October 18 to 20, 2019 - ITM NZ Formula Ford Championship Round 2 / North Island Formula Ford Championship Round 2, Circuit Chris Amon Manfeild Raceway

Since Rd 1, the engine received a full ground-up rebuild by master engine builder, Bryan Hartley in Palmerston North. As the engine came fully ready to race, the car was ready and the driver was ready to see what we had. After a long drive to Manfeild, Thomas was ready to hit the track on Friday for some practice sessions. The first session was a good shake-down and the engine seemed fast. The final practice session was timed in case Qualifying was rained out on Saturday morning. Thomas was quickest over James Penrose and on provisional pole position! We packed up really happy and prepared for qualifying on Saturday morning. The weather was awesome and qualifying was set for 11:40am. Thomas did a fantastic job, placing the car on P3 with a 1:13.126. Race 1 was scheduled for 4:10pm and it was a fantastic race! The pace up front was intense, the lead changed hands many times as the drivers all drafted each other. On the last lap, Thomas was in P2 and made a move on the leader into “Go Media”. With a drag race to the finish line, only 0.106s separated the winner and Thomas so this was a great result and the team were very happy. Sunday morning saw the team full of confidence for the day. Thomas started Race 2 from P3 at 11:40am. He got a great start and some more intense driving followed. The race was very exciting and Thomas battled hard. This time he had a great run into the last corner and sprinted down the track to cross the line in P1...he did it! His first race win, and in Race 5 as well (the same race he scored his first race win when driving Formula First). Race 3 rolled around in the afternoon and another fantastic battle between the top drivers unfolded. Thomas was in 2nd place with one lap to go when contact occurred between him and another driver, with Thomas crossing the line in 1st place. After some discussion with the officials, the decision was made that this was simply a racing incident and Thomas kept his second race win. Thomas finished 1st overall for the weekend and has now moved from 12th to 5th in the NZ Championship! Thank you to Bryan Hartley, Robbie Ngatoa and Tracey Toulmin, Jared Lawson and Donna for keeping things calm in the pits. Thanks to our partners, Collingwood Civil, Tricky Tree Specialists, Brand-X and Performance Industry. There is a decent break now for two months, so Rd3 and Invercargill here we come!

Team News

Oval Callout: Email the team by clicking me!

May 4, 2019 Hi-Q Components 1 Hour Enduro and Season Prizegiving, Circuit Chris Amon Manfeild Raceway

The formal end to the 2018/19 Formula First NZ Championship Season arrived this weekend. It has been an incredibly satisfying and challenging season for many reasons, but one rich with learning and development of Thomas as a driver, person and potential professional driver. They say you can’t enjoy the highs without suffering the lows, so we are satisfied with how it all played out. Thanks go out to so many people who contributed to Thomas’s success this season, we are very grateful to you. The next step is very exciting, there are some amazing announcements coming soon so stay tuned. As always, we’re constantly trying to find more support for our plans, and Thomas will be in touch regarding this very shortly.

With regard to the 1 Hour Enduro on Saturday, this win rates right up there as a perfect “little engine that could” story. Since Formula Vee/First began in New Zealand in 1968, the Enduro has only ever been won by a single driver team. That is….until Saturday!! Thomas and Kaleb Ngatoa drove their way into the history books, not only winning as a dual driver team, but by lapping the entire field doing so. This is significant in so many ways. The rules stated that all teams had to make at least 2 pit stops for fuel and had to take on at least 2 litres of fuel (minimum). Those who had installed large fuel tanks were immediately in better shape than those of us who only had a small (13 litre) fuel tank. Through some classic “kiwi ingenuity” I developed a quick fill system that allowed us to deploy 10 litres of fuel in around 10 seconds which worked a treat for our two fuel stops. We didn’t employ a “dry break” system like the others, as this was an expensive exercise. What it meant however, was that we had to switch the car off when refuelling each time, costing more time. The driver changes had to be completed in a separate area to the refuelling as well, for safety reasons, which added potential for time delays over the teams who were not changing drivers. All this aside, with slick refuelling….lightning driver changes, great and consistent track speed and some clever strategy we were able to complete the 39 laps and take the victory. Awesome stuff!

