Round 1 Report: Taupo
The new Super Mini Challenge season launched with a bang at Taupo, with 28
cars facing the starter for the opening race. The line up included some new faces
and some returning, with an impressive array of cars on show for the crowd.
The Mini Seven class fielded the largest number of entries, headed after
qualifying by the Heron Racing Team pairing with Warren Heron scoring the pole
over Elliott Heron. Third place was Greg Gordon with Chris Thompson next.
Returning after the longest hiatus of any competitor was Kenny Rae, jumping
back into the Mini Seven field after almost 15 years.
The Miglia class was topped once again by Bill Robson, picking up where he left
off from last season. Simon Mans took the second spot with the returning Tony
Axcell taking third in his freshly rebuild Britax entry. Trent Dixon also returned to
the class to run fourth with Colin Middlemiss rounding out the order.
In the Super Open category it was Richard Wagstaff who came back with top
form, qualifying not only top in class but as fastest Mini with his turbo effort.
Marcia Haggerty also rejoined the class after some years away, jumping straight
back into it with second grid in her lightweight special. Steve Midgley had some
work to do to repeat last season’s winning results after qualifying third ahead of
another returnee Robin Greenland. The order was completed by two newcomers
to the class, Hayden Gare in his immaculate Toyota powered weapon and Sarah
Wagstaff with her A series powered machine.
The opening race of the season had all 28 cars roaring off to turn one together,
with four wide racing the norm through the mid pack. Up front it was the open
class trio of R Wagstaff, Midgley and Haggerty leading the way with Midgley
cutting through to take over the front running. Robson cruised away to a
comfortable lead in the Miglia class, ahead battling Mini Sevens led by W and E
Some fast cars were also started deep in the pack after either poor qualifying
efforts or tardy starts. Dixon made the most positions after running with no
brakes in the morning session, jumping 13 spots up to second in the Miglia class.
Axcell also gained, moving up 6 spots with Middlemiss climbing 8 further back.
When the flag fell it was Midgley that would win the Open class and Super Mini
Challenge results, albeit narrowly over Haggerty. A slow opening lap from R
Wagstaff dropped him off the lead bunch, and he narrowly topped Robson who
would win the Miglia class. Fastest lap for the Miglias went to Dixon, who stormed
through from deep in the order to place second. It was then back to the lead Mini
Sevens, with E Heron holding out a late charge from W Heron to take the win. A
resurgent Gare followed, with Axcell and Mans both climbing spots to take 3 and
4 in the Miglia class. It was then back to Gordon, Middlemiss, Lex Linklater, Chris
Thompson and Rae to round out the finishers.
The second race was to be held Sunday morning but was a short-lived affair. The
heavens opened as the cars awaited the start, causing a late tyre change to wets
to be required.
After making the start cleanly and a pair of racing laps the heavens opened once
again, drenching the track completely. As cars aquaplaned off the track and
visibility was reduced to zero, the race was brought under caution and eventually
abandoned as the conditions showed little sign of improving.
Luckily the weather cleared for the final race of the weekend, allowing the Super
Mini Challenge to get back on track. The skies had stayed dry for much of the
day, however the conditions were still considerably damp and required wet tyres.
The handicap start went off without a hitch, with Rae and S Wagstaff leading off.
Track conditions favoured the brave and in the opening laps it was Axcell that
made the most ground hunting down Middlemiss who had assumed the lead. His
progress was hampered by a tangle in the chase, resulting in a Star Car spun
across the track. The melee that resulted favoured E Heron and Gare who were
both storming through off a late flag drop and on their way to the front. Midgley
was also making ground after starting well towards the rear.
Towards the end it was the Waikato pairing of Middlemiss and Mans split by
Axcell in the top spots, With E Heron and Gare next in line. Gordon, Linklater and
Midgley followed with attrition ending the day for Dixon and Greenland.
In the final lap it was Gare that made the right moves for the lead, then managed
to hold out Midgley across the line by a mere 0.05 seconds to win on debut.
Axcell took the Miglia class win in third overall with E Heron topping the Mini
Sevens finishing next on track. Gordon held on to take second in the Mini Sevens,
with Mans doing the same in the Miglias. Following them was Linklater,
Middlemiss, W Heron, Haggerty, C Thompson, Evan Thompson, Robson, S
Wagstaff and Rae to complete the order.
The weekend results sit E Heron atop the points order with 61. It’s then back to
Open class leader Midgley with 57 and the tied Miglia class leaders Axcell and
Robson both on 52. Following is Gare on 50, W Heron, Gordon and Haggerty all
tied on 47, then Mans and Linklater to round out the ten.
Next up is the biggest meeting of the season, Thunder in the Park at Pukekohe
raceway. The venue will be packed out for this massive event on the weekend of
16-17 November and the place to be will be trackside.
Be there to witness the first event for the Super Mini Challenge on the new
layout with the V8 Supercars designed corners and kerbing.
Lap records are up for grabs for the weekend so watch for the drivers to be
giving it everything to have their name etched in history.