By LINDSAY KERR
North Canterbury’s James Penrose wrote his own chapter in New Zealand motorsport history at Ruapuna Raceway recently, winning the national Formula Ford championship.
On the same day, he earned a trip to race in England.
National success for the former Rangiora High School student followed his win the South Island Formula Ford championship, during which he rewrote the record books by winning all 17 races that made up the season.
His national championship crown came down to the last race in a season where, for the most part, he had trailed Auckland teenager Matt McCutcheon.
On home soil, Penrose, formerly of North Loburn, proved unbeatable. He made the most of McCutcheon’s poor qualifying performance and grabbed the lead after the first race.
In the final race, McCutcheon got ahead twice, but Penrose summoned all his local knowledge of the 3.33km track and squeezed his way back into the lead.
The day also celebrated 50 years of Formula Ford racing in New Zealand.
There were 66 cars in the worldwide category involving single-seater race cars powered by 1600cc Ford engines.
Five of the drivers were five former champions, which included the 1990 championship winner, Rangiora’s Paul Larsen.
It was a winner-take-all 18-lap race for the 26 fastest racers.
Penrose survived the attention of his closest rivals to bag the biggest prize in New Zealand motorsport for many years.
It included entry into the British 50th anniversary Formula Ford meeting at the Brands Hatch circuit, including a visit to the McLaren Formula 1 factory.
“The English trip is a magnificent bonus, but winning the title was the aim of the season, and came as a great relief for the team after just falling short last year,” he said.
“It was so great to do this on my home track in front of friends and family. I really can’t thank my Dad enough, he was always there, and had the car set up so well.”
This season’s victories for Penrose come following a successful karting career, where he has won nine national and 10 South Island titles.
Motorsport remains big in the family. His father, Tom, has had many successes in his class with rallying, and James’ older brother, Matt, also has karting success and has won a class 2 national Formula Ford title.
Matt has now turned his attention to rallying, where to date he has won two hill climbs.