The final round of the Prowear NZ Superlap Series in association with Endless Brakes began under a thick blanket of fog. Delays at Hampton Downs while waiting for the fog to lift meant plenty of time for the drivers to check out the cars, many of which had gone through a fair bit of surgery following round 4 at Taupo's Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, to chase those extra seconds. Once the weather decided to play ball the first session out were blessed with cool air with a warm sticky track. That first session saw times tumbling, which would continue to be a theme for this record-setting round. Saturday’s midday session was a bit warmer and many competitors were hoping for another good set of lap times in the late afternoon session as the sun started to go down.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, and troubles on track in the class prior to Superlap, along with the track hours permit meant the final session was canned (that golden sunset still made for some stunning photos though, so not all was lost). Sunday morning saw a repeat of near perfect track conditions (and no fog). By the end of the weekend, 32 of the 38 drivers had set a new personal best, and the remaining six were within half a second of their existing best times. What a way to wrap up the season!
The Pro Open field was led start to finish by the Team RevolutioNZ Evo again, putting down a 1:06 straight off the trailer and eventually dropping down to a 1:04.988 — putting driver Tony Satherly within half a second of the Superlap track record set by Garth Walden in the same car at the start of the season. With only a few drives of the car under his belt, Tony is doing superb things behind the wheel and we look forward to seeing more from this partnership. Hans Ruiterman’s Nissan Silvia cut consistently fast laps all weekend with a best effort of 1:06.553, comfortably faster than his previous best which was set on full slicks (all Superlap classes are limited to DOT type tyres).
Shortty Racing Team’s Subaru WRX picked up the third spot, with driver Jason Shortt pulling a 1:11.793 out of the hat before running into some engine troubles and putting the car back on the trailer running on only two cylinders, which will no doubt keep him busy in the off season. Greg Hirst was looking to improve on his round one time (high 18’s) and smashed it in his Toyota MR2 by a good 3 seconds to finish on 1:15.952 wearing a smile from ear to ear.
David Brew’s drift machine 200sxGTR had turbo troubles in the very first session, causing him to have to make the sensible decision to load back on the trailer and save risking further damage to the turbo or engine – his first session time of 1:19.412 was enough to secure 5th place. Rounding out the Pro Open field was Maneesh Naidu in the 555 Motorsport Integra pushing just a little quicker each session and finishing the weekend on a very respectable 1:23.969.
The 2016–17 Pro Open season winner was, of course, Team RevolutioNZ. The Evo, owned by Scott Kreyl, was really humming this season and putting down consistent and reliable laps; including resetting the lap records for Pro Open at all three tracks visited. A clean sweep of the board with a win at all 5 rounds (the only car to achieve a perfect score this season) gave them the championship by an easy margin.
Hans Ruiterman made use of the new ‘best 4 of 5’ rule and opted not to run at the Manfeild round, which put a bit more pressure on him to post a good score at the final round but he did it comfortably and took out the second spot for the season. Jason Shortt came home in third after a mixed season of occasional breakages but consistent results on track.
Pro Street All Wheel Drive’s GT-R battle was just as exciting as ever. ST Hitec owner Iain Clegg decided to focus on some driver training in the absolutely mental 1450hp R35, while Andy Brooking’s R32 GT-R went under the knife for a single turbo conversion, utilizing a BorgWarner EFR9180 (more on that soon). Iain set a ridiculous 1:07.828 for the win, which is the fastest R35 GT-R to ever lap Hampton Downs in New Zealand on a DOT rated tyre — with a working stereo too! Iain has run a previous best on a full slick tyre of a 1:07-flat — just crazy for a road car, and another national record.
Remember that this class is all road legal cars and these times show the real commitment of the drivers to attacking their goals and making dreams happen. Andy joined the single digits club with very impressive 1:09.670 while keeping his signature low-key approach in the pits. Jason Xu had silver bullet back out of the stable to join the GT-R hangout, and after trying to convince us all that he wasn’t going to go fast he busted out a 1:12.200 in the shootout.
Following the GT-Rs were the three Evos in the class. Jaxon Sharp shaved three seconds off his PB to pick up 1:12.730 even with some fueling issues meaning he wasn’t able to quite get a clean lap.
Kat Benson had to do overnight repairs on a blown gasket and cracked exhaust manifold, only to run into trouble on Sunday and find herself getting some practice in practical application of fire extinguishers — Kat and the car were ok, and their Saturday morning lap time of 1:13.152 was enough to secure 5th spot for the day.
Steve Vodanovich clocked a 1:15.688 after a weekend in the 16s. Morris Mustchin’s bug eye Subaru WRX saw some last minute repairs but got to the track on schedule and laid down a 1:17.131. Rounding out the Pro Street AWD class was Shail Bhopal’s MPS with a best time of 1:21.624.
Pro Street Two Wheel Drive was headed by another single digit club member, Barry Manon in his immaculate Corolla – after being absent this season, Barry came along for the final round and set a scorching 1:08.852. Mark Collier’s super consistent MX5 looked like it might be cutting the weekend short when it went home on the trailer on Saturday, but he was back fighting fit on Sunday to run a 1:13.023. John Stewart’s Integra ran reliable 17s all weekend until the last session where he pushed hard and dropped to a 1:16.471. Brian Schofield shaved off more than 3 seconds from his round 1 time for a best of 1:16.914 in the Commodore. Jason Morris’ MPS had some brake issues but was still running a solid 1:18.252, with MacMorris Racing teammate Khan Mackesy in his MPS not far behind on 1:18.571.
