The first round of the 2018-2019 NZV8 Ute Championship blasts off at Pukekohe Raceway this weekend and two time champion Paul ‘Auto’ Manuell says he’s chomping at the bit for another title.

Over the winter months, his familiar Superfreight PartMaster Holden has received a freshen up and a revised livery ahead of the new season. The former national V8 champ, who has turned 50 this year, will be taking part in his 23rd straight season in New Zealand motorsport and says he’s as enthusiastic as he ever was.

“This will be my third full season in the category and once again I have to say it’s largely down to a fantastic bunch of people I have around me who help make it all happen.

“We’ve got an awesome community in this class, but we are all absolutely 100% focused on a win when we’re on track and I’m no different in that regard. I love my racing and I want to win.  But there is always plenty of time for banter and camaraderie in the NZV8 Ute Marquee, it’s a big part of why we’re all here.”   

This season, Manuell has joined forces with the returning Brett Rudd and Alexandra Whitely to form RAM Racing. And as well as retaining Superfreight and PartMaster for the coming season, he’s also got Oregon, Castrol, Glassways, Anthony Jakeman Panel & Paint and Hi-Tech Metals on board for the campaign.

In the new look team there will be some sharing of engineering expertise, but each ute will be run by its own crew and collectively they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the set up.   Also on board this season and responsible for engineering management is multiple title winner Kerry Holland, who is known in the team as ‘Mr Hallelujah” for good reason as Manuell confirmed.

“What Kerry doesn’t know, ain’t worth knowing and he’s also a whiz on the BBQ,” he added.  “Kerry has been engineering my race cars for many, many years, starting back in the old NZV8 days, rolling into SuperTourers and now NZV8 Utes. The continuity will be great for everyone in the team.”

The classic Holden vs Ford NZV8 Ute races will kick the season off over the weekend, with Race 1 at 3:40pm on Saturday, Race 2 at 10.00am on Sunday and Race 3 at 2:15pm on Sunday.

With four rounds in four months, Pukekohe will be followed by the first trip by the V8 utes in four years to Highlands Motorsport Park, Cromwell, before they head to Manfeild to support the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting. The grand finale takes place in March at Hampton Downs.