Round 4 — Manfield Autocourse 17th/18th February 2007, 3.03km circuit.

MINI Challenge racer “Fast Eddie” Bell cemented his nickname and his overall lead by winning race one at the Manfeild Autocourse on Saturday 17th February.

Bell lead another closely fought MINI Challenge race leading from start to finish. Turn one turned into somewhat of a MINI melee with some competitors getting sideways and sidetracked but thanks to the reliable nature and excellent strength of the MINI Cooper S all finished the eight lap race.

Yet again the MINI Challenge has thrown up another two surprise results in this weekend’s first race. Motorsport Services team mates Kevin Cantwell and Jeff Hogg came second and third respectively by taking a conservative approach at the start to avoid incidents with other people.

“It’s so good to be at the top end of the finishing field,” said an elated Cantwell when the MINI Cooper S racing cars came off the track into the scrutineer’s bay.

“I felt fairly confident during the race that I could challenge Peter Sharmach and I did finally after a couple of attempts early on and a few tussles,” he said.

Optiflex MINI #3 driver Jeff Hogg was also pleased with his third place in race one holding off a challenge from Brent “Bones” Collins in the PDL MINI #44 who had to contend with fourth place in race one, followed by Peter Sharmach .

“Kevin and I decided in an earlier conversation that it was time we finished a race in a reasonable position rather than running into each other,” said Hogg. “We decided we would drive defensively to avoid incidents, it’s been a good strategy so far this weekend but we have three more races to finish on Sunday.”

This morning MINI Challenge commentator Mike Eady lost a bet as Fast Eddie flew around the 3.3 kilometre Manfeild Autocourse in 1.20.386 taking pole position for race one in his ESWA MINI #69.

Eady reckoned that none of the drivers would manage to break 1 minute 20 seconds around the testing Manfeild circuit. Now he owes seven of the seventeen Mini Cooper S drivers a round of beer. With only 1.3 seconds separating the field of 17 cars, close racing in race one was always going to be a certainty on the tight and technical Manfeild track.

Kevin Cantwell qualified in second place, Ant Pederson in the JA Russell MINI #69 took third on the starting grid followed by Peter Sharmach on fourth position in the Digga-Link WPS MINI #27.

Gavin “The Enforcer” Dawson in the Scalextric MINI #50 took fifth on the starting grid for race one followed by Jeff Hogg in sixth place and Brent “Bones” Collins in seventh place, all qualified their Cooper S cars in under 1 minute 21 seconds.

However, Bell was never troubled by these drivers or the remainder of the MINI Cooper S fleet behind him. Towards the end of the race his leading margin over Kevin Cantwell had slipped due to tyre wear.

“I got a great start but towards the finish line Kevin did start coming back at me, which was a bit of a worry” said Bell. “Both he and Hoggy have done a fantastic job of placing so well so early this weekend, I look forward to our three races on Sunday.”

Race One, Saturday February 17th, 2007 (8 laps)

Pos MINI Driver Hometown Best Time

1 69 Eddie Bell Christchurch 1.21.488

2 6 Kevin Cantwell Auckland +0.803

3 3 Jeff Hogg Whangaparaoa +3.975

The sun shone on the asphalt presenting the 17 MINI Cooper S cars with sticky conditions at Manfeild Autocourse near Feilding on 18th February.

“It’s a tribute to the design and engineering of the MINI Cooper S that the 17 cars we sourced from Europe have been so reliable and we are only half way through the season,” says MINI New Zealand Manager Peter Jarratt.

“Apart from the John Cooper Works racing brakes and suspension and the roll cage, all the other performance parts fitted to these cars can be sourced over the counter from your local MINI dealer.”

Race two of the MINI Challenge this morning saw the top six fastest cars from yesterday’s race one in reverse order on the starting grid with Jeff “Hoggy”Hogg in the Optiflex MINI #3 on pole with Gavin “The Enforcer” Dawson on second position.

Behind them was Peter Sharmach in the DiggaLink WPS MINI #27 on third, Anthony “Peddo Jnr” Pedersen on fourth in the JA Russell MINI #96, followed by Kevin Cantwell in MINI #3 on fifth position and championship leader “Fast Eddie” Bell took sixth place on the grid in the ESWA MINI #69.

Seventh place on the grid was taken by Mainland man Brent “Bones” Collins in the PDL MINI #44 while the championships youngest competitor 15-year-old Richard “Rookie Richie” Moore in the Scutum MINI #10 took position eight. Position nine was taken by IDL MINI #30 driver Wayne “Timmo” Timms.