Jamie Ross’ turbocharged Corolla was popular in the pits with spectators for it’s sleeper-styling, and on track it ran a 1:20.822 with upgraded brakes waiting at home to be installed after the weekend. Barend Bootha tried some landscaping in the MX5 but found better lap times down to 1:20.925 when he wasn’t off-roading. Cory Coburn stepped out from behind the camera to get behind the wheel of his s-chassis to set a 1:21.293. Bradley Haines also had his Silvia running great for a 1:23.408, while his dad made a bunch of new friends in the pits. Aaron Krinkel sat just a tenth behind on 1:23.524 to round out the ProStreet 2WD entries.
The overall season results for Pro Street saw the win go to Iain Clegg quite convincingly. Andy Brooking took out the round 2 win, but for the rest of the season couldn’t quite catch him (though it made for some fantastic rivalry and was amazing to watch both cars and drivers improve in leaps and bounds every event). The third spot for the season went to Kat Benson Racing in the Burgerfuel Evo – Kat, like Hans, opted to skip the Manfeild round and her consistent results throughout the rest of the season ensured she stayed in a podium spot.
Street All Wheel Drive was lacking for entries after a couple of Evos had their seasons cut short, leaving just two competitors on the grid this round. Simon Turner’s Evokits Evo was aiming for a 12 but on the day had to be happy with a 1:13.132 for the class win. Michael Nealis put down a 1:22.663 for the second place spot after missing a few laps due to transponder issues.
Street Two Wheel Drive belonged to Matt Gray’s Supra. Like Simon, he was aiming for a 12 and made it easily with a 1:12.269 with room for more to come. Darren McDonald’s Calais dropped down into the 15s for a 1:15.671, and his usual flair-filled driving style being a crowd favourite. Joe Ardagh enjoyed a weekend where most things went to plan and his Civic brought home a 1:19.176. Peach Ardagh was hot on his heels with a 1:19.355 (a whopping 10-seconds off her PB from the final round last season in her previous car). Adam Ostermeyer struggled with handling in his MX5 but was still able to break the 1:20 barrier for a best of 1:19.757. Jakke Haag’s Clio made its presence known on the track and recorded a 1:19.883. Texas Delaney had his MX5 back to the track for an improvement over his round 1 time to finish on 1:21.486. Matt Carter dipped his Civic’s toes into the Superlap pool and clocked a 1:22.420. Aaron Soole’s Civic smashed out a 1:24.054. Jake Ingledew had his new Integra out for a play and came home with a 1:25.956, while DTR teammate Jordan Williams piloted his MX5 to a 1:34.277.
The overall Street King title was the most hotly contested trophy for the season. Coming into the final round it could have been taken out by any of three cars: an Evo, a Calais, or a Supra. All three drivers needed to bring their A-game, and it seemed that all of the spectators and other drivers got behind the competition and had their own favourites to cheer for. Matt Gray’s new superlap track record proved too hard to beat and left the others in the dust for him to take home the trophy by a margin of a single point. Simon Turner’s Evokits Evo sat in second place, and Darren McDonald’s Calais taking the third podium spot. Such a variety of cars in the top spots really does show that, while some platforms may be more popular than others, great results can come from anywhere. Drive what you’ve got!
The end of season prizegiving isn’t just a time to reward those placegetters in their classes, but also an opportunity to recognise some special achievements outside of those classes, by way of the ‘off track’ awards.
- Best Engineered Racecar (sponsored by Llama Engineering) was awarded to Mark Collier’s MX5, it’s a clean and reliable build with aero improvements that are showing real tangible results on the track.
- Most Reliable Racecar (sponsored by Llama Engineering) went to Team Engineered to Feel. Joe has driven his car to and from each round this season, while Peach’s car has been consistent all season even if it’s a bit of a trailer queen.
- Best Presented Racecar (sponsored by TimeAttackR.com) also went to a team, this time Team MacMorris Racing. Over the season the team campaigned four different cars, always presented in matching livery and polished up ready for the photographers.
- Most Improved Driver (sponsored by Llama Engineering) was awarded to Brian Schofield not only for the improvements in his driving but also the work on developing his car for the series.
- Most Fully Rekt (sponsored by The Lab) is a special ‘evolving’ trophy for a car that has experienced significant breakages – this year it’s gone back to its creator, Glenn Hodges.
- Most Tenacious Driver (sponsored by Fobo Tyre NZ) went to Bradley Haines for his efforts in rebuilding to his signature show car presentation in a tight two-week timeframe after a tyre wall impact at Manfeild before the next round at Taupo – then getting out there to smash out a new personal best.
- Best Sportsmanship (sponsored by Motul NZ) recognises the efforts of a driver to support others, with help in the pits, or general encouragement. Iain Clegg and the ST Hitec crew were an easy choice for this award.
- Superlap Ambassador (sponsored by Fobo Tyre NZ) went to Jason Shortt for his work in promoting Superlap, including making himself available for the commentary box during events, flying the superlap flag (literally) at other events, and actively getting word about Superlap out there on social media platforms.
Huge thanks to HRC for hosting the event, and all of the officials and volunteers who make these days run, also to 4&Rotary and V Energy for their long-standing support of the series. And last but most certainly not least, to the drivers for investing the time and money to bring their pride and joy out of the garage to take part in the series – it’s been an amazing season and we can’t wait to see updates as off-season upgrades get under way.
Images brought to you by ST Hitec Ltd courtesy of René Vermeer/Glen Mcnamara