Porsche 1-2 with three hours to go

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Three hours before the end of the 24-hour race Porsche has a one-two in Le Mans. In the morning the Porsche 919 Hybrids continued to do quadruple stints and the team also gained time over the competition by doing perfect pit stops. Car number 19 (Earl Bamber/Nico Hülkenberg/Nick Tandy) stayed in the lead. Car number 17 (Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley/Mark Webber) improved strongly to take second place, while car number 18 (Romain Dumas/Neel Jani/Marc Lieb) improved to fifth.

Car number 17 has been in the hands of Mark Webber since 05:47 hrs (end of lap 240). The Australian handed over his red prototype to Timo Bernhard after lap 294 at 09:12 hrs. Thanks to strong efforts by the drivers and a long pit stop for the number 7 Audi, the Porsche improved from fourth to second position.

The number 18 car held position in sixth and shortly before noon moved up to fifth. Romain Dumas started his quadruple stint at 04:23 hrs in the morning (after lap 214) and got out for Neel Jani after 266 laps at 07:25 hrs. When the car had completed 323 laps at 10:51 hrs, Marc Lieb took over again. He handed the car back to Romain Dumas after the car had completed 333 laps at 11:38 hrs.

The number 19 Porsche, which took the lead before midnight, kept in front of the pack. At 06:15 hrs and after 249 laps Earl Bamber handed over the leading car to Nico Hülkenberg. At the end of lap 276 the team made use of a long safety car period by taking the car inside the garage for a comprehensive service, including rear bodywork, a rear wing, tyres and a driver change in between two of the three safety cars that were guiding the field. At 08:05 hrs Nick Tandy re-joined the race in the leading car. At 11:11 hrs after 329 race laps were completed, Earl Bamber took over again.

Brendon Hartley (car number 17): “We did four stints on one set of Michelin tyres. I had no dramas at all. We were chasing down the Audi after the penalty had put us back a bit. We will keep attacking and want to get a podium.”

Media: Porsche AG

Van der Drift to represent Asia in Spa Porsche spectacular

  

As a truly sensational reward for leading the overall and Class B Porsche Carrera Cup Asia standings mid-way through the 2015 season, Kamlung Racing’s Chris van der Drift of New Zealand and Singaporean Yuey Tan of Team Jebsen will next month head to Belgium’s fabled Spa-Francorchamps circuit to fly the flag for the region in the Porsche Carrera Cup 24 Hours of Spa 2015, which will run insupport of the 24 Hours of Spa.

 

van der Drift, who is making his Porsche racing debut this season, is looking forward to the chance to see how he measures up to drivers from the other Carrera Cups across the world: “I know Spa very well, I’ve done many races there before. It’ll be a big field so will be good to see where I fit in there – plus it means more time in the car, which is great. I’d like to thank the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia for this awesome opportunity.”

 

Tan, who has watched all the great Spa races time and time again, the chance to actually compete there is very much a dream come true: “I’m quite lost for words. I feel a little emotional todayI want to get a result there, so I’m going to study and learn the track as much as I can on simulators. I’m going to approach this race the same way I do any race – I need to prepare, go racing and as be fast as I can.”

 

The race has been organised jointly by the Porsche Carrera Cups of France and Italy with guest drivers from sister series across the world, and the invitations to make up the Team Carrera Cup Asia entry were extended on Sunday to van der Drift and Tan by Manfred BraeunlVice President Marketing, Porsche China following Round 6, held at Japan’s Fuji International Speedway.  

 

In an exciting update, series organisers have announced that the entry, which is fully supported by Porsche China and its partners, will be run by successful Porsche Carrera Cup France team and regular Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup entrant, Sébastien Loeb Racing. Established in 2012 by the worlds most successful-ever rally driver, nine-time FIA World Rally Champion Loeb is no stranger to the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia having joined the series in 2013 for a special invitational at the Macau Grand Prix, where he put in a brilliant drive to finish runner-up to current Porsche LMP1 Le Mans driver, Earl Bamber.

 

Said Loeb: “Our aim is to establish the team at an international level and we are therefore pleased to work with the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia during the Spa race. On a demanding circuit, it will be an interesting experience for the team – for the engineers and mechanics – to run two new drivers: van der Drift and Tan. I had the opportunity to personally compete in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia in Macau in 2013, and I know how high the level is. Each of these drivers leads his respective classification and therefore has ambitions at Spa, so we must meet expectations. It’s what makes things exciting.”