A clean start saw the field take turn one cleanly with Sharmach leading, Gavin “The Enforcer” Dawson snuck through to second place leaving “Hoggy” in third, followed by a hard charging “Fast Eddie” in fourth.

Sharmach pulled away from the field taking the race win unencumbered, leaving “The Enforcer”, “Hoggy”, “Fast Eddie”, “Peddo Jnr”, and “Bones” ducking and diving amongst each other in hot pursuit for championship points.

“Fast Eddie” and “The Enforcer” then had an altercation in lap five which temporarily placed Bell into second position but he retired with damage on lap six.

A delighted “Hoggy” took second place followed by “The Enforcer” in third, “Peddo Jnr” held off “Bones” for fourth place, while a very happy “Rookie Richie” Moore took sixth. Motorsport Services team mates Kevin Cantwell in MINI #6 in seventh place and Will Selles in MINI #2 in eighth place.

Race Two, Sunday February 18th, 2007 (8 laps)

Pos MINI Driver Hometown Best Time

1 27 Peter Scharmach Germany 1.20.963

2 3 Jeff Hogg Whangapararoa +5.074

3 50 Gavin Dawson Auckland +5.924

Race three saw Sharmach on pole in the Diggalink MINI #27 followed by the sixteen MINI Cooper S cars in the finishing order from the last race.

However it was “Hoggy” in MINI #3 who got the better start off position two on the grid, holding his nerve at turn one by getting in front of Sharmach and then holding the lead from start to finish in the 12 lap race.

Sharmach tried to get around the Motorsport services team member but “Hoggy” had the bit between his teeth and held the German at bay.

“Turn one was my biggest concern,” said an elated Hoggy “But I held my line and concentrated on just bringing it home…it’s nice to be at the pointy end of the field.”

Behind “Hoggy” and Sharmach, in third place was Gavin “The Enforcer” Dawson in Scalextric MINI #50 who had his mirrors full of Brett “Bones” Collins in the PDL MINI #44.

Then half way through the race on lap six young “Rookie Richie” Moore in the Scutum MINI #10 got the drop on “Bones” and held onto fourth place until the chequered flag, leaving the mainland man in fifth position.

“I didn’t think I would get past “Bones” but I managed it,” said the elated 15-year-old Auckland Kart champion. “I’m really stoked because he’s a much more experienced driver so it’s nice to know I can be competitive.”

Motorsport Services team member Kevin Cantwell in MINI #6 found himself elevated from eighth to sixth place, passing an ailing Anthony “Peddo Jr” Pedersen in the J A Russell MINI #96 and Wayne “Timmo” Timms in the IDL MINI #30.

“Timmo” held onto 7th place, followed by Will Selles in MINI #2 in eighth, while championship leader “Fast Eddie” Bell had brought his ESWA MINI #69 up to ninth place after starting on position 17 of the grid, following his DNF in race two.

Race Three, Sunday February 18th, 2007 (12 laps)

Pos MINI Driver Hometown Best Time

1 3 Jeff Hogg Whangapararoa 1.21.328

2 27 Peter Scharmach Germany +1.719

3 50 Gavin Dawson Auckland +3.974

Race four saw the starting grid order from the finish of race three and it was once again Jeff “Hoggy” Hogg who got a great start getting in front of Peter Sharmach who then had to defend himself against a rapidly charging “Rookie Richie” Moore.

Moore managed to get past Sharmach and take second place on the eighth lap of race four but he never was able to catch the flying “Hoggy” who lead the 12 lap race from start to finish.

Sharmach managed to defend himself from the advancing pack of Brent “Bones” Collins, Gavin “The Enforcer” Dawson, and “Fast Eddie” Bell. “The Enforcer” by name and nature, Dawson finally got past “Bones” on lap 11 to take fourth place in the race.

Collins, Bell, Kevin Cantwell, Wayne Timms, Will Selles and Shaun Turton made up the remaining top ten finishers.

Race Four, Sunday February 18th, 2007 (12 laps)

Position MINI Driver Hometown Best Time

1 3 Jeff Hogg Whangapararoa 1.21.483

2 10 Richard Moore Auckland +2.865

3 27 Peter Scharmach Germany +6.588

But the points winner for the weekend was a delighted Jeff “Hoggy” Hogg, with Peter Sharmach second for the round and Gavin “The Enforcer” Dawson third.

“I’ve always done well at the Manfeild track before in other Motorsport classes,” said Hogg. “It’s about who makes the first mistake and this weekend I managed not to, I’m stoked with the outcome.”

NZ MINI Challenge series

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 2007 ( by Robert Barry at Manfield Autocourse.