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New leaders for Engen VW Cup

2006-10-16 10:41

Robert Briggs in the lead.

From the outset, things didn't go according to plan for Nathan. A sixth place start on the grid saw him fighting to the front of the field only to come to the unwelcome attentions of Iain Pepper (5) and the PG Autoglass/Plastomark car.

With a brake pedal gone hard Pepper chose to dive inside of Nathan on the track, going for a side-on impact rather than hitting him from behind. This still ripped the valve from Nathan's tyre and he was unable to stay with the leading pack.

During race one there was a huge battle for position amongst the lead runners. At this stage of the season there is no quarter asked or offered, Lee Thompson (9) and his Engen Xtreme Polo received a helping nudge off the track by defending champion Briggs. He was able to rejoin, but far down the field, eventually finishing in eighth place.

The highlight of the first race of the day no doubt belongs to Mathew Hodges (23) and his Kennermetals race car. Hodges attempted a last-minute challenge on veteran Engen Volkswagen Cup campaigner Pepper.

Side-by-side down the short straight and through the last corner it appeared that Hodges had disappeared the cars were so close. Despite their close proximity on the circuit, the two kept things clean to the finish line with Pepper just a whisker ahead across the line.

According to Hodges, commenting after the race, he has now had enough of being pressured by the more experienced competitors and will in future no be stepping back when the chips are down. Hodges has shown consistent improvement during the season and has found himself amongst the top six on a few occasions now, usually quickly relegated down the field as the "old boys" blast past.

He was also in the wars earlier during the race when receiving the attentions of Nathan, lightly bruising the rear of his car. Nathan's car by contrast was rather more severely modified ? but this was mainly cosmetic and didn't prevent his competing in race two.

While the first race might have been considered tough, the second race of the day proved an incredible example of motorsport. The battle between the two front-runners, Nathan and Briggs, fighting for first place was riveting racing.

At no point during the race could any sure bets be made on the eventual outcome, the gap between the two lead cars measured in centimetres. Briggs decided in the end to maintain his second place, leaving the race win to Nathan and ensuring he kept his championship cushion built up during race one.

It was during the second race for the Engen Volkswagen Cup that disaster struck for Miguel Pasqualli (19) and his Engen Xtreme Polo. Disaster wasn't the meeting with Ken Whitfield (22) in the Liebherr Mining entry which saw mirrors flying.

Instead it was the incident that saw his race car finish on its roof that was most disastrous. Unhurt in the incident, Pasqualli commented that the incident was purely down to his pushing too hard.

Another racer who's event finished in less than perfect circumstances was young Bryan Morgan (31) and his Greatsoft Polo. When Pepper got his car a little out of shape twice in a short space of time, attempted avoiding action saw Morgan off the track after a slight bump between the two.

Bouncing across the dirt on the inside of the track is never kind to a race car and in Morgan?s case this proved no different. Extensive damage was caused to the car?s undercarriage and a number of cosmetic parts that will see a good deal of work being done before the next race meeting.

Overall results for the day saw Robert Briggs (1) and his Bearingman entry taking top spot at Phakisa Freeway on Saturday with Mathew Hodges (23) and his Kennermetals car in second. Third for the day went to Curt Alchin (3) and his Bodyman entry.

Alchin appears to finally have solved the problems that have plagued him for the last three race meetings. With a return to power he can now resume his championship charge but with just two rounds to go, he might already be too far off the running to hope for more than third place.

There are a total of four races left ? two championship rounds ? and the defending champion now has a 14 point lead over the chasing pack. While this might seem like a lot, it is just a single race win in this single make series.

The final rounds of the 2006 championship hold the promise of delivering yet another exciting finale with nailbiting action from start to finish. The Engen Volkswagen Cup will again take up the challenge at Killarney on Saturday, 4 November.


Inside Wheels24

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