INKBERROW’S Ben Hurdman was an integral part of the five-man Great Britain Lions team which finished runners-up in the New Zealand Superstock Teams Championships on Sunday.
BriSCA (British Stock Car Association) F1 driver Hurdman impressed as the Team GB Racing outfit finished runners-up to Hawkes Bay Hawkeyes for the second successive year.
Teams racing in New Zealand is a unique form of motorsport which sees four cars from each team try to get one of their drivers to win the race. Deliberate blocking and fencing is permitted.
Having only raced as a team in one event the weekend before, it was a remarkable achievement for Great Britain to qualify for the final, beating teams who compete in this form of racing on a regular basis in their own backyard.
Bidding to become the first overseas team to win the title at Robertson Holden International Speedway in Palmerston North, the five-car BriSCA F1 Lions team – including captain and BriSCA F1 world champion Frankie Wainman Jnr, former world champion Lee Fairhurst, John Dowson, Hurdman and Bob Griffin – topped their three-team group on Saturday.
With Fairhurst winning both races, the Lions faced the Gisborne Giants and fellow BriSCA F1 star Tom Harris in an eagerly-awaited semi-final on Sunday night.
The Lions put in a masterclass of teams racing to demolish the Giants, with Hurdman going on to win comfortably after main Gisborne threat Peter Rees was forced to pull off with excess damage to his car in the closing stages.
“We were the underdogs against Gisborne and smashed them out of the stadium,” said Hurdman. “We pulled together well as a team.”
The victory set up a clash with the Hawkeyes who beat championship favourites Palmerston North Panthers in their semi-final – a race that will go down as one of the greatest teams races of all time with the outcome in doubt right down to the chequered flag – a repeat of the final of 12 months ago.
In a brutal 15-lap final, the Hawkeyes focused on trying to neutralise the threat of Wainman Jnr from the outset and were successful in causing enough damage to hinder his progress, badly damaging a rear wheel guard. Despite the setback, Fairhurst took over the lead in the early stages for the Lions.
With hits flying in from all around the track, Hawkes Bay managed to block Fairhurst to allow Thomas Stanaway to go to the front. The New Zealander then stretched his lead to more than a lap of the quarter-mile oval.
The writing was on the wall for the Lions when Wainman Jnr’s badly damaged car also suffered a fuel pump problem in the closing stages for the second year in a row.
The only hope for a Team GB victory in the winner takes all event was if Fairhurst could catch the runaway leader. However, victory was all but lost when the Bolton driver, in his pursuit of the leader, was pinned up against the wall with two laps to go by Hawkeyes’ Jason Long.
The red flags came out and on the restart, despite a valiant effort from Hurdman and Griffin for Team GB who were way down on laps, the Hawkeyes took the flag and the championship for a second successive year.
“They got the upper hand early on,” said Hurdman. “And once you lose a car, it’s an uphill struggle.”
It was a hard defeat to take for the Lions, particularly for Wainman Jnr, who along with the rest of the team left nothing out on the track.
“Obviously the lads are feeling it after that,” said Wainman Jnr. “But we have to look on the positive side. We will come back next year more determined than ever to win it.”
Team director Guy Parker was full of praise for his team. He said: “The Brits were naturally very disappointed coming so close, but we have once again shown we are no pushovers and one day the dream of becoming New Zealand Superstock Teams Champions may just become reality. There is no reason why it can’t be in 2018.”
As a consolation for the Lions team, Wainman Jnr, who drove with some outstanding blocking and tactical driving, won the Warrior of the Weekend award for the most entertaining driver of the two-day meeting.