Bob McMurray writes from the 2016 Toyota Racing Series….
Winds gusting up to 120kph is the forecast for the day and sitting in the, thankfully very strong, Toyota Finance Paddock Club tent, the walls are a shakin’ and the poles are a rattlin’.
The Toyota Finance 86 cars were first out and even they were getting a bit of ‘wind assistance’ down the back straight but being the sleek road car derivative they are, it didn’t make too much difference to the handling.
The TRS cars were a different deal though with cross winds pushing them wide on the corners, a tail wind pushing them past the normal braking point and a head wind moving them across the track.
That lot ended up causing a good few of them to run wide and get onto the off track dirt areas which in turn kicked up huge clouds of dust which then blew on to the track which caused the turning and braking areas to get dusty which caused……oh well, you get the picture.
Messy it was, with two red flags and numerous excursions into the scenery but remarkably with no damage, save to egos and tyres that is.
First red was accredited to Theo Bean who spun just after the part of the track known as ‘The Pothole’ and stalled the car.
The next to go off was young Devlin de Francesco.
Yup, the young Devlin that I had previously said could not drive until Sunday, as he was underage until then, his 16th birthday.
Apparently overnight the Canadian and New Zealand motorsport governing bodies had got together and issued an ‘exemption’ enabling him to continue his weekend uninterrupted.
As you might expect, times were pretty ordinary but the top few were Ferrari Development driver Guanyu Zhou at the top of the pack then Hapsberg, Piquet, Markelov, Munro, Laliberte, Ptak (Poland), Bruno Baptista then in tenth, Rodrigo Baptista. The Baptistas are cousins by the way.
Sessions #2 and #3 were basically replays of #1.
The wind persisted but the threat of rain was just that. A threat. Nothing came of the threat.
The wind did change direction to a more southerly from the really quite warm nor’ westerly but the problems with pinpointing braking points and getting the entrance to the corners remained, catching a good few of the more unwary out.
Again, remarkably, (and I am not in the least superstitious but it can’t hurt can it?) and I am touching large solid wood here, when I say no damage on any car despite there being a total of six red flags (stopping practice) over the day with four of them in the last session alone.
Some gravel rash, a fair number of flat spotted tyres, the odd sheepish driver face and a worried frown or three from the mechanics when their particular car didn’t come around but all in all a good day.
The times were, once again, pretty immaterial but we seem to be getting an idea of the top ten or so drivers.
Of course this may well change when the serious stuff starts, as one never really knows just what is being tried out or tested for each driver.
We seem to have the same names popping up though.
Hapsberg, Markelov, Piquet, Zhou, Leitch, Munro, Norris, Owen and Cockerton consistently in the top flight.
Others are not very far away but you might notice that of the three Kiwis in the series, they are all in the above list.
Things may change, they usually do.
Right, that’s Friday for you.
As is often the case these days Saturday usually follows Fridays so we will see what tomorrow brings.