The penultimate round of the Manfeild Winter Series saw a slightly depleted yet quality field contesting for the Formula First Cup. With just 14 points between the rookies of Callum Crawley in first and Kaleb Ngatoa heading into the weekend it set up a very crucial weekend for both drivers title ambitions.
Kaleb Ngatoa’s weekend did not start in the best way as a track side oil change was prompted after the car dumped all it’s oil on the way to the grid for qualifying. His crew were unable to source new oil and swap it in time to set a lap, meaning the youngster would have to start from last for the first race.
Matt Podjursky’s newly acquired championship winning car of Michael Shepherd smashed the field in qualifying by just under half a second and without a draft from his fellow competitors. Amy Smith lapped an impressive second, also without a draft. Series leader Callum Crawley set the third fastest time with Alex Hawley behind him. Dylan Smith and Bayley Walker rounded out the final row of the starting grid.
Podjursky quickly set about pulling a gap off the line as Ngatoa also made quick work of moving through the field, passing Bayley Walker and Alex Hawley after Hawley ran off at the hairpin.
As Podjursky pulled away from the field, on lap two Dylan Smith crept up on the back of Callum Crawley and ensued a battle for second place. The pair went two wide into the first corner and an impressive move from Crawley around the outside of Smith put the series leader in the lead. Crawley’s move held up Smith allowing him to fall into the grasp of Amy Smith.
Hawley’s off put him at the back with Walker, leaving them to battle and sort out who was and wasn’t crossing the line in last.
The battle of the two Smiths for the final podium spot heated half way through the race as they utilised the entire width of the track. The battle allowed a hard charging Ngatoa to catch them and contest for the podium. A small mistake from Crawley saw him fall back into the pack of A.Smith, D.Smith and Ngatoa, making the fight for second between four cars.
Amy Smith made a great pass on the inside of Crawley into Pepsi on lap five before Ngatoa dived between the two of them at turn one to slot into second for the final lap as Podjursky crossed the line miles in front of the rest. Amy Smith held onto third with Crawley fourth, D.Smith fifth, Hawley sixth and Walker seventh.
In the second race it was Dylan Smith who would take the lead out of the first corner, only to be passed by Podjursky 500 meters later into Splash. In the mid pack Ngatoa and A.Smith went toe to toe in a battle that lasted the duration of the race.
This time Podjursky did not pull away, SpeedSport Scholarship winner Dylan Smith drove up very close to the back of the #77 machine, applying pressure on the previous race winner. It wasn’t long until lap three where Crawley caught the both of them, leading to a three way draft down the back straight. Two laps later and Crawley took second into the first corner. Crawley then went on to close right up to Podjursky, sitting right on his gearbox into Higgins, but was unable to get a sufficient draft and had to settle for second.
Dylan Smith held onto P3 as Ngatoa got by A.Smith to take fourth. Bayley Walker and Alex Hawley finished sixth and seventh respectively.
The shortened final race started in a very similar fashion with Podjursky leading, however this time it was Crawley’s Sabre machine right on the pack of the #77 with D.Smith following closely. Similarly to the previous race, Amy Smith and Kaleb Ngatoa were interlocked in another battle.
Only three laps in and Podjursky had drawn out an ever so small margin over the Sabre duo, a margin the would quickly disappear the following lap in the early part of the lap but came back again in the final stage of the lap.
An intense finished commenced on the final lap as Crawley crawled right onto the back of Podjursky and sat there until Higgins where a superb exit by Podjursky compromised Crawley’s draft down the straight leaving it down to who got the run out of the final corner. Another typical Formula First photo finish resulted in Podjursky clean sweeping the weekend by just 0.086s!
Ngatoa came home third, followed by the D.Smith and A.Smith in fourth and fifth, then Walker and Hawley in sixth and seventh.
The weekend’s results saw Crawley’s lead extend to 23 points over Ngatoa heading into the final round next month.