenty to drive hard for in both class one and two at Hampton Downs, over March 11–12.
As it stands, reigning champion Simon Evans maintains a healthy class-one lead of 198 points over Tom Alexander; there are 75 points on offer for a race win. If Evans wins the first race (of three), and Alexander finishes third or lower, the championship will go to Evans with two races to go.
Similarly in class two, the points gap between first and second place is even closer. Liam MacDonald holds a 127-point lead over Brad Lathrope. If MacDonald wins race one (of three), and Lathrope finishes fifth or lower, then the championship will go to MacDonald with two races to go.
Luckily for punters, motorsport is full of curveballs, and with championship standings on the line, anything can happen — so we may just see the the championship fire right up until the final race in both classes
Evans says he won’t be playing the conservative card at Hampton Downs. “We come here to win races, so we’ll treat it like any other weekend and win as many races as we can.”
Further back in the field, Sam Barry is chasing second place in the class-one championship, while he currently sits in third place — 158 points behind Tom Alexander. Alexander is yet to claim a win this season, and Barry took his first win at Manfeild in February.
Race one of the weekend saw the two tango on Manfeild’s main straight — at no less than 200kph — which unsurprisingly caused major damage to Barry’s Toyota Camry. Thankfully it was repaired overnight by the Richards Motorsport Team, with Barry going on to claim a second-place finish and a win the next day.
“After hitting the wall on the front straightaway doing 200kph, the damage to the rear of the car was huge. My crew at Richards Team Motorsport put in a huge effort to replace the diff, driveshaft, gearbox, shocks, and all the rear arms,” said Barry. “What a feeling! The boys did an epic job all weekend, first to rebuild the car, then that pit stop was unbelievable.”
However, looking to seize the opportunity of possible misfortune is Barry’s teammate, Jason Bargwanna. The familiar Australian face is a two-time NZ Touring Car Champion, and a former winner of the Bathurst 1000, bringing a wealth of experience with him.
It’s also a close points spread in class two — Jamie Conroy currently holds down third place in the championship, followed by Chelsea Herbert, Nick Farrier, and Simon Fleming — the four drivers only covered by 107 points. Third place could go to any one of the four.
Class one championship
Simon Evans (Holden) — 1055
Tom Alexander (Holden) — 857
Sam Barry (Toyota) — 699
Jason Bargwanna (Ford/Toyota) — 639
Lance Hughes (Holden) — 628
Nick Ross (Nissan) — 610
Brock Cooley (Ford) — 556
Callum Quin (Holden) — 300
John Midgley (Ford) — 42
Class two championship
Liam MacDonald (Ford TL) — 1038
Brad Lathrope (Ford TL) — 911
Jamie Conroy (Ford TL) — 671
Chelsea Herbert (Ford TL) — 645
Nick Farrier (Ford TL) — 636
Simon Fleming (Ford TL) — 564
Robert Wallace (Ford TL) — 386
Justin Ashwell (Ford TL) — 344
Steve Taylor (Ford TL) — 277
Bronson Porter (Holden TL) — 138
Ian Clapperton (Ford TL) — 129
Brendan Murphy (Holden TL) — 117