Fearless: Hard charger MacLeod wins NZ Motor Cup at Hampton Downs


He has led races, scored pole positions, proven a tough rival at every turn of a race, attacked in bold overtaking moves, recorded fastest laps and now BRDC Rising Stars programme driver Sam MacLeod (20) inscribes his name on the oldest trophy in New Zealand motor racing.

He joins Graham Hill, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren - giants of the sport who have won the NZ Motor Cup in its 83 year history.

Scottish-born racer MacLeod won the feature race today at Hampton Downs, sprinting away from the field in a dominant performance on a wet but drying track. In the closing laps of the feature race he even lapped slower cars.

Though the race began on a track with as many wet areas as dry, all but four drivers started on slick tyres, choosing to gamble that no rain would fall. Their decision, taken in consultation with their teams, would prove correct, leaving the drivers who started on wet tyres struggling to grip and pace.

Pole man Brandon Maisano was unable to hold off MacLeod, who has a knack of attacking from the green flag and has been fearless in the first and second corners at Hampton Downs.

MacLeod took the early lead as behind him drivers found their slicks unable to hold a line on the wet areas of turn one. Jamie Conroy and Stefan Riener were among those who found themselves on the grass, but were able to regain the track and continue.

The lead order settled with MacLeod ahead of Irish driver Charlie Eastwood with John Simonyan third.

Eastwood slid wide at turn one and Simonyan was up to second place, Artem Markelov third.

Championship leader Lance Stroll had come through to hold fourth place ahead of Santino Ferrucci and Arjun Maini. Simonyan had cut Macleod’s lead from five seconds back to 3.5, but then slid wide in a brush with another car. Markelov too slipped back, and Stroll was up to second place, his team-mate Maisano third.

As the track dried MacLeod was able to control the race from a lead that eventually stretched back out to five seconds.

With three laps to run, Arjun Maini had overtaken made sure of fourth place, ready to pounce if the leading three made a mistake.

But the race belonged to MacLeod, who had put in a dominant flag to flag performance and become the sixth different race winner of the series, the third different feature race winner.

Leading New Zealand was James Munro, ninth.

The championship top three are now Lance Stroll (515 points), Arjun Maini (460) and Brandon Maisano (429). Top New Zealand driver is Munro, who is sixth on 325 points.