Bob McMurray writes from the third round of the 2016 Toyota Racing Series…
THURSDAY & FRIDAY JANUARY 28th 2016
Whenever people go to Dubai, Singapore or Shanghai the comments often centre around things like “Wow! hasn’t it changed in just a year or so” or “I didn’t recognise the place” and stuff like that.
I drove into Hampton Downs this afternoon and OK it’s not like any of those three cities, that would be plain silly wouldn’t it, but the changes to the place are remarkable.
The long promised track extension is well underway with what looks to be a surface already laid down.
The pit ‘corporate’ suites are in use and they have got to be the finest ones in all of the motorsport world, in New Zealand anyway
The building between the apartment blocks is also underway and that will house various exhibitions I am told.
A new press room / commentator building in the middle of the corporate block is a very welcome addition saving a long walk to the upstairs apartment in the block opposite and then having to stand on the balcony in full sun, or rain, or whatever.
The determination of Tony Quinn to turn Hampton Downs into a complex to be proud of, one that will attract various overseas motor sport disciplines (hopefully) has to be applauded.
Backing up the founders and original developers of Hampton Downs, Chris Watson and Tony Roberts, in commitment but with the ability to go much further with those developments, Mr. Quinn is doing a fine, nay, a FANTASTIC job with this facility.
It remains to be seen if the public will follow the famous movie logic from ‘Field Of Dreams’, “if you build it he will come”.
And so we start…….
The lap record for the Toyota Racing Series……
……..is split into two with the ‘old’ FT-40 chassis mark set by Andrew Tang/ Martin Rump at 1:00.816 in February 2014.
For the FT-50 chassis it was set by Arjun Maini at 1:00.154 sec – January 2015
Thursday afternoon testing started at 5.00pm with still hot and humid conditions.
The first session of thirty minutes was without incident and many of the usual speedy ones were on the pace immediately.
Lando Norris with 60.740 secs, Habsburg 60.966, Leitch 61.068, Markelov 61.095, Munro 61.109, Daruvala 61.210, De Francesco 61.400, Ptak 61.412, Zhou 61.492, Hanses 61.529 in tenth and the rest follow……
When I say without incident, that was all except Laliberte who went off towards the end of the session and did not reappear for the rest of the day.
Session #2 started at 6.00pm and if anything it was even warmer.
No complaints you hear!
I love the warmth and I, as well as many others, are very mindful of the last couple of weeks of ‘inclement’ weather, so happy to be here.
Trouble is, there are thunderstorms forecast for periods over the weekend.
Lightning as well it seems so I guess that will be shortly before the plagues of blood, frogs, and gnats or lice flies as it says in the good book.
Amazing just what the TRS can attract. If you have a drought then call the drought-busters TRS!
TRS champion driver Nick Cassidy is driving the TRS test car (above) for Thursday and Friday carrying on the work that Jamie Conroy enjoyed in the South Island.
Times were similar to session #1 and as one would expect, just a little faster by most people.
Norris again at the top, this time with 60.495 then Habsburg 60.524, Munro 60.604, Markelov 60.631, Ptak 60. 659, De Francesco 60.686, Daruvala 60.710, Leitch 60.722, Baptista(B) 60.855 and in tenth Zhou 60.876. The rest not too far behind.
The top 10 within .381 seconds.
Getting back to the pits, De Francesco seemed to (actually, not seemed to, he DID) have a small fire from somewhere in the engine compartment but that was quickly dealt with.
Probably some fuel vapour flashed over.
In his rush to help get the fire out, TRS engineer Adam Thomlinson was clipped by the car of Habsburg as he was entering the pits and was bowled over.
As is Adam’s way, he shrugged the incident off.
Stephen Giles of Giles Motorsport is sporting some pretty dramatic bruising on his legs.
While working on one of his charges cars in qualifying at Teretonga, he was kneeling by the car just doing the last of the bodywork fixings up.
He told his driver to fire up the engine but in a moment of ‘miscommunication’ the driver fired the car up and took off.
In the process he ran over Stephen’s legs with the rear wheel, actually lifting the rear of the car off the road.
Nothing broken, A strong lad is Stephen!
Past TRS Champion, NZGP winner, GP3 Champion, GP2 race winner, Mitch Evans, back in New Zealand taking a break from his European commitments, is taking that break from motor racing by …..well….going motor racing.
He is here this weekend helping out James Munro.
FRIDAY starts under some grey cloud with a bit of drizzly rain but still very warm and humid.
A delay first off as the St John ambulance that has to be on course before any track activity can begin was not on course.
Some confusion apparently as to whether the crew should be coming from Hamilton or Auckland.
It did eventually arrive and the noise began at 09.15am.
The TRS drivers (above) had their usual track specific briefing, 40kph pit lane speed limit, keep off the white lines, don’t play on the grass, that sort of thing and then went off to ….well, do whatever TRS drivers do pre-driving.
Some juggle tennis balls, some go through a sort of reaction test with their trainers throwing tennis balls at oblique angles from behind them for the drivers to catch (not easy I can tell you) some lounge about, most get on Facebook, Snapchat or whatever the ‘e craze’ of the moment is, some ‘get in the moment’ and some just relax and have a laugh.
They all have to sit down with their engineers at some point and plan the session.
That session started at 10.40am…….and was stopped at 10.47am after Rodrigo Baptista went off track.
He got going again and returned to the pits under his own power but with a broken right rear suspension.
End of his session.
Green again quite quickly but red again at 11.10, this time for Theo Bean off track somewhere.
He drove back to the pits undamaged but that was the end of session.
Some drivers fitted new tyres for this session.
This time Brendon Leitch topped the times with 60.017
Session #3 started at about 1.30pm with one red flag after 23 minutes for the car of Pedro Piquet who was extricated from his dilemma and drove the car back to the pits with no apparent damage.
And finally session #4 of the day at 3.00pm………
Red flagged with just three and a half minutes to go.
Pedro Piquet off at turn #1 and the car was returned to the pits courtesy of a truck driver and crane.
Some decent front left damage, right rear damage as well as to the front wing / nose area.
Times below and perhaps looking at them some new tyre combinations were used again…….
So, That’s all folks.