Invercargill driver Liam MacDonald is the 2016/2017 BNT NZ Touring Car Class 2 Champion.
MacDonald took the championship when he crossed the line in his GT Radial NZ Falcon to win the opening race of the final round, his 50th national race start, at Hampton Downs International Motorsport Park in North Waikato on Saturday.
The 19-year-old Southlander secured the title with two races to spare before recording a fourth and second place in Sunday’s two races to take the overall round win in a remarkable season in which he won five of the six rounds and twelve of the eighteen races. During the season he visited the Taupo, Manfeild and Hampton Downs circuits for the first time, winning races at every one of them.
Despite never having raced at Hampton Downs previously the Southland teenager made light of his inexperience taking pole position before winning Saturday’s opener after a great battle with his closest title rival Brad Lathrope of Auckland, who succumbed to a driveshaft problem, and then Pukekohe driver Nick Farrier who he passed on the last lap to take victory.
With a weight off his shoulders on Sunday MacDonald raced to fourth place from a reverse top five grid on slick tyres on a damp track in the second race of the round, a race won by Farrier, and then took second in the final race behind fellow Southlander Jamie Conroy.
The last race saw MacDonald on wet tyres as the track dried and with the tyres spent at the end of the 20 lap feature the new champion celebrated with a burnout.
Winning the championship was “pretty cool” in the words of the humble 19-year-old while immediately after sealing the title he admitted it was “a relief but it hadn’t really sunk in.” The Southlander was also “stoked” to come to yet another circuit that he was unfamiliar with and be fast enough straight out of the box to take pole and win his first race on the track.
Prior to mounting his first full attack on the championship this season MacDonald had compiled some impressive results in his sporadic appearances and now in his first full season at a national level he is the Class 2 Champion.
MacDonald tackled the 2016/2017 BNT NZ Touring Car Championship with the support of GT Radial NZ, Million Dollar Cruise Queenstown, Classic Car Warehouse Invercargill, Advanti Racing and YHI NZ, Ideal Electrical, BNT NZ, Auto Windscreen Replacement Ltd, Southern Bolts & Fasteners, Auto Fab, NAC Insurance, Speedy Signs Invercargill, Derek Orr Auto Refinisher, Southern Probuilt Engines, DAL Photographics, Discount Tyres Invercargill and Sport Scholarships with the Community Trust of Southland and the ILT Foundation.