18 Jan, 2021 01:38 PM3 minutes to read
Chris Cowling threaded the needle on a drive from mid-pack to complete a New Zealand Super Saloon Grand Prix hat-trick at Baypark Speedway on Saturday night.
Cowling, from Tauranga, started 11th in the 25-lap Grand Prix final and, after moving forward to join the lead battle, he leapt from third into the lead with a single move.
Nelson’s Ian Burson and Tauranga’s Scott Hayward were swapping the lead when Cowling split the pair.
“I’d started to run the middle. ‘Burs’ was on the bottom and Scotty moved up high so I was able to drive straight between the two of them,” Cowling said.
Once out in front Cowling edged away to win by almost 6sec and establish a 2019, 2020 and 2021 streak of NZ Super Saloon GP victories.
“I wasn’t sure where they were behind me. You just keep doing what got you up to the front,” Cowling said.
While Cowling’s night ended in a shower of champagne, his second heat race had ended in a shower of hot water when a radiator pipe burst.
“It was a bit of a scramble to get the car fixed because of where the pipe had burst – up front, close to the motor.
“I was actually worried I wouldn’t have enough points and I would have to run the repechage.”
A five-way battle raged for the GP podium between Burson, Hayward, Mark Osborne (Christchurch), Steve Flynn (Napier) and Steve Cowling (Tauranga).
Hayward and Burson were often side-by-side as they raced for second spot but, in the closing laps, the big mover was Osborne, who cleared the battle and passed Hayward for the second spot on the penultimate lap.
Hayward hung on for third ahead of Flynn, Burson and Steve Cowling.
Newly crowned New Zealand champion Peter Dickson (Tauranga) had scored an impressive heat race win but a first-lap pile-up ended his GP hopes with a flat left-rear tyre.
Two other feature races had unusual finishes. Only three survived the saloon feature with Kihikihi’s Craig Marsh taking the win.
Aucklander Aaron Hodgson won the midget car feature while sitting upside down in the first turn.
He’d taken the white flag with a clear lead but another incident saw cars slowing. Hodgson made contact with a slowing car and flipped.
With the result declared a lap earlier, and Hodgson not being the cause of the stoppage, he was awarded the win ahead of Hayden Williams and Peter Hunnibell.
The next meeting at Baypark Speedway is the North Island Stockcar Championship on January 29-30.