Mark Ross ” driver of a 1969 Mustang ” and 1968 Camaro driver Billy Dunn got their 2008 season GDM Group Central Muscle Car Championship campaigns off to flying starts, heading their respective groups following round one of the season at Taupo. Ross, with the stunning Group 1 Mustang he debuted at the start of the 2007 season (see NZV8 #27 for a full feature on this car), had his ’07 campaign cut short when he was involved in a death-defying crash at the non-points Ruapuna classic meeting, an impact that put him out for the remainder of the season. However, he was back with a vengeance at Taupo. Meanwhile, in Group 2, Dunn had his Camaro raring to go (see NZV8 #26 for a full feature on this car), having only just pipped Falcon driver Justin Butcher to the title in ’07.
In qualifying Ross put his Mustang on pole, while lining up next to him was Paul Sinclair, in his wickedly fast 485kW (650hp) VK Commodore. The 2007 Group 1 champion, Steve Hildred in his wild HT Monaro, shared row two with Dave O’Leary’s Torana SLR5000, while Richard Gatward (Mustang), John Colebourne (Torana SS hatchback), Alan Pearce (VK Commodore), Greg Honnor (Mustang), Elliott Crawford (Corvette), and Colin Sargison (Holden HQ) rounded out the top 10. Of the Group 2 drivers, the fastest qualifier ” and in 13th overall ” was Dunn, followed by Dale Mathers (Mustang), Phil Hoffman (Mustang), Danny Claasen (Commodore), and Jon Blewett (Commodore).
This was a handicap start, with the fastest qualifiers launching off the back at timed intervals. However, any speed advantage the Group 1 cars had was all but negated when the heavens opened as the cars lined up on the grid, meaning they’d have to tread carefully on their slick tyres. Paul Urquhart (XA Falcon hardtop, NZV8 #31), sprinted off to win by a massive 12 seconds, while Mathers finished second, Hoffman third and Shane Wigston (Holden HQ) fourth. Mike Eden (XY GT Falcon) was the first of the Group 1 cars home, in fifth.
This was the scratch race, and Ross got the jump at the green, while Sinclair clung to the rear bumper of the Mustang for the first few laps, before he was outed with a holed radiator. Meanwhile Ian Williamson (Mustang), who’d started back in 11th due to his transponder not working in qualifying, stormed through to finish second, helped by the demise of several fast cars including Hildred and Richard Gatward (Mustang). Colebourne finished third ahead of Eden and Sargison. Dunn was the first of the Group 2 drivers home, leading the Commodores of Bruce Kett and Ross Golding.
The last race was another handicap start, and Crawford put his big block Corvette’s 544kW (730hp) to good use, winning the race from Eden and Wigston. As if to underline the growth of this class, there were 26 cars entered, the largest field at an opening round since the series began. Mark Ross heads to Manfeild for round two leading the Group 1 points from Eden and Honnor, while in Group 2 Dunn is feeling the heat from Mathers and Hoffman.
Group 1 Points After Round 1
Mark Ross, Mustang, 69 points
Mike Eden, Ford Falcon, 63 points
Greg Honnor, Ford Mustang, 57 points
Colin Sargison, Holden HQ, 56 points
John Colebourne, Holden Torana, 55 points
Group 2 Points After Round 1
Billy Dunn, Chev Camaro, 76 points
Dale Mathers, Ford Mustang, 75 points
Phil Hoffman, Ford Mustang, 74 points
Danny Claasen, Holden Commodore, 68 points
Jon Blewett, Holden Commodore, 66 points