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Archive for July, 2011

Jono LesterNew Zealand motor racing driver Jono Lester will represent New Zealand at the World Time Attack Challenge, to be contested at Sydney’s Eastern Creek circuit this coming weekend.

Lester will compete at the event in the Team RevolutioNZ Mitsubishi Evo VIII, pitted against 20 other teams from Japan, the USA and Australia in the Pro Class category.

Lester is no stranger to Time Attack racing, having competed in numerous New Zealand events over the last three years, however the concept is still yet to gain a credible profile locally, despite its size and popularity in Japan and the United States in particular.

“I really enjoy this form of racing,” Lester said.

“Any qualifying lap is a high pressure environment, and Time Attack is all about racing against the clock. The winner is determined by the fastest lap time, and with the budgets and professionalism of some of our competition at the WTAC, it’s going to be even more critical to hunt for that ‘perfect’ lap that every driver strives for.”

The competition in the Invitational Pro Class will be strong, with big-budget international teams, CFD and wind tunnel developed cars and quality drivers from Japanese Super GT, FIA GT (now FIA GT1) and Formula Atlantic. Fellow kiwi Earl Bamber will also compete in an Australian built Nissan Silvia S13.

Lester’s machine packs a punch with over 700 horsepower at the wheels, and has undergone significant upgrades and development in preparation for representing the country at the World Time Attack.

“To represent New Zealand is an honour for all of us, and the team have worked incredibly hard to get the car to a high standard for the WTAC, both mechanically and visually. It looks brilliant.

“Realistically we won’t be in a position to challenge for the victory this time around. The team is run on a very small budget and we lack any significant aero, but I’d be really pleased if we could challenge for a top 6 or 8 finish.”

With an additional 100 entries in the Open and Clubsport classes, and a Trans-Tasman drift showdown held under lights each evening, the second inaugural World Time Attack Challenge has attracted widespread media and fan interest from all over the world.

The 2011 World Time Attack Challenge takes place on August 5-6. Tickets and more information are available at www.worldtimeattack.com.

Jono is supported at the World Time Attack Challenge by Vortex Racewear, Hornet Performance Nutrition, Opti-Flex, R Redpaths, Loaded, Zero Water and Massif Clothing Inc.

For more information on Team RevolutioNZ, visit www.teamrevolutionz.co.nz or follow the team’s regular updates via Facebook and Twitter.

Menasheh Idafar - Spa-FrancorchampsMenasheh Idafar concluded a very difficult weekend at Spa-Francorchamps with a positive race finish during round 21 of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series this afternoon, Saturday, 30th July.

Unable to build on the promise shown in pre-event testing during qualifying and the first two races yesterday, the British-born Bahraini was determined to secure a strong result and he did manage to achieve that – battling through from the back of the grid to end up the 14th placed British F3 runner.

Along with forming the seventh race meeting of the British F3 campaign, this weekend’s event in Belgium has also been part of the FIA Formula 3 International Trophy meaning several drivers also took part from the F3 Euroseries.

In some ways that was bad news for Menasheh, when taking into account his unfortunate excursion in qualifying on Friday, as it meant starting today’s race in 27th position on the final row of the gird and with a lot of hard work ahead in the 40-minute encounter.

Making a good getaway and threading his Dallara-Volkswagen neatly through the opening lap, the 20-year-old made his way into the overall top 20 but slipped back to 22nd on lap two. Passing Pietro Fantin on lap three to take 21st place, a moment on lap four lost Menasheh the spot but he gained again when Pipo Derani encountered problems.

Running just outside the top 20 at mid-distance, on lap 10 the T-Sport driver moved into 20th place when F3 Euroseries competitor Carlos Munoz pitted and Menasheh stayed there to the chequered flag on lap 17 – therefore finishing 14th of the British F3 drivers.

“I’m happy we managed to get through the race and finish after the way things went yesterday”, said Menasheh, “It’s been a really tough weekend, we started off well in testing but then it all started to go wrong. Coming through from the back today wasn’t too bad, especially as our tyres weren’t great after the contact in the race yesterday. It’s been a positive end.”

There is now a five week break in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series calendar with rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the season seeing the championship return to the UK with a visit to Rockingham in Northamptonshire on 3rd/4th September.