 

Commented Alexandre Gibot, Motorsport Manager, Porsche China: “The 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup season has been an intense battle for points since opening race, and Chris van der Drift and Yuey Tan have fought hard every lap of the way amongst our superb international field to lead the overall and Class B championships after Round 6, more than earning their invitations to compete at Spa. We congratulate our drivers, and thank Sébastien Loeb Racing for ensuring our Team Carrera Cup Asia will have two perfect cars for the race.

 

With an international grid of 55 entries expected, the Porsche Carrera Cup 24 Hours of Spa 2015 promises to be a race of epic proportions, and the Team Carrera Cup Asia will carry the hopes of their fellow drivers – and Asian motorsport –  with them as they tackle one of the world’s greatest race tracks.


Media: Porsche Asia 10 June 2015

TOP RESULT AT TE PUKE KEY TO CONNOR’S ROTAX COMEBACK

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Another top result in the 125cc Rotax Max Light class will be key to karter Daniel Connor’s Logitech Rotax Max Challenge ambitions at the fourth round of the 2015 series in the Bay of Plenty this weekend.

After battery failure sidelined him in the Final at the opening 2015 series round in Rotorua in January, Connor, from Muriwai on Auckland’s west coast, has been on the comeback trail in the 125cc Rotax Max Light class.

He was runner-up to Cambridge ace Andy Schofield at the second round in Hawkes’ Bay in February but qualified quickest and completed a clean sweep of the class heats, Pre-Final and Final at the third round in Tokoroa last month.

In so doing he made up another place in the series points standings, moving from third to second equal with Cambridge driver Andy Schofield (who claimed the class win at Rnd 2) just ten points shy of season-long points leader, Palmerston North-based international Josh Hart, who was first home in class at the opening round.

In the other categories, defending title holder Dylan Drysdale from Palmerston North is again favourite in the Junior Max, Auckland international Daniel Bray is after his third win in four events in DD2 and defending class title holder Ryan Urban will be keen to get back on the top step of the DD2 Masters podium after Australian driver Scott Howard claimed class honours at the third round.

With this and two more rounds of the 2015 series to go, however, there is still plenty of time for others to challenge for one of the places on the team to represent New Zealand at this year’s Grand Finals meeting at the Portimao circuit in Portugal in November.

Daniel Connor still faces intense competition in 125cc Rotax Max Light from Josh Hart, Andy Schofield, Caleb Huston and Mathew Kinsman, Dylan Drysdale has Liam Lawson and Matthew Payne from Auckland, and Jacob Cranston from Palmerston North breathing down his neck, while Daniel Bray’s lead over fellow Aucklander Daniel Kinsman heading into this weekend’s round is just three points with young guns Jonathan Buxeda from Tuakau and CJ Sinclair from Auckland not far behind.

There’s also real depth in the DD2 Masters field with Josh Hart’s brother Fraser, former New Zealand rep Niki Urwin, former UK Rotax series DD2 class winner Tiffany Chittenden and series stalwart Aarron Cunningham snapping at Ryan Urban’s heels.

This year’s Logitech New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge Series is again twinned with the KZ2-based ProKart Series, with over 100 karters from as far afield as Dunedin and Whangarei making the trip to the KartSport Bay of Plenty club’s Te Puke Auto Electric Raceway at Fagan’s Rd Te Puke to compete over the weekend.

2015 New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge
125cc Rotax Max Light
Points after Rnd 3 of 6
1. Josh Hart 256; 2=.Daniel Connor & Andy Schofield 246; 4. Caleb Huston 232; 5. Mathew Kinsman 232; 6. Rhys Tinney 227

DD2
Points after Rnd 3 of 6
1. Daniel Bray 254; 2. Daniel Kinsman 251; 3. Jonathan Buxeda 245; 4. CJ Sinclair 243; 5. Bradley Hicks 241; 6. Mitchell Beach 231.

DD2 Masters
Points after Rnd 3 of 6
1. Ryan Urban 273; 2. Fraser Hart 259; 3. Niki Urwin 242; 4. Tiffany Chittenden 240; 5. Aarron Cunningham 236; 6. Matthew Grant 228.

Junior Max
Points after Rnd 3 of 6
1. Dylan Drysdale 270; 2. Liam Lawson 256; 3.Jacob Cranston 250; 4. Matthew Payne 248; 5=. Kaleb Ngatoa & Reece Hendl-Cox 224

Media: Fast Company 11 June 2015

Whitby takes a winning blast down memory lane

  

The 37-year-old packed up his belongings late last year and returned home with his wife and young son to settle back in New Zealand after a highly-successful international racing campaign that spanned 12 years.

