Jason Bargwanna is out to make history when the New Zealand V8 Touring Car Championship concludes at Pukekohe’s ITM 500 meeting this weekend.
He leads the series by 69 points and if he clinches his second straight title it will be the first time that Toyota – or indeed any manufacturer apart from Ford and Holden – has won an official V8 touring car championship in New Zealand or Australia.
The experienced Aussie, who won the 2013 championship in a Holden Commodore, now races a Toyota Camry for Paeroa-based Richards Team Motorsport.
In spite of his good points lead over Cambridge driver Nick Ross, Bargwanna plans to go all-out at Pukekohe, where the Kiwi V8s support the V8 Supercars.
“What tends to happen in my experience is that when you start driving conservatively you start making mistakes that you wouldn’t normally make,” he said. “If we go there to win the races, and win the round, we’ll wrap up the championship as well.”
The Camry works well at Pukekohe, a track that Bargwanna loves.
“The car’s got a very good high-speed balance, it’s very strong under braking and its power-down is good,” he said. “They’re all things you need for success at Pukekohe.
“I love circuits with a bit of character and it’s one of the old-school style of circuits. It’s very demanding, it’s got the hard braking, the high speed basically from the hairpin right down through turn one.
“It’s very exciting, it’s a driver’s track. It separates the men from the boys. I’ve always had good success there so I’m confident we can go there and have a positive weekend.”
His teenage team-mate, AJ Lauder from Turua in the Coromandel, returns to the fray now his car has been fixed after its big crash at Manfeild in February.
“If AJ can get up there and take some points off Nick that’d make it even better for us but at the same time AJ could take points away from me -- there’s no team orders,” Bargwanna said.
Meanwhile Ross has challenged Bargwanna all season and has certainly not given up hope of winning his first championship. The meeting will probably be the last time he races his Holden, as he has a brand-new Nissan Altima being built for the next season and he plans to display this car at Pukekohe.
“Working with the team on putting this car together and while at the same time concentrating on winning a championship has been hard work but it should all be worthwhile in the end -- especially if I can put that number one on the new car!” Ross said.
These two compete in the TLX class for the new-generation, faster cars. In the TL class for the original NZV8 cars the attraction of racing at the big meeting has drawn extra entries, with a total of 14.
The TL class is very close, with Lower Hutt driver James McLaughlin just 11 points ahead of Hamilton’s Ian Booth, both driving Holdens.
McLaughlin and his team of supporters have done a wonderful job this season to enjoy such success while operating with virtually no sponsorship – at times he has had to use old tyres because there was no budget for new ones. Now he has gained sponsorship for the final round, and extra power as well thanks to a tune-up.
“I would say that the whole field will be very fast and all on pace at this track, everyone has done some testing so there will be no walk in the park that's for sure,” McLaughlin said. “I think it's going to come down to who has the least amount of damages over the weekend.”
AJ Lauder’s younger brother Brad had been challenging for the title in his Ford Falcon but after a non-finish in one race at the previous round he stands 71 points behind the leader, with a maximum of 300 points available over the four races.
But he can still be expected to be going for race wins, as can several other drivers including Aucklander Kevin Williams and Timaru’s John Hepburn, both in Fords.
The New Zealand V8 Touring Cars have qualifying on Friday, two races on Saturday and another two on Sunday.
For further information, please contact:
Amanda Tollemache Ph: 021 248 9335
Bernard Carpinter Ph: 0274 528 744