Wow!! What a crazy 2 weeks!!
Team Fox has had a crazy 2 weeks with highs and lows. If anyone had offered us results of a 1st and a 2nd at the 2 biggest mod events of the season 2 weeks ago we probably would have taken them and been happy to do so! Reality of course is that we race to win so even a 2nd placing leaves the team feeling a little flat.
Weekend 1 and we had the biggee for the season, the New Zealand Championship. We wanted to do well as it could quite easily be our last chance to win the NZ title at home. Unfortunately for us it wasn’t to be and we came up short by about 3 laps.
Qualifying on night one went smoothly and we were the top qualifier across all the groups and setting the fastest laps. Mission accomplished and the team went home for the night relaxed and happy.
Night 2 was a mission and a half!! The format was brutal. 3 x 15 lap heat races with all 20 cars on the track and then a 25 lap one race deal to win the title. Results from the first 3 races dictated where you would start in the main title race. Surviving the 3 heat races without incident would be the first hurdle before you could even worry about the title race!!
Foxy drove the car conservatively through the 3 heats on what was becoming an extremely slick race track. No real surprise given we were into night 2 of the champs and the fantastic stinking hot weather we have had in Auckland for the last month. We ended up being 3rd highest on points heading into the big race with 3nz Hayden MacKay taking top points and his choice of lane 2 into the final and Bunter in 67s starting from pole. Farron in 31s would start on the outside of us and Luke in the 1nz machine would leave from grid 5.
Foxy had a great car early on and made quick work of getting past both Hayden and Bunter. Within a couple of laps Foxy was in front and walking away from the field. Back in the pack Luke was making slow progress running in 4th and he got a lucky break when Bunter who was running 2nd came upon a lapped car and got balked, this caused Hayden who was running right behind Bunter to get balked as well and the red sea parted allowing Luke who was in 4th a dream easy run under not only one of the 3 cars in front of him but all 3! In One corner he had gone from 4th to 2nd! He must have through he had won lotto!!
Back up front Foxy was continuing to run the highline and was super fast in cemetery but suffering a little off pit bend. He approached each backmarker with caution and this cost him a little time as Luke closed in. Once he was past though he was able to reestablish the significant lead he had on Luke in 2nd. As with all longer races, being strong at the start counts for nothing unless the race can run from go to whoa without cautions and it wasn’t to be on this night. Foxy’s advantage disappeared at the wrong time for us because when it came with about 6-7 laps to go there were no lapped cars in between us and Luke to act as a buffer. Plain bad timing! The caution allowed Luke to be on Foxy’s bumper with a 6-7 lap sprint to go to the finish. On the restart Foxy shot straight back out to the highline thru cemetery and instantly pulled out a little gap again. Luke was able to close this gap back up thru pitbend. This to-ing and fro-ing went on for the next 2-3 laps but you could see that Luke was starting to lose less ground to Foxy through cemetery and really close in on him through pitbend. With about 4 to go Luke got close enough coming off pitbend to show his nose under Foxy but was unable to make it stick. Foxy knowing Luke was there then changed his race line to try and protect the inside line, what he did not know though was how slick and slow the lowline was because he had not run there the entire race! He moved down to the pole thru cemetery on the next lap and that was his mistake. Luke stayed at the outside of the track which was a lot faster and simply got a slingshot off the turn while Foxy was left helplessly spinning his wheels going nowhere on the inside line. I suppose you can say that this is the advantage of running 2nd in a long race for a longtime because you try different parts of the track and know where the fast line is where as when you are in front you normally just run on the same part of the track the entire race once you find where the car is quickest.
On coming back into the pits we did our normal checks of tyre pressures etc and found that the right rear was down at between 5-6 pounds which is well under where it should be. The tyre didn’t have any punctures so we are pretty sure that the bleedoff in the wheel had played up and dropped more pressure than it should have in the last caution period. The car from that point of the race on didn’t seem to be as quick as it was earlier and there is little doubt that this didn’t help matters either!
