In his category debut, Tauranga student Ritchie Stanaway has won both Toyota Racing Series races at the Hamilton 400.
Having taken pole for both races, Stanaway capped a dominant flag to flag performance in Saturday’s race with a hard-fought win in today’s event.
Today’s race ended under the yellow safety flag behind the pace car after a spectacular crash that sent Palmerston North driver Sam MacNeill sliding backward down the track in a race without its front end.
Stanaway had held the lead off the start into the first lap, chased hard by Michael Burdett with Australian Nathan Antunes third.
These three quickly pulled away from the rest of the field, with Daynom Templeman in fourth place.
Stanaway in second place was chasing Burdett and pushing him hard into the corners of the street circuit but was also having to defend his position from Antunes until the Australian spun on lap four, leaving the battle a two-way affair between local driver Burdett and Stanaway.
The two pulled away from the field, Burdett holding desperately onto his lead and locking tyres under braking into the chicane and the tighter corners of the bumpy circuit. Stanaway behind him was drawing closer and feinting left and right at the end of the front straights as he looked for a way past.
Eventually, Stanaway managed to force his way up the inside of Burdett’s car and the pair went through the corner side by side, continuing down the straight and through the next corner wheel to wheel before Stanaway made the pass work. Burdett lightly brushed the concrete circuit wall as he slotted his car behind Stanaway.
Antunes’ spin had brought a battle for third into sharp focus: Alastair Wootten, Andrew Waite and Mitch Cunningham were all nose to tail chasing the remaining podium position.
Andrew Waite’s challenge ended in a lurid spin, leaving Wootten to fend off a charging Mitch Cunningham. Waite had managed to bring his car to a halt short of the wall and rejoined in ninth place just ahead of Ken Smith.
When MacNeill’s crash occurred on lap 10, it brought out the pace car and the event finished under the yellow caution flags, with Stanaway ahead of Burdett and Wootten, Mitch Cunningham fourth and Nathan Antunes fifth.
The Lites class – TRS cars run as a transitional step for young racers aiming to move up from lower classes – was won for the weekend by Mitchell Evans, who was first Lites car across the line in both races.
Rangiora youth Chris Cox was second on Saturday and third in today’s race, while Wellington’s Jamie McNee was third asnd second respectively on his Lites debut.
The fastest lap of the race was a 1:23.0622 by Nathan Antunes as he fought back from his early spin to fifth place at the finish; Stanaway’s race lap record of 1:23.0226 from the first day stands as the circuit’s new TRS and outright lap record. Changes to the circuit from 2008 have made it significantly faster, meaning all categories are able to re-set lap records established last year.
Posting lap average speeds of 146 km/h in qualifying and 147 km/h in both races, the biofuel-powered Toyota cars are the fastest category at the Hamilton 400.