And, although this signalled an end to his international racing career, a new phase in his life of motorcycling was only just beginning.

The former Manawatu forestry worker, affectionately dubbed “The Axeman” on the motorcycling scene, was a two-time outright winner of the Grand National Cross-country Championships (GNCC) in the United States (in 2009 and 2012) and a record six-time winner of the parallel Off-Road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) series as well.

The Yamaha star’s first step back into domestic competition at home earned him the 2015 New Zealand Cross-country Championships crown when the series wrapped up near Pahiatua just a few weeks ago, taking the title from fellow Yamaha ace Adrian Smith, of Mokau.

Whibley tackled round two of the Central Enduro Series near his Pahiatua home on Sunday and, for that event, it was a trip down memory lane.

“This was another event that had been a long time between attendance for me,” said Whibley.

“While my memory is not that good to remember all the twists and turns and each rock, I could remember the odd hill and ridgeline.

“There was a short transport section to the first section that held the first test. Plenty of old ruts and some slick, muddy tracks kept you on your toes with the smallest mistake easily paid for with a soil sample. I managed to ride safely and post a solid time and keep it on two wheels.”

He slowly picked up the pace during the day as he warmed up and ended up celebrating a comfortable win over Eketahuna’s Daniel Christie, with Masterton’s Jacob Hyslop filling out the podium.

Whibley now turns his focus towards his own creation, a new competition he hopes will become a must-do for the nation’s dirt bike elite, the five-round NZXC series.

The first round of the NZXC series is this weekend at Tar Hill, just south of Tokoroa. The race is expected to draw the country’s elite off-road racers and have them racing head-to-head for the first time this season.

“With the separate national enduro and cross-country championships clashing dates in 2015, riders were forced to choose one championship to chase,” he explained. “Now, with the NZXC series, all of the country’s top races will be lining up at the same event.

“The track will be somewhat of a middle ground for the races, featuring terrain based in a forest, where the enduro fraternity will feel at home, but with the event run under a cross-country format, riders being set off together.”

The powerhouse Yamaha and KTM teams will be out in full force, with riders from both teams featuring a long list of credentials.

There will also be key representatives from the other manufactures, riders such as former national cross-country champion Cam Smith (Kawasaki), Honda’s top-five cross-country riders Andrew Charleston and Scott Birch, Suzuki’s Brad Groombridge and the Husqvarna pair of Liam Draper and Jake Whitaker.

The race is run in conjunction with the Dirt Guide series, with Sean Clarke in charge of laying out the track and running the event.

Round two of the NZXC series is the Yamaha Taikorea 500, run on Whibley’s own property and training facility just outside Palmerston North on July 18.

Media: Andy McGechan 9 June 2015

Paddon takes a year’s WRC experience back to Sardinia

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This week’s World Rally Championship event on the Italian island of Sardinia marks 12 months since New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and John Kennard contested their first event with the Hyundai Motorsport team.

Aiming for consistent times in the top six of the 14-strong WRC field contesting Rally Italia Sardegna, Paddon and Kennard will mark their anniversary with the Alzenau, Germany-based team with new updates to their #20 Hyundai i20 WRC – it now features the new paddle shift system, already in use by their team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo.

“I’m excited to have the paddle shift for this event,” says Paddon as he prepares for three days of reconnaissance for the 24 special stage, 402.88 competitive kilometre rally. I have only done about 60 km of testing with the paddle shift earlier in the year, but how hard can it be; just touch the paddle with your finger.”

Paddon says: “We need to be smart and pick up where we left off in Portugal and try and consistently set times in the top six or seven. We are expecting a much higher attrition rate here compared to Portugal, so if we can have a clean event then I think we can target a good result.”

The 2014 edition of this event was the first time Paddon and Kennard had contested the traditionally challenging Sardinian rally as well as being their first event for Hyundai.

“You can’t even compare where I am now as a driver, or where the team or the cars are now to 12 months ago – everything has progressed so far. When I look back at last year’s times and on-board footage, well… this year should be a good yard stick to measure how far we have progressed in 12 months.”