Congrats to Luke for taking his 3rd New Zealand title, this boy knows how to peddle and he is piloting a very strong package. Foxy had to settle for 2nz on the night which is nothing to be sneezed at but the team did feel a little disappointed after being so close and knowing it was likely our last shot at the title at home. Hayden capped off a great weekend in the 3nz machine and maintained his position showing that last year was no fluke. Congrats to all 3 guys.
Saturday night had us back at the park for round 2! It was Dirt Cup night and we wanted title #7!!
21 cars fronted for the event which was 6 down from the nationals the week before. Given the carnage at the NZ title we were bloody lucky that we had 21 left!! Big ups need to go to Nigel in 67c, Jason in 88t, Ray in 78a, Luke Brown in 89a, PJ in 18r and Brad in 119a for putting in big hours during the week to repair their damaged cars and make the starting grid. Well done guys.
Cars were seeded into 3 groups and each group would contest two heat races for points. There would be 14 cars in each of the heat races and each group would race one of the other 2 groups in each of their heats. All cars were guaranteed an inside and outside start and a front and back grid start. Foxy was in group 3 so that meant we would be in heat races 2 and 3.
Heat race 1 had cars from group 1 and group 2 and it was held on a track that was a little slippery at the start. Farron in the 31s machine made the most of the conditions and scored a good win from his rear grid start. Along the way he passed some good cars including the 1nz of Luke Keegan. Farron would have been smiling because he knew he had a grid 4 start coming up so to pick up maximum points from his rear start was a real bonus.
Foxy drew grid 1 for our first race and we were racing cars from group 1. Foxy got the best of the start and comfortable came home in 1st. Farron made the most of his start and came home 2nd with Luke coming home a close 3rd.
Heading into our last heat race we knew we were up against it. Farron had completed his two point’s races and had a 1st and a 2nd!! We were leaving from grid 14 and knew it would be a huge ask to win the race from there given the likes of Bunter and Hayden were in the heat. Foxy drove a blinder in this race forcing his way through the field. By race end he had caught the guys running in the top 3 positions in the race and with these 3 guys having a ding dong battle Foxy very nearly drove around the whole 3 to take the lead. He gave it a try but got blocked in a little and that allowed Bunter to pop out the other side and take the win. Hayden finished 2nd and Foxy 3rd.
Pole shuffle was next and we knew we were 2nd highest on points behind Farron. This meant we would be out in the 2nd last shuffle. Cars to make the shuffle in reverse order were 3nz, 88t, 1nz, 67s, 2ns and 31s. Jason in 88t won shuffle #1 from grid 2 sending Hayden to the infield. Luke won shuffle #2 from grid 2 sending Jason to the infield. Bunter won shuffle #3 from grid 2 sending Luke to the infield. Foxy choose grid 2 for shuffle #4 but actually lost the start to Bunter. Foxy stayed on the outside line and drove around the outside of Bunter through cemetery to take the win. Farron chose grid 2 for the last shuffle but Foxy got the better of the start and held on for the victory. This gave us lane choice for the final and he chose grid 2.
Heading into a 30 lapper it is always a trade off with what setup to throw on the car. Unlike the week before the track had some surface and was holding moisture due to the high humidity and the wet day. We knew the track would not be toast like it was the week before but you still had to ask yourself, how slick will it go?? After much debate between the team a decision was made. Set the car up to run out on the cush and not even worry about trying to run the poleline. If the car was fast out there then nobody would get close enough to stick their nose down low!! That was the theory anyway. Foxy was told back you speed and drive where the car felt fast, no protecting inside lines!
