MOTORSPORT

Burdett takes first points at Toyota Racing Series final

Sunday 15 March 2009, 9:25AM
By Toyota Racing Series
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PUKEKOHE

He's aiming to finish the series on a high, and Michael Burdett has started the weekend on a winning note.

Burdett started today's 14 lap sprint race alongside pole man and championship leader Mitch Cunningham but got the better of the Aucklander off the start, using more revs and getting a launch into the first corner that propelled him into the "esses" ahead of Cunningham, Dunedin driver John Whelan in third place.

Palmerston North driver Sam MacNeill, Cunningham's main rival for the title, started the race fourth and could well have lost touch with Cunningham as the race progressed.

On the third lap Whelan's race turned into a nightmare wild ride down the grass on the start-finish straight after he put two wheels on the grass over Pukekohe" "mountain".

The car slipped off the tarmac, sliding toward the armco barrier and spun around, destroying its front wing and nose cone but miraculously avoiding significant structural damage.

Whelan regained the track minus his car's front end bodywork and toured around to end his race in pit lane; his accident brought out the pace car and bunched the field up behind Burdett.

His demise also promoted Sam MacNeill one place, bringing him up behind Cunningham and forcing Mitch Cunningham to sprint after Burdett as the pace car left the track.

Alistair Wootten was now fourth and began to whittle away at his lap times, running in clear air and posting a best lap of 55.683 near the end of the race.

Scott Pye too benefited, the young Australian moving up to fifth overall and defending the position from a charging Daniel Jileson. These two were locked in a battle for top rookie of 2008-2009.

As the race progressed, Jilesen's challenge on Pye faded.

Meanwhile, Burdett and Cunningham ran to the flag first and second, Cunningham closing in on Burdett's car but unable to get close enough to try a pass.

With his win, Michael Burdett overtakes Scott Pye on points in the overall championship.

Mitch Cunningham edges closer to the title, with 996 points including 67 for finishing second today stretching his lead over Sam MacNeill by seven points - up from 134 going into the final round to 141. To lock up the title Cunningham needs to extend the margin in Sunday's first race - by finishing ahead of MacNeill he can take the title at that time.

MacNeill has the tougher task: he needs to win both races - worth 75 points per win - and to see Cunningham finish well down the order or not finish both races.

Behind them, Pye is fourth in the championship but his strong early form has put him out of reach of Jilesen, who is fifth overall and 159 points behind the young Australian. Pye has thus taken out the title of 2008-2009 rookie of the year.