With around two-thirds of the rally route different to last year, Paddon says their previous experience of the stages does help. “We have a good idea of what to expect from the conditions. It works in our favour that a large part of the event is new which provides more of a level playing field with our fellow WRC competitors. Last year being our first event with Hyundai, we were chucked in the deep end a little, hence our performance on this event last year was nothing spectacular.”

Paddon expects the roads to be generally a little slower and more technical. “They can get rough on the second pass. Saturday’s itinerary is the longest single day of this year’s championship, so we need to treat the event with a little more care and focus on completing the rally with no issue.

“In all honesty, this is one event that I’m not a huge fan of in terms of the character of the roads, but that’s not going to hold us back. We have a good road position for the first two days, when we run in championship points’ order, and this is what we have to make the most of.”

With very warm days of mid-30 degree temperatures expected on the long loops of special stages on dry, dusty roads, Paddon says the tyre strategy is quite straightforward. “Hard tyres are the order of the day.”

Team Principal Michel Nandan comments: “We have made a lot of preparation for this event and our team is coming in with a lot of motivation from Portugal, where both Dani and Hayden completed the rally in the top eight. We learned a lot last year in Sardinia and claimed our first stage 1-2 so we hope to show that we have improved in that time.

“Hayden has set a lot of fast times throughout this season and is looking to continue to build his speed and consistency a year on from his first event with us. The Sardinia event is exciting with lots of history – conditions will be hot and dry and the challenging roads will make sure that we all stay focused.”

The action at the 11 to 14 June running of Rally Italia Sardegna commences with the street stage in the southern city of Cagliari on Thursday night, then moves to Oristano for Friday’s stages, some of which have not been driven since 2011 while others will be entirely new. A marathon Saturday sees drivers complete over 200 km of stages, some run in the opposite direction to last year, in what will be the longest leg of the WRC since 2012. Highlights include the stomach-churning Micky’s Jump in Monte Lerno and the new Ozieri-Ardara stage. Sunday’s stages, run north of Alghero on the west coast where the service park will be hosted for a second year, include the new Monte Baranta test and the Cala Flumini coastal run, which will provide the weekend’s power stage.

Recently Paddon, with the assistance of his partner Katie Lane and Christopher Grace from online rally media site C.Rally, released a 20 minute documentary entitled ‘Rallying to the Top of the World’. It outlines Paddon’s determination, from the age of six, to become the world rally champion – a goal he is still 100% focussed on achieving.

“With this second season with Hyundai Motorsport, his longest international competitive season yet of 12 WRC rounds, Hayden’s sheer hard work, focus and achievements to date, as well as the support he’s received from many at home and overseas, has been collated into a compelling, inspiring story that we all hope will bring the results Hayden is determined to secure,” says Peter Swaney, director of Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global Ltd.

Media: Kate Gordon-Smith

DIRT GUIDE SERIES EXPANDED FOR 2015

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Photo: North Shore’s Sam Greenslade (Kawasaki)

There is simply no excuse for not riding your bike this weekend.

The popular Dirt Guide Cross-Country Championships kicks off on Sunday in what promises to be an even bigger and better series than before.

Now into its eighth year and continuing to grow, the secret for the series’ success is that it caters for young and old alike and, while it does offer something to tempt the less-experienced novice and junior riders, it is also a challenge for the more serious and highly-competitive senior racers.

The series has this year been boosted from three to four rounds and it’s all set to kick off in forestry at Tar Hill, just south of Tokoroa, this Sunday (June 14), featuring two separate three-kilometre and 10-kilometre junior races to blast off in different parts of the forest at the same time at about 9.30am, with a more testing 20-kilometre course for the two-hour senior race set to launch at about 12.30pm.

Points are counted from just three of the four rounds, with contestants to discard their one worst result.

Adding extra spice to the expanded Dirt Guide Series this year is that Sunday’s event will also count as the opening round of the fledgling NZXC series, the brainchild of former Kiwi international and just-crowned national cross-country champion Paul Whibley.

Pahiatua’s Whibley is “cherry-picking” from several separate competitions to form his own five-round NZXC series and so riders on Sunday will have double the incentive to ride well and earn solid points.

The Dirt Guide series organiser is Tokoroa enduro icon Sean Clarke.

“I really enjoy putting this series on, especially for the junior riders,” said Clarke.

“It gives them a look at what cross-country and enduro racing is like in the forestry. I myself never got to ride in the bush until I was 15 years old, but now we have the minis riders starting at seven years old, so it gives them a great start in this type of racing.

“We run two courses for the minis and juniors, which are just smaller versions of what the seniors tackle.

