2K Cup: Sink or swim in the wet

By Eric Thompson

Eric Thompson finds 2K Cup racing is harder than it looks

Eric Thompson racing the Driven Albany Toyota Corolla in the 2K Cup at Hampton Downs. Picture / Geoff Ridder
Eric Thompson racing the Driven Albany Toyota Corolla in the 2K Cup at Hampton Downs. Picture / Geoff Ridder

The opening race of the inaugural 2K Cup championship was run alongside the V8 SuperTourers endurance round at Hampton Downs over the weekend.

The New Zealand Racing Drivers' League, and the Historic Racing Club, created the 2K Cup to provide the lowest-price race entry category in New Zealand,

Cars must cost $2000 or less and are only allowed safety modifications of fitting a roll cage and a race seat. If this has been done the car is allowed to cost up to $4000.

Driven, with Albany Toyota, entered a 1.6-litre GL Corolla in the competition and I was the driver.

In August I had a training day with two-time world touring car champion Paul Radisich at Hampton Downs, and a couple of weeks later I coaxed sportscar racer Jono Lester to go for a punt with me.

I arrived at Hampton Downs last weekend ready to put the rest of the 46-car field to the sword in qualifying. Needless to say I was completely wrong.

For a start it was raining, and a road-going car set up exactly as it was straight out of the factory 15 years ago on standard road tyres was not a lot of fun.

I posted 1min 40secs to start 37th out of 46 cars. At Hampton Downs, that far back on the grid you can't see the main start lights and because of the slope you almost need to do a hill start.

The rain was still coming down when the lights went out and 45 cars roared, well hissed, into turn one. I stayed back at the sight of cars five and six wide trying to negotiate turn one in the mist and rain.

Because the Corolla wasn't producing anywhere the power the rest of the field was, it wasn't that bad to race in the wet and I picked up a few places.

Piece of cake, I thought, until I got a bit too cocky heading into turn one and pinched the front brakes and missed the turn-in point. Not really knowing what I was doing I gently turned the wheel and didn't touch or do anything else.

Much to my amazement the car turned in and then seemed to float around the corner in a graceful sideways slide as if it was on ice - I reckon the judges would have given me a set of 9.5s. I remembered to breath and blink by the time I got to turn two but my heart remained thumping at around 150 beats a minute for the rest of the race.

The rain stopped and the track started to dry out and that's when I started to get monstered by those behind me as their horsepower was brought into play. The Corolla couldn't really go much faster in the dry and struggled to haul itself up the hill on to the main straight.

When the chequered flag came out 25 minutes later I had only been lapped by half the field and came home in 35th place. Race two was dry and, again staying out of trouble and only having two heart-in-the-mouth moments when I out-drove myself, I brought the Corolla home in one piece in 32nd place from the field of 46.

As with all race-car drivers I'm starting to whinge about my lack of horsepower. If I had a 2-litre engine instead of a 1500, I'd be much better ... Okay, okay, I've just got to learn to drive better. Still, the Toyota sits seventh in the up to 1600cc class on 17 points.

Now, where can I get a bigger engine?

- NZ Herald

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