SUPPORTS: Evans defeats Ross in NZ V8 opener

Simon Evans (left) claimed the opening race of the NZ V8 Touring Cars season

Simon Evans (left) claimed the opening race of the NZ V8 Touring Cars season

BNT NZ V8 Touring Cars

Reigning champion Simon Evans kicked off the new NZ V8 Touring Cars season with a victory in the opening race at Pukekohe.

The Smeg Holden driver was forced to work hard for his win after losing the lead from pole to the Nissan of Nick Ross on the first lap.

The pair quickly broke away at the front before becoming locked in a thrilling dice for the lead.

Evans dived underneath Ross at Turn 8 on lap 4, but Ross refused to surrender the position.

Behind, Sam Barry (Toyota), Tom Alexander (Holden) and Jason Bargwanna (Ford) played out a hard fought battle for third.

However, on lap 10 the complexion of the race changed when leader Ross made slight contact with a back marker that loosened the left side of his bonnet.

Evans took advantage by moving to the front of the field with an impressive move on Ross at Turn 10.

Once in front, he surged to a comfortable victory by 11 seconds from Ross, who limped to the flag in second.

Ross just managed to hold off Barry for third while Alexander finished fourth ahead of Bargwanna and Lance Hughes.

Brad Lathrope converted his Class 2 pole position into a win from Nick Farrier.

Brock Cooley was the only retirement after he lost control and clouted the wall at Turn 5.

The NZ Touring Cars return to the track on Sunday for two races.

Aussie Racing Cars

Craig Woods and new series winner James Duckworth shared the honours in two thrilling non-championship heats.

Woods emerged from a titanic scrap with Duckworth which ran until the final lap of the second race.

Having started from third, Woods assumed the lead on lap 4 only to briefly lose the advantage to Duckworth three laps later, before retaining the position by the end of the lap.

A Safety Car caused by Mark Tarrant’s stricken car produced a one lap showdown for the race win.

Duckworth dived by at Turn 4 but was unable to stop Woods from regaining the lead at Turn 8.

Woods held firm to take the chequered flag from Duckworth, Kel Treseder, Peter Carr, Blake Sciberras and 2015 series winner Brendon Pingel.

Duckworth took out the opening race after fending off a spirited challenge from Treseder, Sciberras and Woods.

Sunday sees the Aussie Racing Cars contest two more races.

NZ V8 Ute Racing Series 

Paul Manuell recovered from a slow start to win the first NZ V8 Ute Racing Series heat of the season held in wet conditions at Pukekohe.

The pole-sitter dropped to third at the start behind Matt Spratt and Peter Ward.

Despite the slow getaway, Manuell managed to pass Ward for second at Turn 1 on lap 4 before overtaking Spratt for the lead a lap later.

Manuell dominated the remainder of the race to take the chequered flag from Spratt, Ward, Brett Rudd and Richard Moore.

Rudd triumphed in a four car battle on the final lap to take out the reverse grid race from Geoff Spencer.

Manuell produced an impressive drive to scythe his way from the rear of the grid to third ahead of Spratt and Ward.

The race was interrupted by a Safety Car period following an incident involving Nigel Hanley and Moore.

A third and final race will take place on Sunday morning.

Central Muscle Cars

A final corner error on the last lap from Dean Perkins handed Shane Wigston the victory in the opening Central Muscle Cars encounter.

Pole-sitter Perkins lost the lead to the Ford XE Falcon of John Midgley at the start before the Safety Car was called to clear debris from the circuit on the first lap.

Perkins moved into the lead on lap 5 when he rejoined the circuit in front of Midgley after running wide at the Turn 5/6 chicane.

He held the lead until the final corner when a wild moment saw him almost lose control, handing Wigston the win, who passed Midgley in the closing stages.

Wigston’s HQ Holden took the win by 0.4s from Perkins and Midgley.

Sunday will see the category return for a further two heats.

Toyota Finance 86 Series 

Ash Blewett emerged victorious from a Safety Car interrupted opening heat for the Toyota Finance 86 Series.

Blewett made no mistakes from pole position as he led Ryan Yardley and Australian Will Brown on the opening lap.

The race was halted on lap 5 when Mike Lightfoot and Tom Stokes made contact, sparking a high speed impact with the concrete wall on the back straight.

Racing resumed on lap 9 but the action was short-lived as another incident brought out the Safety Car.

Australian Drew Ridge collided with Jacob Smith at Turn 4 which sent the latter into the wall, while Miles Cockram lost control and also found the barriers at the corner.

The race finished under the Safety Car with Blewett taking the win from Yardley and Brown.

The Toyota Finance 86 Series will host two more races on Sunday.

SsangYong Racing Series 

Daniel Connor pulled off a final lap pass to claim the win in an eventful SsangYong Racing Series opener.

Starting from second, Connor dropped to fourth in the early stages but managed to recover thanks to a late surge when rain hit the circuit.

The LDV backed driver found himself in second by lap 7 after passing Alexandra Whitley, who briefly led following a dice with long time leader Caine Lobb.

As conditions worsened, Connor latched onto the back of Lobb before firing his Ute into the lead around the outside at Turn 5 on the final lap.

Connor held on to take the win from Lobb, Whitley, Joel Herbert and Rowan Shepherd, while Paul Morris came home in 12th.

Shepherd earned the spoils in the reverse grid race punctuated by two Safety Car periods.

The first was caused by a spin from Morris with the second triggered by high speed off from Whitley after contact with a rival at Turn 1.

In the end, Shepherd claimed the win from Todd Prujean and Lobb, who powered from ninth on the grid.

The series returns for another race on Sunday afternoon. 

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