The season prizegiving was then held at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon on Saturday night and Thomas was recognised for his efforts behind the wheel with some beautiful trophies which he was very humbled to receive. When you read the list of recipients on these trophies and see names like Scott Dixon, Shane van Gisbergen, Chris Pither, Ashley Stichbury, Nick Cassidy and many many more top NZ drivers…you then comprehend the magnitude of the achievements this season. Whilst Thomas didn’t win Rookie of the Year outright…he grew so much and learned from some great people! Thank you once again to our awesome sponsors, Collingwood Civil, Tricky Tree Specialists, and Brand-X for all you do and our Supporters Club members for your support!

February 23 and 24, 2019 - Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship Round 5, Circuit Chris Amon Manfeild Raceway

The weather threatened all weekend, but really did not arrive until mid-Sunday afternoon. There was a good field of 17 cars at Manfeild for Round 5 of the Championship. Qualifying saw an intense game of “cat-n-mouse” between the top 6 drivers, all not wanting to help each other to fast times. This meant Thomas qualified in P7, which was a little off his normal pace, simply due to not being able to get a good draft to improve his lap speed. Race 1 was a good effort, undone slightly by pushing fractionally too hard on Lap 1, causing him to cross the track limit and receive a penalty, relegating him from 7th to 8th across the line. Race 2 on Sunday morning was another start from P7 and another good race, just lacking slightly in top-end pace and having to settle for P5. Then the heavens opened and brought a massive deluge of water. This played into Thomas’s strategy, as he has always excelled in the wet conditions. In Race 3, unfortunately, the car stalled on the line which dropped him to 12th once restarted. However, he drove a fantastic 8 lap race and passed the majority of the field, just not able to catch the leader from Palmerston North and crossed the line in 2nd place. This brings his podium count to six and he extends his championship position over 7th place by another 28 points and also extends his lead in the Rookie title race.

The Formula First championship now heads to Hampton Downs for Round 6 on 8-10 March. So we left Manfeild full of confidence and ready to take on Hampton Downs in two weeks again. Thank you once again to Robbie, Tracey and Kaleb Ngatoa for looking after us and letting us stay at their house. A great big “Thank You” to all our sponsors, Collingwood Civil, Tricky Tree Specialists, and Brand-X for all you do and our Supporters Club members for your support!

March 9 and 10, 2019 - Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship Round 6, Hampton Downs Raceway

Following fantastic pace on the previous day at wet practice, where Thomas posted times almost 1.5s faster than anyone else, spirits were high for the racing. Again, a greasy track provided difficult qualifying conditions, but Thomas excelled and placed the car on P1 by a massive 0.5s over championship leader, Reece Hendl-Cox. It was looking like Thomas was in for a stellar weekend behind the wheel. However, one thing motorsport has taught Team Boniface is to never take anything for granted. This rang true, with a frustrating DNF in Race 1 after leading the pack for the opening laps until the clutch suffered an issue. The issue was resolved quickly in the pits and an evening was spent going over the car and double checking everything else. Sunday morning brought dry weather and a start in Race 2 from P7 due to the previous DNF. A great start saw Thomas climb up the order until the steering arm bolt snapped at turn 3 which then forced him to take to the sand trap and light contact with the wall resulted. Another DNF! The car was easily fixed for Race 3 and another start from P7. After struggling with the car for the first few laps, Thomas started to make some ground on the leading group which had broken away, only to see the RF wheel depart the car when the stub axle sheared off at turn 5 with less than ½ a lap to complete! This meant another visit to the sand trap but Thomas was determined to finish the race. He plucked first gear, drove the stricken Collingwood Civil race car out of the bunker and finished the race in a blaze of sparks with only 3 wheels, crossing the line in 11th. This was a weekend of total exasperation for all and handed the Rookie of the Year title race back to Ronan Murphy, who finished every race. The gap to Murphy is now 75 points, but with good finishes and some lady-luck, there is a possibility this can be clawed back by the end of the championship.

