Matt Greenop: Grand old Pukekohe still up with the pace

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A patriotic Kiwi will be cheering for our boys this weekend.

Pukekohe Park Raceway has been a staple in the Kiwi motorsport diet since the dawn of time - I remember watching racing from the "grand" stand when I was a nipper, and to be perfectly Francis, very little has changed.

Sure, there are a few more outbuildings than back at those race events 30-odd years ago, and the V8 Supercars juggernaut has rolled in a bit of a track upgrade, but the spiritual home of Kiwi touring-car racing is alive and well. Still.

Hamilton was a pretty exciting street circuit for the last years, though it presented a major challenge for teams with its numerous surface changes and the car-crunching chicane that saw mechanics bashing out panels and fixing smash damage until the wee small hours.

This weekend's action will be more about outright car speed, clean lines and solid race pace.

With four 100km races - two today, two tomorrow, the most important sessions for the top contenders will be qualifying time. Grid position is vital, and while there are a few more passing opportunities, Pukekohe will be what it always has been - a couple of drag strips with a corner or two at each end.

The clever money is probably on the new Red Bull cars of Lowndes and Whincup - the dynamic duo who are undoubtedly one of the most successful touring car pairings in history. But there are a number of Kiwi drivers who can't be discounted - the Giz, Fabian Coulthard, Jonny et al are quick. Even youngster Scott McLaughlin is going to set the world on fire one day soon - so if you're at the TAB back the big guns, but a patriotic Kiwi will be cheering for our boys this weekend.

On another note, we'd like to thank those hundreds of readers who threw their hats into the ring for our BMW Ultimate Drive competition - BMW New Zealand kindly donated a few more single passes to the event because the response was so big. The winners have been notified already - we'll see you at the track on Wednesday, and congratulations.

- NZ Herald

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