Blake Evans has become one of the youngest winners of the Manfeild Winter Series after clean sweeping the final round at the weekend and taking the title over Thomas Boniface.
A brisk winters day fell upon us for the fourth and final round of the Manfeild Winter Series and kicked off as usual for the 10 strong Formula First field with qualifying. In what was meant to be a short 10-minute session turned into double both Andrew Tierney and Nathan Sudiono found their own troubles. Andrew Tierney found himself bogged in the muddy infield beside splash whereas Sudiono found himself with engine troubles. Through the smoke, oil was split all through splash which increased the red flag time for the session dramatically. In the end, however, it was Thomas Boniface who came away with pole position after the worsened track conditions made it hard for anyone to challenge his time.
Nathan Sudiono was forced to watch the first race of the day from the pit wall as the Sabre crew went through the process of an engine swap. The crew worked tirelessly on the #31 machine but it was to no avail as Sudiono would miss the start by a mere two minutes in the rush to the start. The first race began with a relatively tame start as Taylor Hurst led the first lap. Blake Evans looked to solidify his Winter Series championship as he overtook Hurst over the line to commence the second lap. Further behind it was Billy Frazer making hay in his freshly painted Carters Tyres machine moving through the tight top runners. As Evans led the field throughout the second and third lap the field remained bumper to bumper with seven cars separated by roughly three-seconds. With the field as close as ever, turn one saw the cars follow each other in what was almost a perfectly synchronized two-by-two-by-two formation. Not before long Billy Frazer was up into third behind Boniface while Evans began to spread a gap, but only by the slightest of margins. In what was setting up as one of the closest finishes in the Winter Series so far it was brought to a sudden stop as Kyan Davie and Craig Greenwood found themselves tangled up at the final corner with Davie slamming heavily into the tyre wall on the outside and Greenwood beached on the infield grass. The red flag was held out as Davie struggled to get out momentarily as he caught his hand on the steering wheel badly in the incident, leaving the youngster with a badly sprained wrist and torn ligaments. The shorter four-lap race was won by none other than Blake Evans over Boniface and Frazer.
The second race saw Nathan Sudiono return the grid but Kyan Davie out of action as he was getting precautionary checks and his car too damaged to continue. Off the start, it was Taylor Hurst who skipped away before further extending his gap over the next two laps. Blake Evans fought back hard as lap three ticked past and the top five cars all fell back into the same piece of real estate fighting for the top positions. By the end of the third lap, it was Evans leading Hurst, Boniface, Frazer and Ronan Murphy. Blake Evans found himself with a tidy margin as behind Hurst fought with Boniface for second. Andrew Tierney, Nathan Sudiono and Rob Baker fell back further as the top cars pushed each other to the limit. Frazer proved he wanted to make a statement as he passed both Hurst and Boniface before the final lap. Commencing the final lap Taylor Hurst and Thomas Boniface went toe to toe with Hurst mowing the grass around the main straight kink. Meanwhile, Evans skipped away to a very comfortable 0.6-second win ahead of Frazer, Boniface and Hurst in fourth. The rest of the field remained relatively static with Murphy claiming fifth, Greenwood sixth, Tierney seventh, Sudiono eighth and Rob Baker taking the final position of ninth.
With Billy Frazer and Ronan Murphy claiming the fastest laps, race three began with the two on the front row of the grid. Both the front row starters had terrible starts and Boniface took full advantage, escaping down the road and taking the lead by the first turn. Murphy struggled with the wet, rainy and slippery conditions throughout the opening lap as he slipped back to third as both Hurst and Evans went past. Boniface had already created a large margin at the end of lap one as the field steadied for a tricky race. The rain began to fall heavier and heavier as the Winter Series lived up to its name creating spray and leaving the drivers with no choice but to fall back from one another to be able to physically see. With the large gaps seen through the third and fourth lap, the field remained relatively static with the only move being made being Hurst working his way past Frazer. Boniface comfortably led the field onto the fifth lap but carried too much speed into Splash, losing the back end and almost handing the lead to Evans. While Boniface caught the huge slide Evans gained massively, giving him the draft. Evans that played his cards correctly to make an easy move to pass Boniface before the final corner and claim the Winter Series title and an event clean sweep. Taylor Hurst came home third with Billy Frazer in fourth, Murphy fifth, Greenwood sixth, Sudiono seventh, Tierney eighth and Baker in the final running spot of ninth.
The weekend marks the end of the preseason and starts the countdown to the start of the 2018/19 Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship, kicking off at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon on October 20 and 21.
Report and Photos by Tayler Burke