Herne delivers Race 1 win in TA2 Trans-Tasman Challenge
Dual Australian Trans-Am Champion and American front runner Nathan Herne gave Australia first blood by taking the first race win in the inaugural Wilco Precast Australia Vs New Zealand Trans-Tasman TA2 Challenge at Euromarque Motorsport Park in Christchurch today.
After qualifying on pole by only six-hundredths of a second from 18-year-old New Zealander Ben Stewart, having his first TA2 drive in the John Roberts-owned Camaro, Herne led from lights out however was pressured all the way to the flag by Stewart, taking the win by six-tenths of a second.
Australian Graham Cheney placed third for IES Motorsport, defending from Kiwi Brent Collins in another race long clash.
South Australia’s Brad Gartner driving Peter Robinson’s Dodge Challenger had an intense battle with Mark Crutcher mid race, which resulted in Gartner turning the Australian TA2 Team Captain around at Turn 9 and copping a 20 second post-race penalty, while Crutcher recovered to ninth.
Gunnedah’s Greg Keam failed to finish lap one after differential failure off the start, while Michael Coulter’s Kolbelco Camaro made a demon start from the back of the grid after an incident in qualifying dropped him down the time sheets.
Kiwi TA2 Team Captain Peter Ward, Andrew turner and Brett Rudd put in a good stint for the New Zealand Team, while Coulter, Crutcher and Steve Ross had a great race mid-pack with Coulter and Crutcher recovering to finish seventh and eighth, with Anthony Tenkate and Paul Hadley adding to the points tally further back.
24-year-old Amie Roberts had a solid run in only her second TA2 race meeting to finish 11th after recovering from recent ACL surgery. The NZ dirt bike champion will race tomorrow’s 10 lap event, then father John will do the 20 lap final.
While Australia won the race, Gartner’s penalty saw New Zealand now lead the overall point score for the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy, while Nathan Herne heads the Trans-Tasman driver championship for the Howe Engineering Services Perpetual Trophy. Australia and New Zealand alternated the top six, with five racers from each country completing the top ten in a true Trans-Tasman contest.
Races 2 and 3 tomorrow will be televised live on Fox Sports 506 and Kayo, along with the final round next weekend at Highlands Park.
Nathan Herne, #29 Howe Racing Enterprises Dodge Challenger
“Its great to be on the podium for Australia, especially to share it with Ben from New Zealand who did an outstanding job.
“It’s been a great event so far, we just going to try and keep it all together for the final weekend at Highlands Park. I’ve never raced in New Zealand before so I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge so far, and really looking forward to racing at Highlands next weekend.
“Ben didn’t leave me alone! It’s awesome to see, especially for New Zealand, I started TA2 back in 2019 when I was a little bit younger than Ben, but, it's a bit weird for me to say, but for a young bloke only 18 years old and definitely at the heels of me, it's sort of been a passing of the baton I guess, it was an awesome race against him. Sometime in the future he could be the next Kiwi in supercars and take all our championships off us.”
Mark Crutcher, #4 Crutcher Developments Ford Mustang
“I was struggling to get tyre pressures up early in the race, I knew Brad was there, it was light contact but enough to turn me around. He’s apologised and we will move on, but as Team Captain I was tempted to take him off the bench for 5 minutes, however Stewards thought 20 seconds was enough!
Ben Stewart, driver #43 Sky Window Construction Racing Chevrolet Camaro
“That was just so much fun, like, probably one of my most enjoyable races. These cars are just awesome on these massive tyres. You slide them around, they're pretty hard to drive. It’s cool racing Nathan, he's a high benchmark and just to be close to him, I'm pretty stoked.
“On the last lap I was giving it my all but just didn't quite have enough, but tomorrow we'll probably make some changes overnight and give it our best. I think I just pushed a bit too hard at the start, so I need to work to not burn up my tyres as much as at the start.