Provisional 2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Standings (after Rd21):
15th Menasheh Idafar, 27pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Menasheh Idafar - SpaTwo enforced retirements during rounds 19 and 20 of the 2011 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series at Spa-Francorchamps today, Friday, 29th July, dealt a bitter blow to Menasheh Idafar’s hopes for the weekend – all after having made a very promising start in pre-event testing.

Following a strong practice run on Thursday, 28th July, where he was the eighth quickest British F3 racer – the action in Belgium also featuring drivers from the FIA Formula 3 International Trophy – the 20-year-old hoped for a similarly impressive performance in qualifying.

Unfortunately, an excursion on his fifth lap of the session meant Menasheh was unable to post a representative time and so he had to start the first of the weekend’s encounters from the tail end of the grid and with a huge task on his hands to carve his way through the 28-car field.

Undeterred, the T-Sport driver produced a sensational opening lap to climb to the fringe of the top 20 and after gaining further places on the next two tours he looked set to make significant inroads. Rising as high as 17th position, Menasheh was involved in a moment on lap six which dropped him to 20th but his recovery ended soon after when he was pitched into retirement on lap nine.

With the finishing order from race one determining the grid for race two, round 20, he again had a fight on his hands – especially with the race being the shortest of the weekend at just 20-minutes duration. Once more, his start was good and the British-born Bahraini climbed from 25th on the grid into 18th position but contact on lap five resulted in a visit to the pits and another non-finish.

“It’s been a really disappointing day but there’s always a chance of contact when you’re starting so far down”, said the Dallara-Volkswagen driver, “We just need to give it our best shot tomorrow and see what happens. We start at the back again so it’ll be tough but we’ll try really hard to end the weekend with a good result.”

Round 21, the final race of the Spa-Francorchamps weekend, will take place at 12.40 (local time) tomorrow, Saturday, 30th July. Due to forming part of the FIA Formula 3 International Trophy, the action will also be screened live across Europe on Motors TV – check www.motorstv.com for details.

Provisional 2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Standings (after Rd20):
15th Menasheh Idafar, 27pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Menasheh Idafar - Spa-FrancorchampsOfficial testing ahead of this weekend’s Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series races at Spa-Francorchamps concluded at the Belgian track this afternoon, Thursday, 28th July, with T-Sport’s Menasheh Idafar posting a very promising eighth quickest time.

With the final European-based event of the British F3 season also being combined with the latest round of the FIA Formula 3 International Trophy, several invitational drivers from the F3 Euroseries are taking part and so on overall timings Menasheh was still a highly creditable 15th fastest.

This morning’s opening session took place on a drying track and the 20-year-old produced a best lap time of 2m16.431 seconds in his Dallara-Volkswagen to finish the run within just a second of the overall top six.

In the end, that proved to be his only meaningful running as an afternoon deluge left the track extremely wet for the second outing. Conditions were so bad it wasn’t really worth pushing for lap times and so Menasheh chose the sensible option by not taking any risks. He did venture out but only for a handful of laps, the same approach adopted by most of the 28 car field.

“We only did three or four laps this afternoon, it was really wet and no point trying to do anything as it wasn’t worth the risk”, said the British-born Bahraini, “This morning went well, being the eighth quickest of the British championship guys was good. The track got quicker towards the end but we had used our tyres early so I’m happy where we finished.”

Qualifying for the seventh race meeting of the season will begin at 09.50 (local time) tomorrow, Friday, 29th July, with round 19 taking place at 13.15 and round 20 following at 16.50. On Saturday, 30th July, round 21 will get underway at approximately 12.40.

This weekend’s British F3 action is taking place a day earlier than would ordinarily be the case due to the fact the championship is running in support of the Total 24 Hours of Spa endurance race.

Provisional 2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Standings (after Rd18):
=13th Menasheh Idafar & Hywel Lloyd, 27pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Chris VlokBGR Team Grote was back in action at the Beautiful Le Circuit Mont Tremblant last weekend, contesting round 3 of the Quebec Formula Tour 1600 Series in Canada. New Zealand driver Chris Vlok was eager to get back in the car from the huge 5 week break after round 2 at the Canadian F1 GP in Montreal. The Friday test day went well and Vlok posted some impressive times putting him in the top 5 by the end of the day. Qualifying for Race 1 on Saturday also went well and with a wrong turn in setup the 18 year old rookie managed to line up 9th for the first race. Making some adjustments to the setup for Race 1 made for a great first few laps which saw Chris move up to 6th and then another pass putting him into the top 5. A full course caution halted his progress and unfortunately the race ended under caution but a solid top 5 was a nice result.