The Formula First championship now heads to Taupo for Rounds 7 and 8. His championship Rookie title hopes have taken a major blow, now trailing the leading Rookie by 75 points and Thomas sits 7th overall. Thank you once again to all our sponsors, Collingwood Civil, Tricky Tree Specialists, and Brand-X for all you do and our Supporters Club members for your support!

March 23 and 24, 2019 - Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship Round 7, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo

Happy to put the results from Hampton Downs behind him, Thomas was determined to claw back some points given to his rookie championship title rival at Round 6. The car had been through a major strip-down, check over and replacement of any parts likely to cause any more trouble. At the same time, the cylinder heads were sent to the “Cylinder head Wizard” for some more magic to help recover position in the championship. Taupo is a track which rewards for good technical driving, but can also be a place of four seasons normally. This time, however, the weather was constant and fine except for a brief spell of overnight rain. Practice, Qualifying and Race 1 were all held on Saturday, making for a frenetic day. When the dust had settled, Thomas found himself qualifying in P5, a full 5 placings and 1.5s ahead of his rookie rival which was very impressive. In a field of 21 cars, this set up Race 1 to be a great battle. Following a first lap, turn 1 incident behind him, all drivers found themselves facing a full restart. Another great start saw Thomas extend from the field in 5th place and steadily grow a good margin to the cars behind him. The pace of the championship leaders at the front was too great, going under the lap record in the 8 lap sprint. A P5 finish was a great result.

Sunday morning brought a start from P6. Another great race to watch, with a last-lap crash in front of him taking two drivers off the circuit and allowing him to sneak up to P4 across the stripe. Race 3 was another start from P6 and some solid driving to bring the car home in 5th place. So, a weekend of solid points gained, great racing and the gap has now closed to within 55 points in the Rookie title race.

The Formula First championship heads back to Taupo for the final Round on 12-14 April. After a good weekend, Thomas still sits 7th overall. Thank you once again to all our sponsors, Collingwood Civil, Tricky Tree Specialists, and Brand-X for all you do and our Supporters Club members for your support!

April 13 and 14, 2019 - Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship Round 8, Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo

The goal was simple, put the head down and score as many points as possible for the round to recover 55 points and take the Rookie of the Year title. Qualifying was held in dry conditions and the car looked good. A confusing session, with cars all vying for position making it difficult to set a great time. Thomas managed to latch onto the rear of Chris Symon which put him in P5 after a torrid qualifying. The pole sitter was over 0.5s quicker than the entire field. Following some setup changes to improve handling, Thomas set about chasing down the field from P5 in Race 1. This proved a challenge, unable to make up any spots and finishing in 5th, but his rookie rival was 9th.

An overnight review of the car and some of the on-board video brought a renewed optimism of better speed and results. Another start from P5 was hampered by the car on P3 suffering a broken axle on the line and Thomas having to take evasive action to avoid the stricken vehicle. This resulted in the front three cars storming away and putting a sizeable gap on the field. However, Thomas battled away through the race, dicing with a fellow competitor for 6 of the 8 laps. On the final sprint down the long back straight, Thomas managed to bravely out-brake his competitor for a well-deserved 4th place finish.

Race 3 of the weekend was again from P5. This race had all the elements of a tense tussle, as the points were critical to all the front drivers to establish final positions in the championship. Thomas needed at least 8 placings between his finish position and that of his Rookie rival to take the title. However, across the stripe there was only 3 positions difference, handing the title to that driver. A gut-wrenching situation, considering Thomas had been fastest Rookie at every round of the Championship and the entire season was undone at Rd 6 where he suffered two mechanical DNFs. The final points differential was 14.5, placing Thomas 2nd overall in the Rookie standings.

The team will now focus on the 2019/20 race season with some exciting developments to announce in future months. Watch this space for developments!

Thank you once again to our awesome sponsors, Collingwood Civil, Tricky Tree Specialists, and Brand-X for all you do and our Supporters Club members for your support!

