While most eyes were on the cars racing in the first of the V8 SuperTourers endurance rounds at Taupo last weekend, several folk were curious about how things might pan out re the series' Challenge Cup support class and the new-generation NZV8.
V8ST has allowed teams with old NZV8 cars to dust them off and race as a support for the main event, and at Taupo the first of the new-generation NZV8 cars, albeit a detuned version, was mixing it up with the old version.
Before the stoush between warring V8 factions hit the high notes, Albany Toyota chief Andrew Mackenzie, whose son Haydn had been racing in the NZV8s, took it on himself to build the first of the NZV8 new spec cars.
At the same time the new V8ST was also being constructed and one would have to assume had stolen a march on the national championship category.
Now, finally, things appear to be thawing between the parties and the door has been left open for the new NZV8 car to play with the old version.
Never one to miss an opportunity to go racing, the Mackenzies headed south to Taupo to see how the new car performed under race conditions.
"We greatly appreciated being invited to be included in this meeting, which gave us the opportunity to try the car in race conditions, matched against some of the Challenge Cup cars," said Haydn Mackenzie.
Although the Mackenzies didn't have the new engine or a sequential gearbox in the car, they were told to use 17-inch wheels like the rest of the field. The folly of trying that was soon realised: every time Mackenzie tried to turn into a corner the car went straight ahead and slid all over the place.
"We were unable to race the car on the smaller wheels and tyres and were grateful that the organisers allowed us to use 18-inch rims. However we had to race with used tyres and the organisers restricted our revs to 200 less than the Cup cars.
"Despite that, the car seemed very quick and handled well and we were fastest in the two practice sessions and in qualifying," said Mackenzie.
The team retained the same pace exhibited in practice and qualifying, going on to win the first race from Matt Lockwood and Hugh Gardiner.
"I was gaining confidence in myself and the car and was looking forward to the second race [top five reversed start] to the extent I pushed a bit too hard on the final lap of the race trying to make up for our lack of revs and spun out on a fast corner," he said.
He regained the track to trail home in 10th as Glenn Inkster took the win from Lockwood and Gardiner.
Before race three the Mackenzie team discovered a major problem with a right front hub and the car had to be retired for the weekend.
"For the third race we ran our old NZV8, which went well despite our not having time to do the warm-up lap. Had it not been for the pit lane start, our lap times indicated we would have given top Challenge Cup competitor and third race winner, Matt Lockwood, a good run for the race win.
"Certainly it was good for me to get behind the wheel of a race car again, but I really wonder how the organisers are going to achieve some sort of parity with the old NZV8s/Challenge Cup cars if they are going to put them together with the new-generation cars in races," said Mackenzie.
A good question indeed. Rather than trying to come up with a complicated parity rule book, why not make the Challenge Cup open to any four-door V8 saloon car based on a road-going model and let the drivers run any size/type engine they like under the hood. And, to even things up, handicap the cars according to lap times, not horsepower.By Eric Thompson