Ferdinand Habsburg (Austria) and Lando Norris (England) handled the difficult conditions at Ruapuna track yesterday best to set the fastest times in official practice before the first round of the Toyota Racing Series which starts today.
“It was so much fun out there’” said 18 year old Habsburg who is one of only four returning drivers who contested the 15 race, five round series last summer.
Habsburg and the 18 other drivers had to deal with a very blustery Canterbury nor’westerly wind which buffeted the cars around and made them difficult to drive.
“I’ve got a good feeling for the car in these conditions and it could be like this again tomorrow,” said Habsburg, referring to the morning qualifying session before the first of the weekend’s three races.
“There was sand and oil all over the track, but the car coped well.”
Norris, the youngest World Kart Champion two years ago was being a little more circumspect. “We’ve been doing our own game for the last two days,” said the 16 year old, who is getting to know the car after a season winning the British Formula 4 Championship.
“We don’t really know what some of the others are doing with set up and what tyres they have been using.”
Norris said the first indication would be this (Saturday) morning’s qualifying when everybody would bolt on new tyres and have equal equipment.
He was only 0.18 of a second slower than Habsburg in the final practice session yesterday. If the forecast rain arrives, Norris might have some advantage, having already had consider experience, testing and racing in the rain at home!
“Whatever happens it’s going to be close,” said Norris. “The cars are pretty equal.”
Yesterday the top 10 drivers were all within a second of one another, although one and a half seconds slower than the best times on Thursday when conditions were much better.
All three Kiwis were competitive, with Invercargill’s Brendon Leitch and James Munro of Christchurch fourth and fifth fastest, while Pukekohe’s Taylor Cockerton making his TRS debut was ninth quickest.
The most watched driver, Brazil’s Pedro Piquet, the youngest son of three times Formula One Champion Nelson Piquet, was seventh fastest.
Toyota Racing Series, Official Practice times:
1, F Habsburg (Austria) 78.120 secs;
2, L Norris (England) 78.138;
3, D DeFrancesco (Canada) 78.348;
4, B Leitch (NZ) 78.485;
5, J Munro (NZ) 78.522;
6, W Owen (USA) 78.660;
7, P Piquet (Brazil) 78.774;
8, A Markelov (Russia) 79.091;
9, T Cockerton (NZ) 79.160;
10, N Dapero (Argentina) 79.252.