Moore Dodgems in the first MINI Challenge race.

It was an aggressive start to race one of the MINI Challenge on Friday January 19th at Taupo Motorsport Park; with several cars sustaining significant panel damage before lap one was even completed.On pole for the first time in this series was 15-year-old Auckland school boy and former Mount Wellington Karting Club champion Richard Moore in the Scutum MINI #10. There were 16 other MINI Cooper S racing cars behind him waiting for the opportunity to get past the speedy youngster, which always had the potential to turn the six-lap race into a dodgem derby. Moore made a clean start and managed to hold off a challenge from Gavin Dawson despite racing door handle to door handle towards turn one, however Moore’s defensive driving and good luck was to end quite soon. Just before turn five, championship leader Peter Sharmach shunted his Diggalink WPS MINI #27 into the back of Gavin Dawson’s Scalextric MINI #50 in the braking area. The Scalextric MINI #50 rear wheels left the ground and the front spoiler bit into the tarmac. Unfortunately as the Scalextric MINI came back to earth it landed hard into the side of the Scutum MINI, pushing Moore into second and Dawson into first place which he managed to hold till the chequered flag. “The impact was so hard all I could see in front of me was the gravel track,” said Dawson while being treated for a minor hand injury. “I’m very pleased to have held onto the winning position but it was a helluva way to get there.

“We’re going to have do some work on our car to be back in the hunt tomorrow.” Moore suffered the indignity of also being spun out by Sharmach after trying to take the inside line into the next corner after coming to grief. The Scutum MINI come to rest on the short straight facing the oncoming racing cars, Moore feeling somewhat like a dodgem at the Fun fair. “Thankfully no one else hit me, while I was parked facing the wrong direction,” said a relieved Moore when he reached the MINI Challenge paddock after the race. “I managed to claw back some places to thirteenth place, and I scored the second fastest lap of the race, so it’s not all bad.” Sharmach served a drive-through penalty and his pit crew had some severe damage to repair before the Diggalink WPS MINI #27 returned to the Taupo track on Saturday morning. After a somewhat dismal qualifying yesterday due to suspension issues, a much happier Eddie Bell drove the ESWA MINI #69 to take second by keeping out of trouble and maintaining smooth consistent times. “In the melee that was the first lap, I managed to slip past Anthony Pedersen and Brent Collins,” said Bell. “It was all the way home from there.” Pedersen in the J.A. Russell MINI #96 was never challenged by Collins in the PDL MINI #44, but the series second youngest driver looked for a moment that he might put the pressure on Bell. “I made a few mistakes out there today,” said Pedersen ruefully. “The car was running really well, the tyres came on really well but then with two laps to go they had given their best and I couldn’t touch Eddie Bell.”

The MINI Challenge drivers returned to the Taupo Motorsport track on Saturday January 20th 2007 at 9.30am in the lead up to the A1 Grand Prix practice session.

MINI Challenge race one results.

Position: Driver: MINI#: Best Time:

1) Gavin Dawson 50 1.44.913

2) Eddie Bell 69 +3.257

3) Anthony Pedersen 96 +4.587

Saturday January 20th 2007

MINI Challenge race two saved by the Bell

race2taupo.jpgIt was a victorious Eddie Bell winning race two of the MINI Challenge series by leading in the ESWA MINI #69 from start to finish on Saturday morning January 20th at the Taupo Motorsport Park. After Fridays MINI Challenge race had seen carnage before the end of the first lap, the morning’s race ran in cooler conditions. There were also some cooler heads behind the wheels of their cars but the racing was still close and exciting for the crowds arriving at the A1 Grand Prix event. Bell was on pole position for race two followed by Brent Collins in the PDL MINI #44, Anthony Pedersen behind in the J.A Russell MINI #96 and then German international Peter Sharmach in the black-bonneted Diggalink WPS MINI #27 took fourth place on the starting grid. “The track was quite slippery on the first few laps, but then it started to get some grip towards the end of the race,” said Bell on his return to the MINI Challenge paddock. “After a disappointing practise and qualifying session, today’s win is a very pleasant turnaround and a little unexpected, mind you I still had to defend my lead from Bones (Brent Collins) as he closed down any gaps quite quickly.” Collins was pleased with his performance and lap times which improved by 1.4 seconds a lap thanks to improving the handling of the PDL MINI #44. “We have settled the handling and dialled out some under-steer,” said Collins. “I just need to pick up the braking performance and push myself a bit harder. “Hopefully we will have a good run tomorrow with no damage so that we can freight the car straight to Manfield for the next round.” Although race two wasn’t quite as aggressively fought out as the first MINI Challenge race on Friday there were still some thrills and spills to liven things up. Collins and Pedersen tangled early in the race relegating a disappointed Pedersen in the J.A Russell MINI #96 to 12th place. This left Bell out in the lead for the remainder of the six-lap race, tailed by Collins, Sharmach, Richard Moore in the Scutum MINI #10. Moore had a much better race and was feeling much happier with himself despite still missing second gear occasionally. “I lost an opportunity to take Sharmach on for third place by missing a gear,” said Moore. “But I am pleased to have kept the top three in sight.” After winning yesterday’s dodgem race Gavin Dawson’s Scalextric MINI #50 developed suspension problems which saw him spin off and loose three places the Scalextric MINI #50 looked quite skittish on track and Dawson admitted that the car was somewhat difficult to drive. “We’re going to do some more work on our car to alleviate the handling issues before Sunday’s race.” The MINI Challenge drivers will return to the Taupo Motorsport track on Sunday January 21st 2007 at 9.30am in the lead up to the A1 Grand Prix race one which starts at 11am.

