The Suzuki Swift Sport Cup cars wowed the crowds at the Hamilton ITM 400 V8 Supercars street race meeting over the weekend of April 17-18, crowning a superb season for the one-make saloon car series.
Experienced former saloon car champion Angus Fogg, competing in his Winger Suzuki, along side his younger LG Motorsport team mate William Bamber, battled for supremacy in all three Swift races, but this was just one of many close tussles throughout the field of Suzuki hatchbacks.
Auckland-based Fogg (42) may have had experience on his side, but the ever-present 16-year-old Bamber made life difficult for the older driver. William finished runner-up in races one and three, and got the better of Angus in the second event to win a hard-fought duel.
“I couldn’t resist an offer to race the Winger Swift in Hamilton,” said Fogg. “What a blast! We’ve had fantastic feedback from race fans about the exciting and close racing in these three (Swift) races.”
While Fogg was overall winner for the weekend, Bamber finished a close second to round off a brilliant season for the young Wanganui Collegiate student. Bamber had clinched the Swift Sport Cup Championship at Taupo in March.
Personable 18-year-old Castrol Swift Scholarship winner Matt Gibson, also from Wanganui, drove consistently to fill third place in all three races.
One of the rising stars on the testing Hamilton street circuit was Bramwell King who raced hard with Sam Robinson and eventually came home fourth.
At 14, Bramwell is the youngest competitor in the Swift class, and the young Palmerston North lad kept his cool to return an excellent result. King started his motor sport career in karts and won the Formula First United Travel Championship.
“Both Bramwell King and Sam Robinson came of age in Hamilton, and showed the fruits of their season in the Swift championship events,” said Darren Stevens, Motorsport Manager for Suzuki New Zealand.
Sam Robinson, a 21-year-old automotive technician from Wellington, said, “The Hamilton circuit was a huge challenge, being surrounded by concrete walls and covered in bumps to upset the car. It was never going to be easy.”
Just a day before leaving for Hamilton a close friend of Robinson was killed in a car accident and this weighed heavily on his mind during the meeting.
Robinson qualified eighth, finished fourth in the first two races, and eventually finished fifth overall after he brushed a wall in the final race and damaged a wheel in the process upsetting the Swift’s handling and slowing his pace.
Twenty-year-old Alan Dunkley from Auckland escaped unhurt from a spectacular accident in the first race but, remarkably, his Swift was repaired and returned to race 24 hours later.
The Suzuki Swift one-make racing series has been the success story of the 2009/2010 New Zealand Motor Sport season.
Visiting Australian journalist Andrew van Leeuwen said the Swift racing was a highlight of the Hamilton weekend.
“This one-make series seems to work like a charm. The cars are full roadworthy Suzuki Swifts, on road-rated tyres, and they are hardly rocket ships - but these guys race, and race hard,” said van Leeuwen.
He suggests Australia follows the lead of New Zealand and gets some Suzuki’s up and racing.
Andrew van Leeuwen was enthralled by the battle royal between Fogg and Bamber. “The crowds loved it, and I found myself sitting there mesmerised by the races. It was Formula Ford with roofs,” said the journalist.
“With Bamber looking like he’ll go onto bigger and better things, the Swifts are set to become the Formula Ford-esque entry from karts to cars” said van Leeuwen.
The Suzuki Swifts have completed their third year as a one-make racing class, and their first season as a tier one national championship.
“Giving the Swifts tier one status has been truly vindicated by the standard of racing and the closeness of competition,” said Darren Stevens. “And it is proving to be a great stepping stone for young and up-and-coming drivers.”
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