Whakatane’s Reece Hendl-Cox, 19, has put on another dominant display in the 2018/19 Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship, this time at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupo.
The event marked round seven and the penultimate round of the championship, making it a crucial round for those vying for higher positions in the championship. Hendl-Cox was one of those who were able to improve their position heading into the final round, extending his points lead to 182-points he now has one hand firmly on the championship trophy.
The weekend kicked off with a 15-minute qualifying session on Saturday morning where Hendl-Cox set the fastest time of the 21-car strong field to take pole position. Brody McConkey, 20, from the Kapiti Coast, took second place, with Palmerston North school teacher Chris Symon, 28, third.
Records were broken in the first of three eight-lap races on Saturday afternoon as Hendl-Cox lowered the lap record by just over a tenth of a second, setting a 1:48.207 on his way to another race win.
The fight for the win was enthralling. Hendl-Cox, Symon, McConkey and Auckland’s Liam Foster, 22, battled for sheep stations, swapping positions at every corner for the entirety of the race. The high-speed game of chess came right down to the final corner where Hendl-Cox, after fighting hammer and tong for eight laps, was able to sneak through to the lead and take his fifth win in a row. Foster finished second ahead of Symon and McConkey.
Taranaki teen Thomas Boniface, 15, finished as the lead rookie in fifth, one place ahead of his rookie rival Ronan Murphy, 17, from Havelock North. Auckland’s Billy Frazer, 16, finished sixth place after an impressive comeback after he was caught up in a first lap shunt which saw him facing the wrong way after taking avoiding action and being collected by Auckland’s Amy Smith, 17.
Hendl-Cox then took another race win on Sunday morning, claiming his second five-from-five streak of the season. It was another record-breaking race, this time Symon broke the record Hendl-Cox set last race with a 1:47.914.
It was another intense, dynamic and dramatic battle for the win between Hendl-Cox, Frazer and McConkey. The trio traded positions all race until the battle boiled over on the penultimate lap when McConkey and Frazer came together, resulting in McConkey spinning with Frazer losing plenty of ground.
Most impressive was Frazer’s comeback, stealing second place from Foster who too spun at the beginning of the race at the same spot on the track. Foster finished third.
Boniface was the highest place rookie again in fourth position ahead of McConkey and Symon, the latter finishing with only fourth gear working.
McConkey put an end to Hendl-Cox’s winning streak after taking victory in the final race of the weekend. Hendl-Cox wasn’t far behind, finishing second ahead of Foster. In fourth place was Frazer after a battle for the podium with Foster.
Perhaps the most impressive drive of the race was Chris Symons, the school teacher only had fourth gear for the entire duration of the race. After dropping right to the back off the start, he climbed his way back to finish 11th!
Hendl-Cox now needs to finish in just sixth-place or higher in the first race of the final round to secure the championship. The fight for second is still alive with just 46-points between Symon and Frazer. The rookie of the year fight is down to 56-points after Boniface clawed back 20-points over Murphy at the weekend. The ‘sunset’ championship for drivers over 40-years-old has been wrapped up with Papamoa’s Ron Carter now holding an unassailable points lead over Bob Dillow.
The final round of the 2018/19 Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship takes place at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park on April 13-14 as part the SpeedWorks Events finale.