Foxy wan the start easily, to easily in fact as it allowed Luke to follow him though and move from 4th to 2nd exiting turn 2 on the first lap! Foxy would not have known this and we had hoped that Luke may take a few laps to work his way past Farron and Bunter who started off grids 1 and 3. Didn’t pan out that way. In the end it didn’t matter as the car was fast and Luke was struggling to keep with him. These 2 just streaked away from the rest and it was like watching to different races at the same time, Foxy and Luke were closing in on the backmarkers for the first time after about 4-5 laps and the guys running back in third, forth and fifth were fighting it out about ½ a lap back! Foxy was a lot more aggressive in his passing of the backmarkers than he had been the week before and there was one hairy moment when he caught up to Kevin in 105 coming off cemetery. Dust had been flung up everywhere and Kevin had nearly come to a complete stop as he couldn’t see. Foxy was on the power and smacked hard into Kevin’s rear bumper. Luckily the hit was dead square so no damage was done but it did cost Foxy valuable time while he got up and going again. We thanked our lucky stars that the gap Foxy had put on Luke was large enough that Luke wasn’t close enough to take advantage of the situation and overtake Foxy but it did mean that once again Luke was on our bumper. After another couple of laps we had our first caution and on the restart Foxy again looked to have the better pace. Lap after lap he pulled away slowly from Luke and both these guys pulled away quickly from the rest of the field. Before long Foxy was into lapping cars again and again he showed no hesitation. Once again we were closed up by another caution. Next restart same result. We then got a decent run of about 10-12 clean laps without drama and in this period Foxy once again dominated, by the time the next (and last) caution came we had peeled off 21 laps of the scheduled 30 and Foxy had been able to put 3 lapped cars between him and Luke. What happened next astounded me, on the restart instead of the 3 lapped cars going in between Foxy and Luke they went to the back and the restart was made with Luke right on Foxy’s bumper again! This had us a wee bit concerned because we know Luke’s car gets better the longer the race goes, did we have a car good enough to keep him at bay? Short answer is yes we did! On the restart Foxy once again cleared out with Luke giving chase. Foxy was still the stronger for the next 5 laps and held a comfortable lead with traffic back in play. The last 3-4 laps Luke was starting to look the stronger and he slowly started closing the gap on Foxy who had a car that had maxed out. Luckily this weekend it was good enough to hold on and Foxy took the win by a handful of car lengths. To be honest it would have been unfair if Foxy had lost this one as he looked the fastest car all night, if he had been pipped because of the officials inability to get the girds right on the last restart it would have been an injustice, thank god it didn’t matter!!
This was Dirt Cup title number 7 for Foxy which is pretty damn impressive. The Dirt cup always attracts the best cars in the country and this year was no different. At times it has been harder to win this event than the NZ title so to have won it 7 times is no mean feat. The next one back is the great RB who claimed 3 titles. After that there is a group of guys who have done it twice that includes Luke. Not saying it is impossible but it is going to take some time before Foxy’s record of 7 victory’s in this event will be matched let alone beaten and it is something he can be very proud off. I know that the sponsors and crew all are!
Thanks to Bruce Robertson for the hard work put in over the last 2 weekends to get these 2 massive mod events in. We got through with the weather (just) and the racing was brilliant over all 3 nights. Big thanks to all the volunteers at the track to help make it happen and in particular to Heidi and Paul Stewart along with Peter Holmes for putting their hands up to be drivers reps, it is a thankless job but someone has to do it and they made the night easier for the drivers (and for me!!). Cheers guys.
Big thanks also to Trewan from BSL. We would be lost without him and those fantastic FK shocks!! Also to our very supportive sponsors like Roger at CSL Containers and Brian from BDC Engineering who help put rubber on the car, fuel in the tank and whatever else we need to keep the car on the track week in and week out. You guys are fantastic and I hope we have done you proud over the last 2 weeks.
Big ups to the crew guys, Berg, Fredo, Jeremy, Kev, Tom and my boy Nick. Thanks guys, we had our moments over the last few weeks but we got the job done in the end. To Foxy’s wife Anne and all our wives as well, thanks ladies for putting up with our hobby and at times grumpy moods!!
Next meeting for the team is down at Wellington on February 14th where we will try to defend our North Island title. Foxy will be going for win # 6 in the event and a three peat as we have had held the title the last 2 seasons. If we are successful then Foxy will hold the record for the most North Island titles by himself, a record he currently shares with Murray Gordge with 5 titles each. It could be another fantastic milestone for the team but I am sure that the Wellington and Stratty boys will have other ideas!! We are due a good result in Wellington as we haven’t had much luck there the last few years, hopefully our good form over the last few weeks can role over for this event.
See you in Wellington!!