The NZ V8 Ute Racing series will see its biggest field outside of the annual Supercars event for some years when 16 Ford and Holden V8 ‘brutes’ take to the track in the second round of the 2016 Sprint Series at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Manfeild this coming weekend – the circuit where it all began for V8 Utes in New Zealand.
Former champion Chris ‘Hammertime’ Hanley will make a one-off appearance for the weekend in Matthew Spratt’s Holden with the Primogrow Racing Team driver unavailable for the weekend. He’ll join his dad Nigel ‘Hammered’ Hanley for the Grand Prix weekend, the first time the two have been together on a V8 Ute grid. Former V8 champ Andy ‘Teflon’ Booth is back as is another former V8 champion Paul ‘Auto’ Manuell, who is sporting an increased presence on his Holden from long time sponsor Orix this season.
Debuting at Manfeild will be Jason ‘Hurricane’ Hewitson who has purchased Sam Barry’s championship winning Ford Falcon from last season. Jason ‘Mario’ Land is back in the second Panorama Motorsport Ford for Manfeild and the Sprint Season finale at Pukekohe in April, while Geoff ‘SOS’ Spencer, ‘Dirty’ Dave and Jeff ‘Ripples’ Kernohan and Peter ‘Pressure’ Dudson are all back for the Grand Prix meeting too. HRC Events’ Richard Gee will also be enjoying a rare weekend off from organising meetings and will make his second appearance in the category in a Velocity News and Wattbike supported Ford Falcon.
Regulars Peter ‘Kaos’ Ward, James ‘Huggi’ Urquhart, Brett ‘The Scud’ Rudd, Simon ‘The Bandit’ Ussher and Glen ‘Coyote’ Collinson complete the stellar field.
“There has been a huge effort by everyone involved in the category to build the numbers back up and to have 16 utes racing at Manfeild and beyond shows the work being done is having a great effect,” explained category managing director Paul Isaac. “It’s getting back to the heydays of a few years ago now, and we are very confident we will have even more utes running for next season. We said on record at the end of last year we would have more utes out this season and we have delivered.”
The Ute category has enjoyed some sensational – and clean – racing in the past few rounds, with the category the only one not to cause a red or safety car at the recent Lady Wigram meeting at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Ruapuna.
“There’s no question the quality of the driving and the racing has improved dramatically in the past year or so and this will encourage more drivers to look at the category in the future. The racing has been superb and if anyone is in doubt they just needed to see the action from Ruapuna on TV3 last Sunday.
“That’s some of the most exciting racing we’ve had in the whole history of the category.”