Featherstone flies to the top

Graham Featherstone is in a strong position after winning both the sealed and gravel legs in his Evo 7 at the first round of the 2015-16 MotorSport New Zealand Hillclimb Championship in Pukekohe.

Photo: Rebecca Tough

Graham Featherstone powered his Mitsubishi Evo 7 to victory in both the sealed and gravel climbs, securing the maximum 200.00 points on offer to take the overall series lead. While he stormed to victory in the sealed round by almost three seconds, the gravel leg was a tight battle with NZRC runner-up Phil Campbell (Evo 9).

The pair were separated by less than a tenth of a second as they attacked the Murray Rd climb in pursuit of priceless championship points. Finishing in third place behind them was David Loughlin (Subaru WRX).

Campbell also came second on the Kemp Rd sealed run to compile 196.94 points, with local competitor Steve Goodare (Datsun Sunny) rounding out the Top 3.

Goodare finished fourth overall on the gravel climb, earning him 189.51 points and top spot on the 2WD leaderboard. Behind him sits veteran hill climber Dave Strong (Honda Civic), who is returning to the championship after more than a decade’s absence.

Michael and Kevin Sanderson are separated by 2.06 points in third and fourth respectively. The son and father share drives in a modified Hayabusa Starlet, with a healthy family rivalry seeing them swap times throughout the weekend.

Series coordinator Donna Elder was pleased with how the first round played out.

“Numbers were on par, if not slightly more, than last year. It’s maybe not surprising, as the island hosting the final round always seems to attract more entries in qualifying.”  

Championship structure

This year, the championship is using a percentage points system to help level the playing field. Points are calculated by dividing a competitor’s times by the winner’s, then multiplying it by 100 – scores are rounded to two decimal points.       

To be eligible for the championship, competitors need to race in two of the four qualifying rounds. Up for grabs are the NZ Gold Star Hillclimb Championship and NZ 2WD Hillclimb Championship, as well as separate sealed and gravel challenge titles.

The second North Island round is in Thames Valley on the 23-24 January. The first South Island round is in South Canterbury on 27-28 February, with the second in Waimate on 26-27 March. The final round is in Taumarunui on 2-3 April.

Donna says the date of the Waimate round was moved as it clashed with the Westland Rally.

The full championship table after the first round can be found here

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