“This series also brings the cross-country and enduro riders together for a real clash of the codes, with the course I set a bit slower than the normal cross-country races but faster than an enduro course, so it makes for great racing.”

Last year’s Dirt Guide Series senior winner was Auckland’s Sam Greenslade, and he should again be expected to feature near the front this weekend.

Greenslade didn’t dominate and win every race last season, but consistency earned him the main prize, his 2-4-3 results over the three rounds giving him the outright win over fellow North Shore man Chris Power (12-2-2), with Mokau’s former national enduro and cross-country champion Adrian Smith posting a 1-3-22 score-card to finish third overall.

The winner at round two last year was Taupo youngster Greg De Lautour, while Titirangi international Callan May won the final round of last year’s series.

The Dirt Guide series is a popular stand-alone series, separate from the nationals, and a perfect preparation for Kiwis wishing to head on to greater things.

May is a good example of a rider who has done just that.

He is overseas again this season, regularly finishing among the leaders in the prestigious Grand National Cross-country Championship series in the United States, so he obviously won’t be among the starters at Tar Hill on Sunday.

Others to watch for on Sunday include Helensville’s Tom Buxton, who won the intermediate grade last season, finishing the series ahead of Te Puke’s Daniel Marsh.

Waimauku’s Jake Wightman was the top junior in both 2013 and 2014, while Te Awamutu’s Rachel Archer won the 85cc class last year and should also be expected to shine this time around.

Round two of the series is set for Ohakuri, also just south of Tokoroa, on August 9, with round three to follow at a new venue near Atiamuri on September 6. The fourth and final round is set for a return to Tar Hill on October 4.

The series is sponsored by Michelin, Bel Ray, Renthal, O’Neal, DRC, Zeta, Kiwi Rider magazine, Oakley, TCX boots and Yoshimura.

Dirt Guide Cross-country Championships 2015:

Round one: June 14, Tar Hill, south of Tokoroa
Round two: August 9, Ohakuri, south of Tokoroa
Round three: September 6, Atiamuri (new venue)
Round four: October 4, Tar Hill, south of Tokoroa

Media: Andy McGechan

Shortlist for NZ squad revealed

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Photo: Mount Maunganui’s Cody Cooper

The first test has been passed as New Zealand puts plans in place to once again stand on the podium at the Motocross of Nations – widely regarded as the “Olympic Games of motocross”.

A three-rider Kiwi team will again be sent to compete at the annual Motocross of Nations (MXoN), this year set for north-western France on the weekend of September 26-27, and an initial shortlist of half a dozen leading candidates to form that team has just been revealed.

Motorcycling New Zealand has whittled down the flood of applicants to a short-list of six riders and they are (in no particular order) national MX1 champion Cody Cooper (Mount Maunganui), former national MX2 champion Kayne Lamont (Mangakino), national 125cc champion Josiah Natzke (Hamilton), former world and national champion Ben Townley (Tauranga) and talented Rotorua brothers Michael and John Phillips.

The final selection of the three riders who will eventually make the trip will be announced in the coming weeks and MNZ motocross commissioner Howard Lilly, of Auckland, commented that “while three of these six men won’t make the final cut, they remain just an injury away from being drafted in”.

Lilly, motorcycle sports commentator Neil Ritchie, of Palmerston North, and Wellington motorcycle businessman Mike ‘Big Mac’ McLeod were the selection panel. McLeod will also be manager for New Zealand’s team in France.

Cooper, Lamont, Townley and both the Phillips brothers have previously raced for New Zealand at the MXoN. Natzke has yet to represent his country at the event but he is currently in Europe and racing with great success in the European 125 Motocross Championships.

“We are only three months away from the event now and we still have to hone and sharpen a few things,” said Lilly.

New Zealand has a proud tradition of featuring prominently at the MXoN.

New Zealand’s team stood on the podium in England in 1998, in Belgium in 2001 and in England again in 2006 and, while these were incredible achievements for such a small nation, it has almost become mission impossible for Team New Zealand in recent times.

Team New Zealand failed to qualifying among the top 20 countries at the MXoN when it was staged in Latvia last September and that means no travel assistance funds are being offered by the world’s governing body for the Kiwis to attend this year’s event in France.

The Taupo Motorcycle Club’s will again stage its popular Battle of the Clubs motocross event in just over two week’s time (on June 27) and this annual fundraiser initiative will therefore take on added significance.

Media: Andy McGechan

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