April 30, Toyota Racing Series FT50 Test Day, Hampton Downs Raceway

Today I was invited to attend a Toyota Racing Series test day in the amazing FT-50 race car to learn and benchmark myself with other top kiwi drivers. This class has hosted some of the very elite drivers on the world stage right now, the likes of Nick Cassidy, Brendon Hartley, Liam Lawson and Lance Stroll. While I was there, I met some great people and was able to connect with the head of the series himself, Nicolas Caillol. He is a mechanical engineer who then became the ambassador for the class in 2016. He was very helpful as I learnt a lot of things to help me go faster during the day by studying the data from the car in detail.

The day itself went very well, I was the 3rd fastest, behind a driver who has been racing Formula 4 in Asia. The car was beautiful to drive with its incredible cornering capability. It is capable of producing over 2.3G at Hampton Downs, so many G's in fact that my neck is still a little stiff as I write this. The FT-50 has incredible brakes, 215 horsepower and weighs only 550kg with me in it as well. I am very grateful for the opportunity that Toyota Racing NZ and Kiwi Driver Fund gave me to drive the car. Only 5 NZ drivers were invited and I feel honoured to be chosen. I am very happy with the result and happy with how I drove.

September 1, 2019 - FAE Formula Ford Winter Series Round 4, Manfeild Raceway

A fine weather weekend greeted us for the last round of the Series and the last chance to try some changes and gain valuable seat time before the Championship starts. Thomas qualified the car on P3, just under 9/10ths of a second from the front. The car was a little off the pace, but Thomas managed to drive it to his first podium and a third placing. Sunday morning was a bit greasy and another good race to bring home another third place finish. The final race was in changeable conditions and a call to change the rear roll bar which slowed the car up once the track dried mid-race. However, a set of third placings for the weekend was a great effort and some more learning. Excitement plus now as we count down to the NZ Championship starting in two weeks.

June 30 to 6 July, 2019 NZ Elite MotorSport Academy, Dunedin

Thomas was fortunate to be selected to attend the 2019 Elite Motorsport Academy along with Josh Bethune (Whitford), Conrad Clark (Taupo), Breanna Morris (Auckland), Ronan Murphy (Havelock North), Katrina Renshaw (Palmerston North), Zac Stichbury (Hastings) and Ryan Wood (Upper Hutt). He travelled to Dunedin to spend an intensive week of motorsport training to help prepare him for his racing career. Previous graduates of this prestigious academy include NZ household motorsport names such as:

Jaxon Evans, Hunter McElrea, Marcus Armstrong, Andre Heimgartner, Will Bamber, Nick Cassidy, Earl Bamber, Hayden Paddon, Brendon Hartley, Matthew Hamilton, Shane van Gisbergen, Nelson Hartley and Chris Pither.

The aims of the Elite MotorSport Academy is to provide a one-week intensive, in-camp programme of physical and educational training assistance package to MotorSport NZ recognised race or rally competitors who have already demonstrated the ability to excel in their chosen motorsport discipline. The Academy provides a tailored twelve month follow-up package for the graduates to ensure they retain and further develop the training regimes and educational opportunities demonstrated in-camp. The attendees lived in-camp for the duration of the Elite Academy and, in addition to the personal development objectives of the programmes, undertook a number of team building activities. These activities were awarded points with recognition at the end of the camp to the team with the highest score. Thomas placed third overall which was a great effort.

All the attendees were assessed on components of their personal fitness relevant to being an elite driver. Components to be assessed included strength, endurance, flexibility, heat stress tolerance, reaction time, visual abilities and muscle balance/posture. Thomas is very grateful to the trustees of the NZ Elite Motorsport Academy Trustees, The Otago Academy of Sport and everyone who contributed to his success at the camp. He is looking at building on this success with his career and thanks to our Supporters Club members for your support!

