The battle for the 2017-2018 PORTERGROUP V8 Ute Championship is two rounds old and is already shaping up to be one of the most fierce battles in years following an epic round at the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon in February.

Leader after the first round at Taupo Paul ‘Auto’ Manuell suffered a very challenging weekend, with a second place in Race 1 followed by a big crash in Race 2, and lowly finish in Race 3 with a wounded Super Freight Partmaster Holden. When the dust settled, he had dropped from first to fourth in the points ahead of this weekend. Jumping into the points lead half way through the four round New Zealand championship was current champ Richard ‘Danger’ Moore in the Mitre 10 Racing Holden. Two hard-fought wins and a fighting second place vaulted him to the top and secured the round. And as the field arrives at Hampton Downs, it’s always worth remembering Moore has literally thousands of laps under his belt here.

Glen ‘Coyote’ Collinson retained his second place in the championship chase, but his weekend at Manfeild wasn’t without its challenges – an electrical fault knocking out one cylinder in the DNA Paints Panorama Motorsport Ford for the second race. Two solid drives either side of that keep him at the sharp end, on 160 points, which is just 13 behind Moore.

The surprise of the Manfeild round as Andrew ‘Hireman’ Porter who was fully competitive throughout, took his first race win in the series and finished second for the round to jump up to third overall in the points. he has V8 racing ute experience at Hampton Downs, having made his category debut here last season, and can be expected to be near the front again this weekend.

Solid too at Manfeild were Matthew ‘Stinger’ Spratt in his Primogrow Ford FG out of Australia and Brett ‘The Scud’ Rudd in his Pallet Supplies Holden. Both were making their first runs of the season and both were right there on speed and race craft throughout the weekend, Spratt particularly impressive in a new vehicle to these shores. His drive in the third race up to second place was superb, and he may well have got past Moore for a memorable win had he had a couple of laps longer. Rudd was solid as ever and third place for the round represented a great comeback.

Former champ Chris ‘Hammertime’ Hanley sits fifth in the points, frustrated after Manfeild but likely to be nearer the sharp end this weekend at Hampton Downs in the older Placemakers Falcon BF model. his pace is unquestionable and he is due a big result. This could be the weekend when it all comes together for the popular racer. Watch out too for Alexandra ‘Skippy’ Whitley, showing the blokes how it’s done in her LDV-backed Holden. Remarkable for her smoothness and car control, she has earned the respect from this tough field of racers in no time and should win a race this season on merit. Will it be here at Hampton Downs?

Series regulars Peter “Kaos’ Ward, ‘Dirty’ Dave Kernohan, Jeff ‘Ripples’ Kernohan, Simon ‘The Bandit’ Usher and Geoff ‘SOS’ Spencer particularly all had their moments at Manfeild and will be in the thick of the action again this weekend. One or more of them definitely will pop up and turn a few heads this weekend, guaranteed. Usher could also debut his ex-Ryal Harris Aussie Championship winning Ford FG this weekend, and will be hoping for a strong step up in the ranks.

Jason “Mario’ Land, Dave ‘Shaggy’ Lowe, Brent ‘Bullet’ Main complete the runners this weekend in what will be another fantastic field. Saturday brings qualifying and a scratch race, Sunday’s first race is a Reverse Top ten format and the third race is the feature race and is based on points accumulated in the first two races.