MOTORSPORT

Bamber wins Dan Higgins Trophy at Grand Prix event

Sunday 1 March 2009, 12:29PM
By Toyota Racing Series
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PALMERSTON NORTH

"The best race I've had in years" - an elated Earl Bamber summed up his
race win in the 20-lap Dan Higgins Trophy Race at Manfeild today.

New Zealand A1GP driver Bamber had taken pole for the race, which was held
in rainy conditions and high winds. He had series points leader Mitch
Cunningham alongside on the grid but as the lights went green both were
swept aside by a charging Daniel Gaunt, out to start the weekend with a
win.

The three went side by side down the straight and into the first corner,
Gaunt emerging from the corner in the lead; Bamber and Cunningham close
behind.

Gaunt and Bamber fought for the lead through most of the race, Bamber
pushing the leader harder and harder into corners and twice testing him
with lunges around the outside at the end of the start-finish straight.

"It was a great duel, best I've had in years. I was just pushing harder and
harder and aiming to pressure Daniel into a mistake, and would have had a
proper go in the last couple of laps if I had to."

Curtains of spray thrown up by the cars’ grooved “wet” tyres made
Bamber’s challenge harder maintain, the A1GP driver saying at times he
could see little of the track other than the red rain light on the rear of
Gaunt’s car.

As the race progressed Cunningham slid off the track, rejoining in last
place but putting in a determined drive to capture as many points as he
could.

Sam MacNeill had carved his way through the field and held third with Andy
Waite fourth, until Waite slid off in the wet conditions. Gaunt and Bamber
continued their duel at the front, MacNeill consolidating third four
seconds behind them.

Alastair Wootten put in his best drive of the series to date, sticking with
the top four throughout and reveling in the wet conditions.

The gaunt-Bamber battle was resolved in the closing laps - in the end,
Gaunt slid off the track after a determined defence, leaving Bamber an
ecstatic leader with local racer Sam MacNeill in second and Burdett third.
Wootten came home fourth and Keeley Pudney took his best result of the
series with fifth overall.

Bamber ran out the winner, taking the chequered flag with a race average
speed of 151.534 km/h.

Fastest lap of the race went to Gaunt, a 1:11.935 at a race average speed
of 151.787 km/h.

In the new TRS Lites class, Mitch Evans ran out the quicker of the two,
establishing a Manfeild lap record for the class of 1:15.865. The other
TRS Lite was driven by Chris Cox, who recovered from a late race spin at
Higgins corner.

Mitch Cunningham retains his TRS points lead in the series with 839 points;
Palmerston North driver Sam MacNeill on 696 has overtaken Australian Scott
Pye and slightly narrowed the first-second margin to 143.

Daniel Gaunt, meanwhile, has pole for the 100th TRS race on Sunday morning
and also for the Grand Prix tomorrow afternoon and will be determined to
score a result for his Triple X team and sponsors VnC Cocktails and the Mad
Butcher.