This coming weekend will see the Hydraulink Grand Finals of the 2009/10 BNT V8s Championship take place at Taupo Motorsport Park with six drivers still in the title hunt. Without question the favourite would have to be Queensland based Kiwi star Craig Baird (United Video Falcon) who holds a 136 point lead over Nelson’s early season pace setter John McIntyre (Prime Explosives Falcon).
Only one point behind McIntyre is Auckland’s rising V8 racing star Tim Edgell (Chesters Falcon) who is hotly pursued by defending champion Kayne Scott (Fujitsu Heat Pumps Falcon) just 32 points further back. They are followed by Christchurch’s new hero Eddie Bell (Independent Fisheries Falcon) 40 points behind then the first Commodore of Aucklander Andy Booth (Big Ben Commodore) a mere 6 points away.
Despite having what appears to be a healthy points advantage, the pressure will be put on Baird throughout the weekend as a maximum of 225 points are on offer. Although he only needs the points equivalent of three 6th places, nothing can be taken as a given in BNT V8s racing as seen earlier in the season with McIntyre’s Round 4 crash at Timaru almost eliminating his championship chances.
Whether the ever popular “Bairdo” will be happy to settle for points places rather than go for race wins is a strategy only he will decide as racing is expected to be furious among the top six drivers. The reason for this is obvious as there is a host of drivers still battling for championship podium positions with Andy Knight (Christchurch) and Aucklanders Angus Fogg, Clark Proctor and Andrew Anderson all within reach of a top three points finish.
Following the close racing seen at the most recent rounds there will be much more than just the championship holding spectators’ attention. The door to door battles between Baird, McIntyre, Scott and Booth in Round 5 delighted the crowd and Baird chasing down Race 2 leader Tim Edgell to steal a race win was spectacular to watch.
Another important aspect of the weekend will be Saturday’s all important qualifying where drivers such as Angus Fogg have proved to be prominent. Once again, qualifying will comprise a 20 minute session involving all drivers with the fastest 20 moving onto the next 15 minute session.
The top ten will then contest a single lap “shoot out” after which the starting grid for Race 1 will be determined. The grid for Race 2 will be the finishing order from Race 1 with the Race 3 grid determined by the combined points from the first two races then reversed so the best performing driver starts from the rear.
Outside the current top ten point scorers, there are plenty of other drivers who have featured in top three placings during the season including Taupo’s very own John Penny, Haydn Mackenzie (Auckland), Simon Richards (Hamilton), Paul Manuell (Auckland) and Darryn Henderson (Wellington). Manuell in particular will be a driver to watch as he has switched teams to drive the Autotek Team’s New Balance Falcon for the remainder of the season. Having won two earlier races in his Commodore, it will be an interesting comparison to see if he gains momentum in a Falcon.
All of the above drivers are capable of causing an upset, especially with the technically demanding Taupo circuit often favoring drivers who quickly adapt to its twisty but fast nature. Another factor in the equation is the full reverse grid Race 3 which often throws up surprise winners and can deal misfortune to front runners as they fight their way through the pack. It must be remembered that this is the race which decided the outcome of last season’s championship and could very well become the focal point of this season.
Qualifying for the opening race of Round 6 will be held at 4:05pm on Saturday afternoon followed by the top ten shoot-out at 4:55pm. The three races scheduled will all take place on Sunday at 10:00am, 1:05pm and 4:30pm with Races 1 and 2 over 10 laps duration with Race 3 being over 20 laps using the full reverse grid format.
TV3 will again be providing highly popular as live broadcasts of all races from 2:00pm on Sunday and delayed coverage can also be seen on Fujitsu Motorsport NZ Gold Pass at 7:30pm Wednesday on Sky Sport 3.