Sunday was filled with excitement as the cars took to the track for qualifying 2 and improving on his Saturday starting spot by 3 grid positions had him line up 6th. The race was a high speed pursuit with the top 10 cars staying in close contact as positions constantly changed every corner but all the while Vlok made steady progress and ran in 4th as the last lap board was displayed. The lead duo just meters ahead of Vlok and the 3rd place car of veteran Didier Schraenen came together only 4 corners from the finish and they both retired with damage promoting Didier to the lead and Chris to 2nd, they remained that way to the flag as Chris earned his first podium of the season. The two top 5 results also promoted Vlok to the lead of the rookie points championship. “It’s nice to finally get some good finishes in the bag after all the hard work that were putting in”, commented the young New Zealander Vlok. “We’ve had good speed since the start of the season and it was unfortunate that we incurred all the bad luck that we did, so this is a real confidence boost for me and the team that couldn’t have come at a better time”, “It puts us in a good position for our next meeting at the Trois Rivieres GP3R street circuit, which is going to be tough considering the limited amount of track time that we get and with me having no experience there, so its a good position to enter that event in”.

“What a great weekend for BGR Team Grote and our rookie driver Chris Vlok, commented team principle Brian Graham. We were close here in the spring and this shows that Chris is a real contender and as he learns the new tracks and gains knowledge he will continue to fight for podiums for the remainder of the series. The rookie of the year is something we are really trying hard to come away with as we have won that crown in Ontario for six straight years and hope to start that tradition here in Quebec. They guys did a great job this weekend in the heat and had the car perfect for the Sunday feature. We are very excited about the GP3R and know Chris will love that venue.” BGR Team Grote has put more drivers in the winner’s circle than any other team in OFFC history and continues to strive to provide the perfect environment for karters to make the transition to the open wheel ranks. The winners of the past 6 consecutive years of Rookie of the Year will be looking to continue that tradition this season.

Zaamin JafferFirst year Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship racer Zaamin Jaffer endured a problematic outing at Croft in North Yorkshire over the weekend, 23rd/24th July, but despite a serious run of bad luck the Indian star still managed to climb up into seventh position in the driver standings.

Right from the off in unofficially timed testing, the 21-year-old Hillspeed driver encountered troubles which blighted his potential for the seventh and eighth rounds of the season. Even so, he remained focused and committed and is one of just three drivers in the championship to have scored in every race so far in 2011.

Gearbox issues in testing hampered Zaamin’s preparations but the misfortune continued in qualifying on Saturday when he was badly baulked by another driver and the ensuing contact led to one of his brand new slick tyres coming off the rim of the wheel.

Forced, therefore, to run only three new tyres and one used tyre as a replacement, the Dubai-based driver finished the session an uncharacteristic 12th quickest and in session two he had to settle for an even more frustrating 16th fastest.

Just when it seemed as though Zaamin must have encountered every bit of bad luck possible, more arose ahead of the opening race on Sunday – round seven – when an electrical glitch caused his engine to cut-out as he circulated on the green flag formation lap.

By the time he was able to get his car fired back up again, the race had already begun and the field had completed almost half a lap. Running very competitively, Zaamin caught the rear of the tail quickly and by lap six he was into 15th place. He went on to gain two more positions before the finish to secure a 13th place result.

“Whatever could go wrong this weekend did”, said Zaamin, “The trouble started in testing straight away in the morning, we had gearbox problems and then in qualifying the tyre came off the rim so I was already on the back-foot then with three new tyres compared to everyone else being on four.

“We struggled through the left-handers because of the old tyre we had to run but we did manage to salvage 12th in the first qualifying, which wasn’t bad. On the green flag lap though before the race, the engine cut-out and I was well behind when I finally got going with everyone else already halfway around the first lap.”

Round eight was a largely uneventful race for the Active PR-backed driver although he was in a tight scrap over 10th place with a total of five cars. Overtaking proved to be at a premium and Zaamin had to settle for 14th position in the end.

“In race two our fate was decided from the start really, beginning in 16th place”, he added, “I didn’t expect much, we got a couple of places but then got stuck at the end of a queue of five cars. We really need to give it our all in the final two events and try and get onto that podium.”

Next on the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship calendar is a visit to Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire for rounds nine and 10 of the season. The one-day event will take place six weeks from now on Saturday, 3d September.