MINI Challenge: race two results Saturday January 20th 2007.

Position: Driver: MINI#: Best Time:

1) Eddie Bell 69 1.43.680

2) Brent Collins 44 +0.668

3) Peter Sharmach 27 +2.127

“Bones” and “Fast Eddie” find winning form in Mini Challenge

The third and final MINI Challenge race at the Taupo A1 Grand Prix meeting saw former Toyota Racing Series champion Brent “Bones” Collins from Timaru return to his winning form in the PDL MINI #44. It was the battle of the South Island brigade for the top three spots with Cantabrian “Fast Eddie” Bell in the ESWA MINI #69 leading the shortened six-lap race in front of “Bones” and Peter Sharmach who held third place in his Diggalink WPS MINI #27 all the way to the finish line. “Fast Eddie” looked like he was going to repeat the start to finish lead that he had earlier in Saturdays race two of the MINI Challenge until he missed a gear change on the hairpin allowing “Bones” the opportunity to grab the lead. Opportunities to grab a win don’t happen to often in the MINI Challenge and “Bones” grabbed it happily. “Bugger me, after passing Eddie, I came around the final corner onto the straight and the chequered flag was out, which was a bit of a surprise.” said Collins. “The game plan was to overtake Eddie on turn two of lap one which I did, but then he came back on turn five and lead from there. So it was a very good race and the track was mint. Despite the fact that we still have a power under-steer problem with the car, I’m still very happy with my performance being 0.8 seconds faster; it proves I can still pull out fast lap times.” Bell was disappointed to have lost the lead of race three but the newly crowned National RX-7 champion was still happy with his successful weekend, which saw him not only win the round but take overall lead in the MINI Challenge championship points. “I have no one to blame but myself for letting “Bones” through,” said a tired but cheerful Bell at the podium ceremony. “But I am pleased that the car is in good shape and I am overall leader on points, got to be very pleased with that, haven’t you.” Despite the Scalextric MINI #50 and driver Gavin Dawson sustaining some bruises during the weekend, the Auckland driver was pleased to take third place for the round and finish the last race in fourth position after unsuccessfully trying to get around Peter Sharmach. “All I could see was Peter’s rear window,” said Dawson. “At times I was so close I could almost smell his after-shave, so I backed off a little to find my way around the corners. But he did get a bit rattled at times and did run wide on a couple of corners.” Fifth place went to the series youngest driver 15-year-old Richard Moore who drove the Scutum MINI #10 smoothly and consistently throughout the six-lap race. Moore defended his position from sixth placed Neil Foster in the Pak N Save MINI #77 who had fellow Rotorua resident Anthony Pederson behind in the J.A.Russell MINI #96 trying to better his seventh position. Most improved performance of the weekend must go to Shaun Turton in the bright yellow PW Cars MINI #99 finishing race three in eight position after not finishing race two due to lack of fuel and taking 14th place in race one.

MINI Challenge race three final positions:

Position Driver MINI Best time:

1) Brent Collins #44 1.44.089

2) Eddie Bell #69 +0.310

3) Peter Sharmach #27 +1.817

New Zealand MINI Challenge 2006/2007

Round Four: 16-18 Feb 2007 Manfeild

Round Five: 2-4 Mar 2007 Timaru

Round Six: 9-11 Mar 2007 Teretonga

Round Seven: 20-22 Apr 2007 Pukekohe

This release was prepared on behalf of MINI Challenge 2006 (www.minichallenge.co.nz). For more information please contact Robert Barry email robert@adrenalin.co.nz.

Photos: MINI Challenge/ Photographer Euan Cameron

International A1 Grand Prix Round 6 results;

Sprint Race — 15 laps

1. Germany — Nico Hulkenburg
2. France — Loic Duval
3. New Zealand — Jonny Reid.

Main Race – 50 laps

1. Germany — Nico Hilkenburg
2. France — Loic Duval
3. New Zealand — Jonny Reid.