The New Zealand V8 champion, Aussie Jason Bargwanna, is well on the way to defending his title after taking round honours at the opening race weekend of the national series at Pukekohe.
The championship has been renamed the New Zealand V8 Touring Car Championships.
Only five of the new TLX cars made the grid, which was bolstered by nine of the old TL cars, but the numbers didn't affect the level of competition. The racing was fierce with a fair amount of door-handle rubbing. However, Bargwanna, former V8 Supercars driver and Bathurst winner, wasn't to be out-muscled and he took line honours in two of the three races in his Toyota Camry.
His nemesis over the two days was Nick Ross, campaigning a Holden Commodore, who nicked race two from Bargwanna.
"It was a really good battle with Nick," said Bargwanna. "He was probably quicker most of the weekend but we just managed to be at the right place at the right time.
"We had a little bit of contact at the hairpin in race two but it was nothing too stressful. We passed each other probably half a dozen times over the course of the three races at different parts of the track. It was quite entertaining.
"The boys kept tuning the car up and by the third race we ended up getting the speed out of it."
It was Bargwanna's first drive in the Toyota, after racing a Commodore last season. It was also the first round victory for Richards Team Motorsport, who built and run the car.
The Australian dedicated his victory to former NZV8s championship co-ordinator David Slater, who died suddenly the weekend before.
Bargwanna finished the two 12-lap races on Sunday with a second and a win after taking the opening race on Saturday. Ross' win on Sunday morning was a vindication for the team after being relegated from Saturday's second-place finish to fourth after being hit with a time penalty.
Shaun Varney stands third in the TLX class for the new cars after scoring a third and two fourths in his Commodore. Lance Hughes notched up two fourths and a fifth in his Ford Falcon.
Teenager AJ Lauder, who won the TL class for the original-specification NZV8 Touring Cars (formerly known as NZV8s) last season, joined Bargwanna in the Richards Toyota team. He did not start the first race but showed good speed to finish third in the other two.
Lower Hutt driver James McLaughlin heads the TL class with two wins in his Commodore. Father and son Ian and Matthew Booth had a memorable Sunday when they both finished on the podium - first and third respectively - in the weekend's opening race.
NZV8 Touring Cars Calendar
Rd 2 Teretonga Park, Invercargill, January 11-12
Rd 3 Timaru International Motor Raceway, January 18-19
Rd 4 Manfeild, Feilding (NZ Grand Prix), February 8-9
Rd 5 Taupo Motorsport Park, March 8-9
Rd 6 Pukekohe Park (V8 Supercars), April 25-27
New Zealand Formula Ford Championship
The Timaru International Motor Raceway hosted the opening round of the New Zealand
Formula Ford Championship, the breeding ground for our future champions, over the weekend.
Most of the Kiwi racers who have gone on to ply their trade overseas cut their teeth in
Nineteen cars took part in damp conditions for qualifying, with Michael Collins taking the honours. He continued his good form from last season finishing second in all three races, meaning he now sits second on both points tables.
However, it was Jamie Conroy, who drove last season's championship-winning Mygale,
who came out on top on the day. He won all three races.
''I bogged off the line for the first race, so Jamie got ahead,'' said Collins. ``After that I couldn't quite pass him.''
Having fitted a new engine, the Collins team were pleased with the speed and power available this season.
''The motor is very good, better than expected so we now have the speed,'' said Collins.
''We have confidence going forward and look forward to the next round.''