Provisional 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Standings (after Rd8):
7th Zaamin Jaffer, 94pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

NZV8-NGThe future ‘look and specification’ of cars eligible for the official New Zealand V8 Saloon Championship – currently called ‘The BNTNZV8s’ – was revealed at the CRC Speedshow in Auckland this weekend (July 23-24).

The first car, built for the Haydn Mackenzie Motorsport Team by Mitchell Race Xtreme in Hamilton, ensures the ‘future proofing’ of the official NZV8 Saloon Championship, producing a modern version of the traditional Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore cars that will provide a basis for future development, while still retaining the basic DNA of the two models.

“This new generation of the NZV8 will be eligible to compete in the 2012-13 BNTNZV8 Championship, alongside the current cars that have been raced in previous seasons,” says Andrew Mackenzie, Chairman of the Board of the NZV8s. “We will ensure that the new cars will be on equal footing with the older cars which will run out of eligibility at the end of the 2012-13 Championship season. We are also going to ensure that as far as possible there will be parity between the new Holden and Ford models. The new generation cars will run the same engine specs as the current cars, with Ford engines in Ford cars and Holden engines in Holden cars. There is the option of some new generation engines becoming available but they are unlikely to be eligible until the 2012-13 championship season, with appropriate parity restrictions.”

Mackenzie says the big advantage of the new NZV8 cars is that the design and construction of the prototype car – a Falcon – has all been done in New Zealand, and future models can also be built here, supporting local industry and teams. “It has taken the Mitchell team 11 weeks from formulating the design to the completed vehicle on display at Speedshow. The concept and construction of these cars has been approved by both the Ford and Holden factories as racing versions of the standard road cars with many of the parts coming directly from the Australian V8Supercars.

“We now have a base from which to develop our NZV8 Championship class of the future. The Board is adamant that all current cars will compete in this coming season and the following season’s championships, but will be joined in the 2012-13 championship by the new generation cars but with parity of performance regulated between the current and new cars and the two makes. This new car gives us a platform for the development of the class in the future, keeping the cars modern in appearance with the ability to enhance their performance in the future,” says Mackenzie.

Photo by Geoff Ridder.

Menasheh Idafar - Paul Ricard HTTTMenasheh Idafar emerged from two incident-packed, and wildly unpredictable, Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series races at Paul Ricard in France today, Sunday, 17th July, with a pair of very hard-fought top 12 results.

As during Saturday’s 16th round, until his unfortunate exhaust failure became apparent, the 20-year-old performed very well indeed in both encounters and certainly deserved at least one points finish from the weekend.

The beginning to round 17 was nothing short of chaotic after a car stalled and the lights sequence on the gantry over the start/finish straight didn’t make it clear whether the action had been aborted or whether racing was underway. Some drivers thought the former was the case while others believed the race to have started, leading to unsurprising multi-car contact.

Menasheh was one of those able to avoid any issues and so at the re-start he profited from three cars ahead being removed the equation. Nonetheless, he delivered a strong opening to end lap one in 15th position just 0.2 seconds behind team-mate Yann Cunha and by the end of the second tour he was up into 13th place – all after having started at the back of the grid due to Saturday’s retirement.

With the race distance limited to just six laps after the earlier problems, there wasn’t a great deal of time available for Menasheh to try and make his way much further up the order but he did grab 12th place from Adderly Fong on the third tour to cap a highly impressive drive.

The British-born Bahraini made a great start to round 18, for which he qualified in 12th position, but some early contact delayed him and also led to steering damage which compromised his pace and turning ability into right-handers.

Several spinners at the start resulted in the Safety Car being deployed for quite some time with the action not truly getting underway until lap six. Running in 13th place, Menasheh piled pressure onto Pipo Derani and then gained two positions on lap seven when Derani and Kotaro Sakurai ran wide and dropped back.

Although slipping to 13th position as the race passed mid-distance, the T-Sport driver continued to fight hard and ran close behind title contender Lucas Foresti. On lap 12 though, contact between the pair resulted in a damaged floor to Menasheh’s Dallara-Volkswagen and although able to recover he lost a lot of time. Even so, a couple of incidents during the closing stages enabled him to regain 12th.

“I made a very good start to the second race but there was contact from (Carlos) Huertas and that damaged my steering, I couldn’t put enough lock on in the right-hand corners so that made things really tough”, explained Menasheh, “Then, after the thing with (Lucas) Foresti, the floor got damaged but at least I could continue and we made the finish.

