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• Crash sidelines contender Bonifacio
• Quick work keeps Mardenborough in the race
• Lynn presses Evans for race position
Mitch Evans won race one of the Toyota Racing Series at Hampton Downs, but the most dramatic moment of the race unfolded in his mirrors before the race was even a lap old.
Starting from pole, the Aucklander was defending his lead from a determined Alex Lynn halfway through the first lap when behind him Bruno Bonifacio’s car launched high into the air after making contact with British racer Jann Mardenborough as the field headed into the infield downhill hairpin.
The collision tore the front and rear wings off Mardenborough’s car and he said afterward he had a brief view of a tyre flying past his head as Bonifacio’s stricken car flew overhead to land in the gravel trap.
The race was stopped and the field reformed in its grid position without Bonifacio, whose car was being recovered from the gravel. Mardenborough’s car was abuzz with mechanics replacing wings and body panels to get him back in the race.
At the restart Evans and Lynn were battling once more, nose to tail, while the field sorted itself out behind them.
Lynn said afterward he was pushing Evans as hard as he could, but there was too much loose material off the racing line to enable him to get past.
“We had a great battle out there but there weren’t many places I could safely have a go at overtaking. Mostly I just stayed in Mitch’s mirrors and looked for a mistake.”
Evans was pleased with his performance but said he found the loose material unsettling.
“I had a couple of moments where I thought I was going off, but I managed to stay on track and in front of Alex. It was a tough battle for sure,” he said.
Behind them, Pipo Derani, Lucas Auer and Nick Cassidy were locked in a similarly intense battle for the last podium spot. With just six points between them, Auer and Cassidy were both aware the placing they won could decide who would lead the championship.
Akash Nandy went off in the same spot as Bruno Bonifacio on the fifth lap, bringing out the safety car for a further three laps and bunching up the field – but on the restart Evans and Lynn were in a race of their own and simply drove away.
Pipo Derani, Nick Cassidy and Lucas Auer were battling once more behind them and along the start-finish straight they were side by side into the downhill turn one. Derani came through to third, Cassidy slipped ahead of Auer to be fourth – and thus extend his championship lead over Auer to 11 points, 571 to 560. He also set fastest lap of the race, a 1:02.053 on lap 14.
Alex Lynn’s determined drive to second place brought him through to third in the championship with 538 points.
Jann Mardenborough, after some frantic post-crash work to prepare for the restart, was rewarded with sixth place and is now ninth in the championship, first rookie by a comfortable margin.
Though Evans and others had easily stepped under the lap record in qualifying, the race pace was slower. With grip hard to find, none of the field went under 1:02s.
Nick Cassidy starts the second race of the weekend tomorrow morning at 11.00 am from pole with Pipo Derani alongside him, Alex Lynn and Mitch Evans in the second row.