Southland’s Jordan Michels may have won the opening round of the 2017/18 South Island F1600 Championship but a group of rookie drivers have shown that they will be hot competition this summer. Run in sunny conditions at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch, Michels set fastest lap, was runner-up in race one and then won the two remaining races on Sunday to now lead the six round championship by just seven points from Christchurch rookie driver Bailey Paterson.

Winner of the opening race of the season, Paterson (Van Diemen Stealth) went on to finish runner up to Michels (Mygale S513) giving notice that he wants to run at the front of the competition.

“We all ran pretty close this weekend,” commented Paterson. “There wasn’t much between the three of us (Michels, Paterson and Josh Bethune) so some great racing all round.”

The ex Mini 7 national champion is campaigning the ex-Dave Arrowsmith car and has realistic expectations. “It’s a learning curve for us with the aim to get podiums and wins.”

“It’s been a fantastic weekend,” said Michels. “The competition is really impressive. Bailey (Paterson) is doing a great job and young Josh (Bethune) is proving to be very quick.”

Also a rookie, 14-years-old Bethune already has a wealth of kartsport experience with South Island titles in the Vortex Mini ROK, Junior Yamaha and Junior Rotax classes.

“It hasn’t been a bad weekend,” commented Bethune. “We had a few problems earlier on but we have got good straight line speed. I hope that we can have some more close battles. Our expectations are learning the tracks, getting on the podium and of course winning.”

Returning to the category after nine years is Kurt Peterson (Stealth). Three top five finishes sees him fourth overall on 85 points, just two points behind Southland’s Ethan Anderson (Stealth).

Four Class two cars took to the track with Robert Toshach (Spectrum) fifth overall and winning the class from Noel Atley’s beautifully presented Swift F1600, Philip Butcher (VDRF92) third and Derek Wilson (Swift) fourth.

“I’m quite pleased with the weekend,” commented Toshach. “I got good starts and was then able to maintain a steady pace and keep a buffer to the next competitor.”

A consistent drive from current Historic Class 3 titleholder Roger McKenzie (Begg FM3) saw him finish second in class to Joseph Oliver (Crossle F55). Current national titleholder Andy Downs (Lola 642E) was third and rookie Nelson kartsport driver Matt Butchart fourth.

Butchart, the South Island F1600 Club Scholarship winner, proved to be quick right from the start of the weekend finishing first Class 3 car home in the first two races. He was on track to win the round for the category but a fuel issue in the final race saw him retire, losing valuable championship points.

“It’s been awesome and a steep learning curve,” commented Butchart. “There’s a huge difference between these (cars) and kartsport but my aim is to win the Class 3 title this season.”

Drivers and teams will head to Timaru International Raceway in two weeks’ time for the second round of the championship that also doubles as the opening weekend of the five round New Zealand F1600 national championship.

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