Ben Clucas Racing

Pukekohe New Zealand 21st-23rd April

Winning the New Zealand Cup in a one-off outing in the Toyota Racing series was the icing on the cake in a highly successful weekend.

 

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Ben was delighted to accept ESWA Racing's offer of a one-off outing in the final round of New Zealand's premier open-wheel series. With the front runners in the series having had two seasons' experience of the car and tracks - and with only twenty minutes of practice to learn the track in a new car - it was obviously going to be tough. It became tougher when the 20 minutes practice was curtailed to 15 by a red flag. 6th fastest and a second off the pace was understandable, but not very encouraging. Fortunately qualifying went much better - 3rd fastest - with the leading 3 only separated by hundredths of a second. Daniel Gaunt (already champion) was on pole and Andy Knight second.

The first race was bizarre, to say the least. Only scheduled for 12 laps , it suffered from 4 restarts as some of the other drivers stalled on the grid (but, oddly, retained their grid positions), and 3 safety car periods. It was eventually curtailed by a red flag at 9 laps. In all the chaos 3rd, behind Gaunt and Knight was a reasonable result. As the grid for the second race was determined by lap times, Ben would be second.

The second race started well, the ESWA Racing car leading off the line, only to be re-passed on the second lap. It then started to rain and the lead was regained. It was therefore disappointing when the race was red flagged so the cars could change to wet weather tyres. However, the restart (from pole) went well and Ben had pulled a gap by the end of the lap, which continued to increase by around half a second a lap and was 5 seconds by the flag. Meanwhile Hamish Cross in the other ESWA racing car was having a storming drive, eventually getting into second on the final lap ahead of Dale Williams, pushing Gaunt down to forth.

The award of the New Zealand cup was a great bonus. A list of winners of the cup reads like a Who's Who of motoring greats - "Ben Clucas" will appear alongside Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart and many many more stars of the recent and distant past.

Ben was naturally ecstatic. "It's been a great weekend - it could hardly have gone better for me or the team, who did a great job and have made me very welcome. I will have very fond memories of New Zealand, and hope it won't be the last time I race here. Having my name alongside all those racing legends is terrific."

 

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