Invercargill driver Jamie Conroy has kept his lead in the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship despite battling a mysterious engine problem throughout round four of the series at Hampton Downs, in north Waikato, this weekend.
Much was made of the fact that Conroy had never driven on the Hampton Downs circuit before the weekend but after just eight laps on Friday and a short session on Saturday morning he made light of that fact and showed he can come to grips with circuits very quickly.
Conroy spent much of Saturday's session dicing with motor racing legend Ken Smith, who was moved to visit crew member Wal Wilmott after the session to ask who was driving the car and pass an opinion that "the kid can drive".
However, a difficult-to-trace gremlin frustrated Conroy for much of the weekend. The problem surfaced in qualifying, leaving Conroy and his Mygale fifth on the grid for the first race. He described the problem: "The car is fine at the end of the straights but when you exit a corner it is just really slow and everyone else just pulls away".
The team thought they had found the problem before the the first race but as soon as Conroy took to the track it was evident that the issue had not been cured and he brought the car home fifth.
A lot of work was done overnigh,t with the carburettor, distributor and coil all being replaced, and on Sunday morning Conroy returned to the form he has shown throughout the series to rack up win No 10 in great style, making several good passes as he carved his way to the front.
Conroy was on pole for the third and final race, for the Ron Frost Memorial Trophy, with Ken Smith alongside.
Conroy made a great start and leapt into a good lead only for the same problem to return after just one lap. That meant the Southlander fell to fourth at the finish.
"It feels as though the car is starving for fuel," Conroy said as he summed up his race.
However, he has retained the championship lead and the team will test at Taupo Motorsport Park this week before the penultimate round of the championship takes place at Manfeild Park, Feilding, as a support event to the New Zealand Grand Prix next weekend.
- The Southland Times