Manfeild round buoys city drivers
Palmerston North drivers made timely moves up the Formula First national championship ladder after round three of the series at Manfeild at the weekend.
Oliver Gordon stepped up into third place after the third of nine rounds when he had two third placings and a second.
He jumped from fourth to third in the national standings and the runner-up placing was his best in the class.
The meeting was transferred from Pukekohe where the track is being upgraded for the V8 Supercars.
The two Sunday races were in the wet, the first when the track was damp and the other through heavy rain.
Former Suzuki Swift Sport driver Bramwell King is back in the single-seater class and he had his highest placings so far. He is now fourth overall after two fourths and a fifth at Manfeild.
Whanganui's Aaron Marr, who has come out of karting, lies fifth overall and leads the rookie-of-the-year title chase by 143 points. He is the Sabre scholarship winner in Dennis Martin's Palmerston North team, which is running only one car this season.
A big threat is Hawke's Bay's Rowan Shepherd who took over the car from his Palmerston North-domiciled older brother Michael, a five-times Formula First champion.
Rowan Shepherd had a clean sweep of all three races at Manfeild to move to 568 points and close on leader Ryan Hellier (Auckland), on 636 points. He was the runner-up in last year's series in which Shepherd was third.
Gordon, in his Sabre chassis, has 476 points from Auckland's David Ruthven (442) and Marr (501).
Other Manawatu drivers in the class are the experienced Dave Scammell (Feilding) and new entrant Bob Dillow from Ohakea.
The next round is at Taupo on January 26-27. Formula First returns to MotorSport New Zealand's tier one next year. It will be a support class for the three Toyota Racing Series rounds in the North Island at Hampton Downs, Taupo and the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Manfeild on February 9-10.
Meanwhile, Martin's Sabre team is crying out for backing to keep it alive after operating the team since 1999.
"If we can't find it, we can't continue," Martin said. "We are really struggling for funds and we are working hard to find backing from somewhere."
Martin has competed in national motorsport for the past 42 years and many of New Zealand's best drivers have come through his scholarship programme. He even discounted the lease price for his cars this season.
Winter series winner Tim Fox (Wellington) is driving in the occasional meeting in one of Martin's Cars this summer, but that's it.
- © Fairfax NZ News