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V8 champion seeks help from teenage team-mate

V8 champion seeks help from teenage team-mate

Australian veteran Jason Bargwanna is looking to his teenage Kiwi team-mate AJ Lauder to help him retain his New Zealand V8 Touring Car championship title.

Heading into this weekend’s third round of the championship at Timaru, Bargwanna trails his main rival, Cambridge driver Nick Ross, by 54 points after his Toyota Camry failed to finish one race last weekend at Teretonga, Invercargill.

The non-finish – caused by the failure of the gearbox input shaft – had a huge impact on his championship chances, former Bathurst winner Bargwanna said.

“Absolutely every point makes a difference,” he said.

He believed he could beat Ross, who drives a Holden Commodore, in the races.

“I think we’ve now got the pace,” he said. “We made some changes to the car after the first round and some more on Friday and the car is fast.”

But with only eight points difference between first and second it will obviously take some time for the Australian to overcome Ross’s points lead.

However if Lauder could finish second, behind Bargwanna but ahead of Ross, the points gap would shrink much more rapidly – a point that the Australian is very much aware of.

And he believes that Lauder will be able to fulfil this vital role. “AJ is getting fast,” Bargwanna said.

Just 19, Lauder last season dominated the TL category for the older-model V8s.

Now he is quickly coming to grips with the faster, more sophisticated TLX-category Toyota, as he proved in the wet second race at Teretonga when he was faster than Ross towards the end of the race.

“We’ve had a bit more pace this weekend,” Lauder, who is based at Turua near Thames, said.

“I was a bit cautious at the start but once I got the hang of it I started to catch Nick.”

He was still more impressive in the final race as he cut back a big gap and closed right up on Ross, though he could not quite get past before the chequered flag. However he took some points off Bargwanna, who came third after a collision forced him to stop for a new tyre.

Hamilton Holden driver Lance Hughes stands third in the TLX class with Lauder, who struck car problems in the first round at Pukekohe, close behind.

The TL class is close with James McLaughlin (Lower Hutt, Holden), Ian Booth (Hamilton, Holden) and Brock Cooley (Wellington, Ford) all within 31 points of one another at the head of the points table.

Lauder’s younger brother Brad, who finished second in this championship last season, is fifth in his Ford after some bad luck at Teretonga.

In the Toyota Racing Series, Russian Egor Orudzhev and Dutchman Steijn Schothorst looked the fastest at Teretonga’s opening round although they stand second and fifth respectively in the championship after each failed to finish one race.

Estonian Martin Rump leads with finishes of second, third and eighth but the 23-strong field contains many drivers who could forge to the front in any race.

Michael Scott from Te Puke is the top Kiwi, in ninth place, but Invercargill’s Damon Leitch looked the fastest as he qualified second in both sessions and finished a close second behind Orudzhev in the feature race. However Leitch lost points with a non-finish in race one and he stands 12th.

Formula Ford usually guarantees close, hard racing but Invercargill rookie Jamie Conroy has broken the mould with victories – mostly by solid margins – in all six races over the first two rounds. Christchurch driver Michael Collins came second each time and needs to find some extra speed to mount a championship challenge.

ends

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