13 to 14 July, 2019 Collecting the new race-car from Invercargill

After a short flight to Invercargill to meet up with Rick and Jordan Michels, we travelled to the Evolution Motorsport HQ to take a look at the newest purchase. The bright yellow Mygale SJ13a Formula Ford was ready and waiting for us. After pouring a seat an catching up with Grandad Barney, the car was prepped for a test day at Teretonga on Sunday. We had a great meal with Angela, Neville, Shelley, Pip and Robert on Saturday night. Unfortunately, the weather was not kind on Sunday and we were faced with bitter winds and driving rain to test the car in. Undeterred, we spent a few hours at Teretonga and Thomas got to put in a few laps before the car was loaded up onto the trailer Barney had brought to the South Island (courtesy of Brand-X). Happy and excited, we got on the plane and returned to Auckland and left Grandad to bring the car back to Taranaki. Grandad returned the following week and the car was safely housed back at TBR HQ in preparation for the coming season. Thanks to Brand-X, Grandad Barney and the Michels family for your hospitality.

August 4, 2019 - FAE Formula Ford Winter Series Round 3, Manfeild Raceway

The weather was pretty wet, which was a bit of a challenge when trying to learn a new car. With no real testing done, Thomas was keen to learn as much as possible. Qualifying went OK, Thomas managed to put him on P7. Race 1 was nerve-wracking, a bad start put Thomas down to near the rear. A good battle ensued and Thomas managed to gain back a bunch of places, ending the race in P5. Race 2 was dry on Sunday morning, with Thomas bringing the car home in sixth. Another good Race 3 brought another sixth place finish. There was so much to learn, it was all a bit daunting. However, with some great help from Jason Liefting and Jeremy Lennon we managed to make some gains. We are looking to the final round of the Winter Series in a month before the ITM NZ Formula Ford Championship begins at Pukekohe in September. Thank you to all supporters and Supporters Club members for your messages all weekend.

September 13 to 15, 2019 - ITM NZ Formula Ford Championship Round 1, Pukekohe Park Raceway

The FAE Winter Series provided great testing to learn the car and how to try and get the best out of it. We were optimistic things were going to be great in front of such a big audience and support category to the V8 Supercars. However, this was a weekend to forget! During official practice, Thomas struggled with the car setup, having to be rebuilt after a last-minute test session the week before which ended up with damage to the LF and LR of the car. Thanks to some great work by Rick Michels and others in Australia, we were able to rebuild the car the night beforehand. Thanks to David John at Team Kiwi Racing we were able to scale the car late the night before after fitting the QA1 dampers the same night. With some advice from the legend himself, Kenny Smith OBE, we dialled in the car prior to Qualifying. Thomas did a great job of qualifying the car, securing P7 and improving times by 1.3s. The first race saw a good start and things were looking good until Turn 5, when his team-mate locked his brakes and crashed into Thomas damaging the RR suspension and forcing a DNF….LAP 1! After some frantic repair work by Scott Balsom, the borrowing of parts from fellow competitors and some expert help from Tom Penrose, the car was ready to run again. With no opportunity to scale the car and a quick wheel alignment, Thomas hit the track with a start from P8. A good race, but the car was noticeably down on corner-exit speed. Thomas battled and ended up with seventh across the line and some more chances to make some more setup changes. The final race on Sunday morning was a start from P6 and another frustrating race with a lack of power. After some head-scratching, it was clear we needed to get the engine serviced, and quickly! Disappointed with the finishing position of 12th overall for the weekend and the championship, we loaded up and headed home. The engine was subsequently removed and dropped to the master (Bryan Hartley) to get a birthday. Bryan is confident he can give us what we need, so we’ll keep you posted on the outcome prior to Rd 2 at Manfeild in October.

Some special people helped all weekend, including Scott Balsom, Kenny Smith OBE, Tom Penrose, Jared and Kristy Lawson, and Brett Boniface and Sharin Jordan. Thanks to our partners, Collingwood Civil, Tricky Tree Specialists, Brand-X and Performance Industry. Thank you to Donna for keeping things calm in the pits, we’ll be back better, faster and stronger!

