Home News Manson takes early points lead in opening NZ FFord round at Timaru

Manson takes early points lead in opening NZ FFord round at Timaru

by Ida Wood

Photo: Terry Marshal/Euan Cameron Photography

The 2024 New Zealand Formula Ford championship began last weekend at the Timaru circuit.

Three practice sessions and qualifying kicked off the event, and Blake Knowles set the practice pace with a 1m05.735s lap. That put him 0.135s ahead of William Neale, with Dylan Grant 0.597s behind in third. The qualifying pace was slower, as Neale took pole with a 1m06.248s. Sebastian Manson was 0.192s behind in second, with Knowles 0.259s back in third.

Manson took the lead from Neale before the first corner of race one and held it all the way to the finish of the 10-lap encounter. The top three immediately broke away from the rest of the 22-car field, and Knowles attacked Neale at the end of the back straight on lap two but put a wheel into the dirt rather than making a move.

Just 0.767s covered the trio on on lap three, and 0.456s on lap seven. Knowles repeated his attempt at passing Neale on lap four, while on lap five Neale had tried the outside of Manson at the end of the back straight and the leader cut across him as they exited the hairpin at the end of the straight.

Knowles pressured Neale down the pit straight and into turn one on lap eight, then again down the back straight and this time did get by while also visiting the dirt. Neale reclaimed second at the next corner, and the pair dropped 1.275s behind Manson. He won by 1.549s, with 0.31s splitting Neale and Knowles. Grant was fourth, while Mason Potter rose from 10th to finish sixth.

A very distant 20th was MotorSport New Zealand’s CEO Elton Goonan, who has FFord experience but was a circuit debutant.

Neale started from pole for race two, ahead of Manson and Knowles. Manson’s grid spot proved advantageous again as he led the field after just a few metres.

Knowles took second from Neale at the hairpin on lap two, and attacked Manson three times mid-race before finally getting ahead on lap seven by going around the outside – and putting his wheels into the dirt – at the hairpin. Lapping Keith Miller complicated his final lap defences but Knowles held Manson off by 0.277s, until a five-second penalty post-race handed a second victory to his rival. A lap three off dropped Grant from fifth to 13th, and he recovered to eighth.

The front of the grid was unchanged for race three. Manson had better traction off the line to lead, and won by 0.213s over Knowles. He attempted to dive down the inside of Neale at the hairpin on lap three, got ahead on lap five then set the fastest lap as he chased the leader. Several drivers behind spun and crashed, but the safety car was not needed.

Knowles’ fastest lap earned him second on the grid for the 12-lap race four, and he converted it into the lead straight away. Manson also passed Neale, then ran side-by-side with Knowles before passing into turn one on lap two.

The lead returned to Knowles on lap four, but Manson repeated his move on lap five. Knowles went around his outside at the hairpin, Manson passed him again down the pit straight on lap seven, then Knowles did his hairpin move again. That brought Neale into play and he passed Manson after making contact.

Points leader Manson returned to second and finished 2.133s behind winner Knowles, before a five-second penalty dropped him to seventh.

Results round-up
Race 1 (10 laps)
1 Sebastian Manson 11m14.793s
2 William Neale +1.549s
3 Blake Knowles +1.859s
4 Dylan Grant +3.033s
5 Izaak Fletcher +5.544s
6 Mason Potter +7.581s
7 Jake Byrant +7.858s
8 Simon Hunter +11.343s
9 Zac Blincoe +11.499s
10 Caleb Byers +12.459s
Pole: Neale, 1m06.248s
Fastest lap: Knowles, 1m06.660s

Race 2 (10 laps)
1 Manson 11m16.336s
2 Neale +0.190s
3 Fletcher +3.098s
4 Knowles +4.723s
5 Blincoe +6.230s
6 Hunter +8.570s
7 Potter +8.676s
8 Grant +9.638s
9 Bryant +10.239s
10 Byers +11.451s
FL: Manson, 1m06.542s

Race 3 (10 laps)
1 Manson 11m09.964s
2 Knowles +0.213s
3 Neale +0.612s
4 Grant +1.118
5 Fletcher +3.536s
6 Potter +9.431s
7 Blincoe +10.691s
8 Dylan Petch +10.838s
9 Daniel Kelly +14.118s
10 Toby McCormack +16.116s
FL: Neale, 1m05.790s

Race 4 (12 laps)
1 Knowles 13m27.873s
2 Neale +3.541s
3 Grant +3.835s
4 Potter +4.023s
5 Fletcher +4.593s
6 Byers +4.766s
7 Manson +7.133s
8 Blincoe +8.963s
9 Byrant +18.804s
10 Kelly +20.728s
FL: Manson, 1m06.331s

Championship standings
1 Manson 267   2 Neale 263   3 Knowles 256   4 Grant 207   5 Fletcher 207   Potter 186   7 Blincoe 166   8 Byrant 130   9 Byers 129   10 Kelly 129