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Race Report by Mark Harling
Against the strongest field ever to contest the New Zealand nitro touring nationals, including several international competitors, team XRAY driver Mark Harling secured 3rd place and was first New Zealander home.

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This event was truly an international affair, with five Australian drivers crossing the Tasman to challenge for the New Zealand title, including multiple Australian title holders Peter and Steven Jovanovich.

Among the local drivers expected to feature strongly including Team XRAY drivers Andrew Webber and Mark Harling, along with multiple NZ champions Scott Robinson and Daniel Burrows.

Location for the 2009 nationals was the Ruapuna racing facility, just outside of Christchurch, in the South Island of New Zealand. This world class track saw blistering times on the track, as lap records tumbled, and hot conditions off the track, as temperatures reached the mid 30’s. Most competitors took refuge from the heat within the huge trackside marquee that was provided by the local Christchurch Radio Controlled Car Club for the event.

In an unexpected but entirely deserved result, 2008 defending champion Daniel Burrows held off the international challenge to take the top qualifier position. The full list of seven drivers with automatic entry to the final were as follows:

Daniel Burrows
Steven Jovanovich
Peter Jovanovich
Scott Robinson
Andrew Webber XRAY NT1
Jayden Duthie
Mark Harling XRAY NT1

The final 3 positions in the A main were claimed by the top 3 finishers from the 30 minute B final.

Jason Dorn
Andy Ando
Chris Trotman

Daniel showed good pace in the first quarter of the 40 minute final, and for a time was building a lead on the rest of the chasing pack. Eventually Peter wore him down and took the lead, with Steven shortly after moving into second place, dropping Daniel back to third.

Team XRAY driver Andrew battled with Scott for 4th during the early stages of the final, until engine problems dropped him down the field. A strong comeback towards the end of the final resulted in a well deserved 4th place for Andrew, and second New Zealander home.

In the mid stages of the final Daniel was tagged by a back marker and his car slammed into the pit wall, suffering irreparable damage. With the race drawing to a close Scott’s engine went off song, requiring a change of plug. The time lost dropped him back to 5th place.

Team XRAY driver Mark was finding that his car was over-rotating at the apex of slow corners, a consequence of changing out the spool for a front diff, and a conservative strategy of running 45 shore rear tyres to ensure a strong finish to the 40 minute final. Most of the field ran 44 or 42 shore rears, which proved to be the better choice as they offered up a traction advantage, and were able to last the distance. However, the bullet proof reliability of Mark’s XRAY NT1 car and RB R3 engine maintained a consistent pace for the entire 40 minute duration of the race. While others faltered, Mark picked up places, and attaining a solid 3rd place finish and first New Zealander home.

In the closing minutes Peter had a 30 second pit stop, which handed the race to his brother Steven.

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Final results:
1. Steven Jovanovich
2. Peter Jovanovich
3. Mark Harling XRAY NT1
4. Andrew Webber XRAY NT1

5. Scott Robinson

Congratulations to Steven Jovanovich for winning the New Zealand nitro touring national title, and to Team XRAY drivers Mark and Andrew for being the first two New Zealanders home against an international class field.

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With talk of a Trans-Tasman competition later in the year, and the return of an Aussie contingent for the 2010 New Zealand nationals, the signs bode well for another tough and competitive year of racing ahead for Team XRAY in the nitro touring class “down under”.