Wilkie back in hot seat but in a different class

BENJAMIN CARRELL
Last updated 05:00 02/11/2012

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The build-up has started for the New Zealand Midget Car Championshipat Ruapuna Speedway in January, with strong numbers of local drivers set to take to the Christchurch track in preparation.

Former national TQ Champion Glen Durie is the latest to move across to the class with his purchase of the Gaerte-engined car previously raced by Invercargill driver Barry Sommerville.

Another frontline TQ driver Michael Moulin has also stepped up into the midgets, having bought the ex-Matt Milne Pontiac.

The class has been further boosted with the news that Nick Donaldson will mount a season-long Ruapuna campaign, having focused his attention last season on racing in the North Island.

Long-time campaigner Gavin Wilkie from Dunedin could prove to be a real dark horse following his step up into a car with a modern Breka chassis that has been fitted with a Fontana engine. Wilkie has been a great stalwart of the class and a major engine failure last year looked to potentially finish his racing days. However, several friends have helped out.

Few would dispute that five time and South Island champion David Kerr is the driver most likely to break the 45-year drought since a southerner won the national championship.

He will have some help as Nelson's Nevil Basalaj is one with the experience and equipment to ensure that the much vaunted Auckland contingent will face stiff competition when they appear at the Mag and Turbo Ruapuna Speedway.

The South Island Formula Ford championship starts soon and several Canterbury drivers will use the series as preparation for the national championship.

James Munro (Mygale SJ08A), Tom Barker (Stealth Van Diemen) and Derek Wilson (Swift) raced last weekend at the Wigram Revival as a leadup to the first round in Timaru on November 11.

Munro is driving the ex-Matt Williams car, while Tom Barker has the ex-Caine Lobb and Andre Heimgartner car. The series will feature four rounds before Christmas, including a double header at Teretonga, Invercargill, before the final two rounds in March.

Seven South Island drivers, all in Fords, will head north for the biennial epay Silver Fern Rally. The week-long event starts in Auckland on November 11 and finishes six days later in Hamilton. Traditionally, this had been held in the South Island.

Jeff Judd (Escort RS1800) and Deane Buist (Escort RS1800) will start first and second on the road, with Brent Rawstron (Escort RS1800), Peter Schmach (Escort RS1800), Brian Stokes (Escort Mk2), Leigh Marston (Ford Fiesta R2) and James Hewlett (Escort RS1800) among the 33 Kiwis competing against 17 internationals.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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