Home News Blake Knowles wins 2024 New Zealand FFord title by a whisker at Taupo

Blake Knowles wins 2024 New Zealand FFord title by a whisker at Taupo

by Ida Wood

Photo: Geoff Ridder

The 2024 New Zealand Formula Ford season concluded this month with rounds at Manfeild and Taupo, where Blake Knowles became champion.

The top of the points table closed up when the paddock visited Manfeild on April 5-7, as Sebastian Manson won twice.

He topped practice first, then took pole by 0.022 seconds over Mason Potter and 0.031s over points leader Knowles. Dylan Grant and Toby McCormack were within 0.185s of pole too, while everyone else was more than half a second off the pace.

NZ FFord last raced at Manfeild before the COVID-19 pandemic, but drivers quickly figured out the many places they could go side-by-side.

Manson pipped Potter to victory by 0.35s in race one, but did lead every lap. Potter had fought with Grant early on, then set the fastest lap as he proved to be a thorn in Manson’s side. Grant finished third, Blake Dowdall was 11s behind in fourth and Knowles retired.

The gap between the top two was even closer in race two, as Manson triumphed by 0.113s over Potter in a late fight for victory. Knowles had been involved in the leading group in third place before the top two pulled away.

Potter avenged his two defeats by winning races three and four. Just 0.93s covered the top five at the finish of race three, with Potter leading Manson home by 0.172s. William Neale was a further 0.131s behind in third, Knowles was just 0.66s behind the winner in fourth and Grant was fifth.

Although Potter more comfortably won race four by 3.4s, there was still close battles behind with Manson missing out on the runner-up spot by 0.36s, Knowles finishing 0.099s behind him and Grant a further 0.38s back.

The results meant Knowles headed to Taupo two weeks later 24 points clear of Manson and 59 ahead of Neale. Potter, Grant and Izaak Fletcher made it a six-way title fight for the three-race round, which ended with the Ron Frost Memorial Trophy race.

Neale topped FP1 on Friday, setting a 1m36.388s to lead Potter by 0.045s. Zach Blincoe was third, but 0.834s behind. Manson lowered the pace to 1m34.739s in FP2, putting 0.255s between himself and Grant, and with Potter a further 0.214s slower in third.

Manson delivered under pressure in qualifying, improving to 1m34.126s to take pole by over a third of a second. Blincoe was second fastest, with less than 0.1s splitting Neale, Grant and Knowles in third to fifth.

Race one was the sole track activity of Saturday, and it was wet. Grant moved into second place early on but could not challenge Manson until late in the race and a pass was not possible. Neale and Knowles (now only one point ahead of winner Manson) finished third and fourth, and Potter was seventh after he had a penalty removed.

Sunday was sunny and Knowles moved nine points clear by winning race two after Manson and Neale had contact. Manson finished 0.404s behind the winner, while a 30s penalty restricted Neale to 15th place.

Neale won the finale, again battling Manson but only after they had pulled away significantly. After trading places several times, Neale was victorious by 0.178s. Finishing third made Knowles champion by two points, and Grant successfully defended his North Island FFord title in fourth place.

Results round-up
Race Winner Pole Fastest lap
1 Sebastian Manson Manson Mason Potter
2 Manson Blake Knowles
3 Potter Potter
4 Potter William Neale
1 Manson Manson Neale
2 Knowles Potter
3 Neale Manson
Championship standings
1 Knowles 890   2 Manson 888   3 Neale 801   4 Potter 735   5 Dylan Grant 697   6 Izaak Fletcher 645   7 Zach Blincoe 581   8 Caleb Byers 550   9 Dylan Petch 475   10 Toby McCormack 458