Payne sets the standard in Friday practice
Championship leader Matthew Payne topped the first of three sessions at the Manawatu circuit, while his main challenger and local boy Kaleb Ngatoa topped the second session in the afternoon.
Payne then clocked the fastest time of the day to lock out the third and final session - topping the timesheets by three tenths of a second.
Conrad Clark was second fastest in the first session, indicating he has found some form following a challenging pair of weekends at Hampton Downs. Despite those two weekends, consistency sees him sitting in fifth place in the points table.
A top three overall result for the 2021 championship is still a possibility if he has a good weekend and his early pace was a clear sign of intent for the weekend ahead.
Billy Frazer - fresh from the announcement of his Road to Indy season in USF2000 - also showed good pace, as did Peter Vodanovich and Chris Vlok (pictured above).
Saturday morning will see the first qualifying session with the fastest time denoting grid position for the feature race (Race 2) and the drivers' second fastest lap denoting grid position for the shorter first race.
It's the same format for Sunday, with Race 2 and Race 4 the feature races and the Denny Hulme Trophy up for grabs to any one of the six Kiwi Driver Fund-supported drivers in the final race of the 2021 Championship.
Practice Session 1
Practice Session 2
Practice Session 3