“The first race today was really messy at the start, my pace wasn’t so good but we did manage to come through to a decent enough result. It’s been a tough weekend but Spa is next and I’m really looking forward to that, we were good there last year in the National Class car so hopefully we can have a good run this time in the A Class.”

The seventh event of the 2011 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series, rounds 19, 20 and 21, will take place at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps on Friday, 29th July, and Saturday, 30th July.

Provisional 2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Standings (after Rd18):
=13th Menasheh Idafar & Hywel Lloyd, 27pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Menasheh Idafar - Paul RicardExhaust failure cost Menasheh Idafar a near-certain points finish at Paul Ricard HTTT this afternoon, Saturday, 16th July, during round 16 of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series – a bitterly disappointing outcome for the T-Sport racer after delivering one of his best drives of 2011.

Qualifying with the 11th fastest time for the first of the weekend’s three encounters at the French track, the 20-year-old made a good start and immediately set about pressuring the group of drivers ahead as an entertaining multi-car battle developed.

Eager to break into the points-paying positions, Menasheh took 10th place at the expense of Pietro Fantin on lap three and then set about closing the gap to Jazeman Jaafar. The Malaysian headed Menasheh by 1.8 seconds at the start of the sixth tour but inside two laps the 2010 National Class Champion had reduced Jaafar’s advantage to nothing.

The British-born Bahraini wasted no time in taking ninth position and he then set about lining-up an attack on eighth placed Lucas Foresti who was just 0.9 seconds further up the road. Unfortunately for Menasheh, his hopes of continuing his tremendous progress were shattered on lap 10 when his Dallara-Volkswagen dramatically slowed due to a rare exhaust failure.

Forcing an immediate return to the pits and subsequent retirement, Menasheh ended the race thoroughly disappointed but nonetheless heartened by his terrific performance and pace which was easily good enough for a top eight finish today.

“We were really unlucky this afternoon, the exhaust just broke and there was nothing we could do about it”, he explained, “It’s a real shame as we’d been having a really good race. I made a good start, I was really happy with the car and we had good pace.

“When I got past Jazeman (Jaafar) I was sure I was going to get (Lucas) Foresti but then we had the problem with the exhaust and the car slowed straight away. If we can have the same pace tomorrow that we showed in today’s race, we should be able to fight hard again for some good finishes.”

Round 17 of the 2011 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series will begin at around 10.00 (local time) tomorrow, Sunday, 17th July, with round 18 following at 16.45. Due to his unfortunate retirement from this afternoon’s encounter, Menasheh will start the first race from the last row of the grid while for race two he will line-up in 12th position.

Provisional 2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Standings (after Rd16):
13th Menasheh Idafar, 27pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Menasheh Idafar - Paul Ricard TestingCooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series racer Menasheh Idafar produced a consistently strong performance on his debut run at Paul Ricard HTTT in France today, Friday, 15th July, during official testing ahead of the weekend’s sixth race meeting of the 2011 season.

Lapping with a time of 2m02.919 seconds during this morning’s first 45-minute session to go a highly respectable 11th on the timesheets, ahead of championship front-runner and multiple race winner Lucas Foresti, the T-Sport racer was similarly competitive in session two.

Finding an additional seven 10ths of a second during the afternoon run in his Volkswagen-powered Dallara, the 20-year-old improved to a best lap of the day of 2m02.240 seconds which placed him 11th quickest once again.

Rounding out the day within just 1.2 seconds of the outright pace, Menasheh thoroughly enjoyed his first ever experience of the French track and ahead of tomorrow’s all-important qualifying session the reigning National Class Champion is focused on continuing his good early form.

“It’s been a pretty good start”, said Menasheh, “Paul Ricard is a great track, especially the first sector, and I’m happy we were consistent in both sessions. It would have been nice to end the day in the top 10 but we weren’t far away and we did find just under 0.7 seconds this afternoon. We know where we should be able to improve for tomorrow so we’ll have to see what happens.”

Qualifying will take place at Paul Ricard tomorrow, Saturday, 16th July, at 10.00 (local time) with the first of the weekend’s races, round 16, set to get underway at 15.00. On Sunday, 17th July, round 17 is expected to begin at 10.00 with round 18 following at approximately 16.45.

Provisional 2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Standings (after Rd15):
11th Menasheh Idafar, 27pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.