Motorsport: Very little separates in BMW series

Of the races in each category at the weekend's Castrol BMW Race driver series held at Pukekohe, four had winning margins of less than 0.9 seconds.

Auckland's Andrew Nugent and Matakana's Andre Mortimer twice finished first and second respectively in their Open class category, split by 0.738 seconds in the first race and 0.817 seconds in the third.

Contesting the weekend's fifth of seven rounds for the 2015/2016 title they were one of three categories in competition at Pukekohe.

"It's been a whole lot of fun, good battles and really good racing with similar paced cars of Rob (Berggren), Warwick (Mortimer), Andre (Mortimer) and myself. We had some good chases and tussles - and the competition of being so closely matched," said Nugent, an Auckland-based seating businessman.

"They are all - across the series, a great bunch people to race with. We have fun on the track, before the race and after the race with banter and camaraderie no matter who's won what in which race. At the end of every race they're all off to talk to each other on who did what and to have a laugh - it's a lot of positive fun no matter what your result was."

Of the 12 contesting the Open class of mixed A and B specification cars, Nugent and Mortimer had to settle their A grade machines to the rear for Sunday's handicap reverse grid race. The morning race fell in to the hands of Nigel Patterson. Taking the lead on the opening lap in his Class B car he held off the chasing pack to finish ahead of fellow class racer Justin Daly with Nugent the first of the A cars behind in third.

In the final Mortimer jostled with Nugent for the lead - swapping positions mid-race. Focusing on consistency Nugent was able to leverage his faster lap times to reach the chequered flag 0.817sec ahead of Mortimer.

Continuing his winning form Auckland's Ashley Blewett finished the weekend with two wins and a third in the 2L category. Having spent consecutive weekends racing since mid-January Blewett's blinding pace came with plenty of challenges.

"It's been pretty full-on," said Blewett. "I'm looking forward to a couple weeks break after this.

Blewett's prime memory from the weekend was the pace he had on the field of 23 other cars, something he puts down to the extensive seat time he's had over the past six weeks:

"Having done so much racing recently definitely makes a difference to just jump in and be comfortable with the whole environment straight away. I believe in qualifying we went under the track record for our class and then went faster again in the handicap race to break in to the 1min15 bracket - that was a highlight for me - to be faster than we have been before at Pukekohe."

Contrasting his placings Blewett says it wasn't always a lights-to-flag result with his car set up to have a 'taller' first gear that makes it hard to get off the line at the race start:

"Sometimes it is three, four or even five spots I'll lose at the start and then I have to work to get back past them again. It's a car that's hard to get moving forward quickly.

"Then in the last race I had a good run with Marty Seddon - running side-by-side for most of the first lap before I got ahead of him. Coming up to the top of the hill on the last corner I hit a bit too much curb on the inside which sent the car fairly sideways across the top of the hill - which was quite (nervously) exciting and apparently entertaining to watch. Lucky I kept control and stayed at the front of the field.

While Blewett was fastest Martyn Seddon was best of the rest with two podium results. Peter Ball then led the entire 24 strong field to the chequered flag in Sunday's reverse grid handicap race while Graham Ball and Noel Irvine filled the remaining spots across qualifying and the three weekend races.

Again split in two, the 31 E30 category cars were headlined by continual overtaking through the two groups.

Setting fastest time across the field was relative local Richard Oxton who ran to an un-spoken qualifying strategy that delivered his results - two races wins with a margin of less than 0.9 second: "In qualifying Matt Griffin and I towed (slip-streamed) each other along - working together. We didn't talk about it beforehand and instead when we were on the track would give each other hand signals for who was taking the lead and doing the towing, the drafting, and on which lap. We've been racing together for about ten years now, from karting all the way through so know each other's styles and work together to get good results. "

"Pukekohe is a power track and the difference between the 320 and 318 model cars feeds an advantage at different parts of the track. I would have the torque off the corner while Matt, as an example, would have the speed in to the corners and through the corners," explained Oxton of the lap-on-lap reason for continual position swapping.

"It's all about turn-one. It is like a new corner every time you go round it - it's a hairy corner you've got to commit to and hold on for your life. If you're passing someone there on the outside you've really got to hang on and that's what I had to do with Aaron Hodgson in the final race and we managed to go round there together without any incident."

Oxton took the chequered flag in the final feature, followed by Griffin with Matthew Seddon in third. Castrol BMW Scholarship driver Robert Hill from Mission Bay finished 12th overall.

The series breaks for six weeks until the penultimate round. All three classes will contest the Legends of Speed weekend at Hampton Downs April 2-3.

- NZ Herald

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