February 8 to 10, 2019 - Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship Round 4, Circuit Chris Amon Manfeild Raceway

Two great meetings in a row and back to a track Thomas always seems to go well at meant we were optimistic of a good weekend of racing. This was not, however, what we got! Qualifying was a messy session, with most drivers trying to “fake” each other out, causing safety issues and potential incidents. Luckily this didn’t occur, but the top six qualifiers (including Thomas) were given penalties for exceeding track limits, as reported by a flag marshal. After viewing our video footage and a discussion with the officials, it was found to be incorrect and we were reinstated back to P4, with a time of 1:23.340. Race 1 was a good start by Thomas and things were going well. However, mid-race the throttle pedal snapped at the pedal box. Thomas had to be creative and drive the car by wedging his boot into the corner of the cockpit to push the throttle. Even though he couldn’t quite get full throttle, he managed to hold on to the end of the race and bring the car home 5th, dropping only 1 spot. An overnight repair by Dennis Martin of Sabre Motorsport meant we were good to go on Sunday morning. However, trouble struck again, this time the throttle jammed fully open! This just happened to occur when rounding the hairpin, sending Thomas off the track. Quick thinking saw him use the ignition switch to stop the car hitting the wall, then wrestling the car back to the track in last place. A great drive followed and using the ignition switch for the rest of the race, managed to get back up to 9th! Race 3 saw all the repairs made and another start from P4. A fantastic start saw Thomas spend most of the race chasing the front cars. The final three laps were epic, very close racing and drafting to put on a spectacle for the large NZGP crowd. A link to the on-board footage is here. After a fantastic race, Thomas crossed the line in 2nd place….brilliant finish as well. However, Thomas was summoned to the stewards room to face a ridiculous charge of contact early in the race with another competitor. After a farcical hearing it was deemed Thomas didn’t give enough racing room and was issued a 10s penalty, forcing him down to 8th place. So unfair and even though this means Thomas retains his 6th place and leading Rookie position it was a terrible decision which we totally disagree with and are looking at appealing. So, with a bad taste in our mouths, we left Manfeild and will resume battle in two weeks again at Manfeild. Thank you to Robbie, Tracey and Kaleb Ngatoa for looking after us and congratulations to Liam Lawson for wrapping up the NZGP, TRS Rookie title and TRS 2019 Championship!! Very proud of everything Liam has achieved this year. Cheers to our sponsors, Collingwood Civil, Tricky Tree Specialists, and Brand-X for all you do and thanks to our Supporters Club members for your support!

January 25 to 27, 2019 - Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship Round 3, Hampton Downs Raceway

Following a great result in December at Pukekohe, confidence was high for round three of the Championship. Testing on Friday yielded some good speed and Thomas was happy with the setup of the car. We were lucky to be staying with Jared and Kristy Lawson and headed back to their place to prepare for Qualifying on Saturday morning. Curly Davies was helping crew for the weekend so we met him bright and early at the track. After setting up, Thomas hit the track and posted a good time of 1:20.881 to place the car on P4. Race 1 was a good race, plenty of passing, drafting and strategy came into play. Unable to match the pace of the two front-runners, but there was an incident further down the field and the race was completed under Safety Car. A shame, as we had good pace and could have finished further up than 5th. Overnight we made some changes to the car, looking to settle it down through the infield section to draw more speed. As the first race rolled around on Sunday morning, we had to change a rear tyre due to the RR going flat. Once the race got started, the front two cleared the pack but a 5-way battle commenced with Thomas involved and 4-wide across the track and a 4th place finish, only 0.076s behind 3rd place! Race 3 was another great race, the top two checked out early and crossed the line 11s ahead of the 6-way battle pack. Coming up the hill for the final time saw the same 6 cars drafting and positioning themselves for the drag race across the line. This time it was Thomas who snuck in front for a podium finish by only 0.029s. This meant Thomas finished 3rd for the weekend and banked some valuable points, retaking the Rookie title points lead over Ronan Murphy. Thank you to Curly and Justin Davies, Jared and Kristy Lawson for the great weekend. Cheers to our sponsors, Collingwood Civil, Tricky Tree Specialists, and Brand-X for all you do and a special shout-out to our Supporters Club members for your support!