Rain doesn’t dampen the competition

| Photographer Credit: Bruce Jenkins

Bob McMurray writes from the opening round of the 2016 Toyota Racing Series

Wet, to start.
Dismal in fact.
The sort of day that is unsurprising in other climes but not what we need, or expect this time of year, in Christchurch.

The Toyota Finance 86 Championship series drivers had their briefing from the MSNZ representative, backed up by Sam MacNeill, at 08.30 this morning and the same basic rules regarding track limits, safety car etc. were relayed to them.
Judging by race #1 of the weekend I am not sure that the message totally got through.

The qualifying for race #1 was pretty close though with Ash Blewett once again at the top of the time sheets but just 0.143 seconds behind was series newcomer Jaxon Evans.

A Kiwi who now resides in Australia, Jaxon is a part of the Lester dynasty of race drivers the patriarch of which is Richard Lester, originator of the Manfeild race track.

Third, was Michael Scott then Ryan Yardley, Rick Armstrong, John Penny, Jacob Smith, Marcus Armstrong (an international karting star beaten by dad Rick) and in ninth Callum Quin.
All the above were within one second.

The Toyota Race Series qualifying for race #1, like the TF 86 cars, was held in the wet.

With only 15 minutes to get a time in it was a fairly desperate affair for many drivers as the circuit was slowly drying so it was really important to be on the track at the right time.

That didn’t seem to make a lot of difference to English driver Lando Norris who dominated the entre session.

Habsburg second the Zhou, Leitch, Markelov, Munro, Owen, Daruvala, Cockerton and in tenth Pedro Piquet.

The times were spread out a bit as the track conditions varied quite a lot but towards the very end of the session it looked as if the dry weather tyres would soon be the thing to have.

Session #2 started which was qualifying for the Lady Wigram Trophy race on Sunday and the track was clearly drying.

With just eight minutes left to run in the session a red flag came out and the cars streamed into the pits to change to the dry weather slick tyres.

The timing could not have been better.
Out they all sped as the green flag was shown with the shiny new tyres scrabbling for grip like kittens on ice.

The positions behind were changing on every completed lap as the track and tyres warmed up but then, with just couple of minutes to the end of the session, Ferdinand Hapsberg stuttered past the pits with the engine note sounding ‘off’.
He then drove around turn 1 and stopped off track but the red flag had already been shown and that was to end the qualifying session slightly prematurely.

Lando Norris once again dominated the entire session from the green flag to the checker, clearly one to watch for the season.

Now, as you are aware, I am not one to tell tales out of school……..but…..the engineer on Hapsburg’s car ordered 40 litres of fuel to be put into the car pre qualifying.
The mechanic must have misheard the instruction and put in 14 litres.
I guess Habsburg plain old ran out of gas then.

The car of Dapero also had a gear selection problem and stopped just after the start line.
Under normal circumstances the driver who is the cause of the red flag has his times disallowed so that may well be a problem for Hapsburg.

The grid then (before any penalties)….Norris 1min 26.221, **Hapsburg,26.931, Zhou (consistently quick) 27.336, Leitch, 27.533, Markelov 27.569, Munro 27.684, Daruvala 27.908, Cockerton 27.921 and in tenth was Piquet 27.978.
Then Dapero, Laliberte, DeFrancesco, Baptista (R), Ptak, Bean, Buret, Hanses and Baptista (B).

**Latest news. Habsburg will line up 14th for the Lady Wigram Trophy race.

Lunchtime was a bit compressed due to the late running (red flags etc.) but the Lexus ‘Hot Laps’ were pretty much completed with a stunning array of cars.

The first TF 86 race of the weekend.

What to say?
A shambles frankly.
The first lap, still in dry conditions, saw a real bunfight all around the track with cars banging doors, bumpers, front and rear, doors again and bumpers yet again, often with both cars front bumpers making contact. One car being the wrong way round.
Make that two, three four or more cars actually.
Red flag in order to get the car of Tiffany Chittenden extricated from the tyre barriers and time taken to repair the tyre wall, saw a stop period of about ten minutes and the chaos resumed.
Chaos I have to say that was not all down to the drivers with the checkered flag being shown on the wrong lap, then only to the first three cars, resulting in Ash Blewett who was closely following winner Michael Scott (I think) backing off and others driving round him.
The car of Jaxon Evans was quite badly damaged and has to leave the track to get the sub frame straightened out.
Other cars are able to effect repairs on site.

Race #1 of the TRS.
Time for the mental rubber to hit the road.

One interested spectator who arrived just yesterday evening was Guy Laliberte, father of Kami in car #15.
Guy was the originator and owner of the world famous ‘Cirque du Soleil’ and sold the business just last year, mainly to enable him to follow his five children in their various sporting pursuits.
He arrived in shorts and sandals (summer in NZ he was told) but is now decked out in full winter apparel.
Still pretty cool here.

Dry conditions and eighteen cars lined up, revving hard as the lights go out and a good start by all.
Not quite so good for pole position man Lando Norris as he slipped back to second and Ferdinand Habsberg muscled his way into the lead.
Laliberte slipped off the road early on but unfortunately couldn’t get back on to it and the Lexus safety car, driven by Brent Sellens and crewed by Steve Boyce, was soon on track leading the pack for a few laps.
Norris was close to Habsburg at times but slipped off the road briefly to let GP2 driver Artem Markelov through but went on to set a new lap record in his unsuccessful efforts to get his place back.

Good racing at the front and all the way through the pack as rookies and experienced drivers alike go to grips with the cars.

We also had the first majorly damaged car unfortunately.
Bruno Baptista, under the wing of the Victory Motor Racing team, went off the road around the ‘pothole’ corner and severely damaged the right hand side of the car, the rear and possibly the gearbox as well.
The car of Theo Bean also had a broken top camera mount allowing the camera and it’s housing to flop around.

A decent, relatively clean and ‘racey’ start to the season.
It bodes well for the on track competition.

In the marble draw for the start positions for race #2 of the weekend, Habsburg pulled out the #8 marble.
To my knowledge the first time that number had been selected since the scheme was adopted last year.
So that means the top eight finishers will start in reverse order and Jehan Daravula will start from pole with Pedro Piquet next to him.

So there we have Saturday complete with typos, spelling errors and the detritus of my journalistic skills
More later


Related Stories

Join in the conversation!