Auckland schoolboy racer Mitch Evans has turned pole position into a race win in the first competition outing for the Toyota Racing Series at Hampton Downs race circuit.
In this morning’s 20 minute qualifying session Evans broke into the 1:01 minute lap on lap five, and was the first into that time bracket with a 1:01.509 on lap 14.
In all, six racers posted 1:01 minute laps: Evans, Brazilian Lucas Foresti, Estonian Sten Pentus, Richie Stanaway, Daniel Jilesen, and Earl Bamber.
The undulating nature of the Hampton Downs circuit challenged all 12 drivers in the field. On the long, tight right hand corner that turns the cars back toward the start-finish straight, Foresti and Stanaway had lurid spins; Evans a less spectacular “fish tail” moment that brought him to the inside of the track.
Foresti’s moment came on the seventh lap, the young Brazilian recovering to put in his fastest time – a 1:01.703 on the last lap of the session, securing second place alongside Evans.
Experienced Estonian racer Sten Pentus, currently challenging Evans and Earl Bamber for the championship lead, was third fastest, posting a 1:01.709 on the penultimate lap.
Stanaway had two slow laps with off-track moments, on lap 7 and 10 but recovered to be fourth fastest with a best lap of 1:01.793.
None of the three – Evans, Foresti or Stanaway suffered damage to their race cars. Alistair Wootten, struggling with brake balance setting on his Radio Hauraki car, also spun but was able to continue.
When the afternoon’s 15 lap race started, Evans survived a safety car interlude on the first lap and subsequent single-file re-start behind the safety car.
He fought off a strong challenge from 17 year old Brazilian Lucas Foresti and controlled the race from the front, dictating the pace at will. His win hands him the championship lead with 449 points over his Giles Motorsport team-mate Sten Pentus on 428; Earl Bamber is third for Triple X Motorsport on 412 points.
Foresti stayed with Evans in the opening laps of the race but was unable to challenge for the lead as the race continued. Foresti said afterward he was happy to take points for second and gather data to set up the car for tomorrow’s races.
The first-lap incident can at turn one as the field dropped down off the start-finish straight. Jamie McNee and former TRS champion Andy Knight touched, both cars leaving the circuit. Knight was unable to restart, his right rear suspension damaged in the collision. His car was stranded in a run-off area, forcing the safety car out and bringing the cars to the front straight for a re-start.
Evans said after making a perfect start first time out, the re-start gave Foresti a chance to challenge for the lead once more.
“I had a great run first time off pole here, but I was a bit worried about the re-start because we go line astern for a rolling start and it’s hard to defend your position going into a corner like turn one. Lucas was real close there and I was off the fast line, but once I was out on the back of the circuit I got away and could drive my own race,” Evans said afterward.
Daniel Jileson and Andrew Waite had both stalled on the grid at the original start, so the restart worked in their favour as well.
McNee had pitted and both Jileson and McNee would take the re-start from the pit exit.
Waite was the big improver from his initial nightmare stall on the grid, clawing his way up through the field over the first five laps and eventually finishing fifth overall.
But from start to finish, 15 year old Mitch Evans owned the first race, Foresti an equally unchallenged second behind him lap after lap.
Both Alistair Wootton and Jamie McNee passed Kenny Smith, then as McNee lined up to pass Stefan Webling the two made contact, McNee ending up off the track and a lap later finding himself stranded in the middle of the track with no drive. His car was pushed off to safety by marshals as the race continued.
A challenge by fourth placed Richie Stanaway on Sten Pentus went wrong for both, the pair taking a right hand corner side by side but in the process allowing Earl Bamber through to take third place.
Stanaway emerged the winner of that battle to salvage fourth behind Bamber, while Pentus made sure of fifth overall. Andrew Waite had made a remarkable comeback from his startline stall and was sixth overall.
The new Toyota racing Series – and outright – lap record at Hampton Downs was set by Richie Stanaway, a 1:02.201 on the final lap with a best speed of 152.216 km/h.
The Toyota Racing Series returns to the track at Hampton Downs’ first international race meeting tomorrow with a 15 lap race at 11.35 am and then for the weekend’s feature race, the 20 lap New Zealand Motor Cup event which starts at 3.30 pm.
Sunday’s TRS racing starts with the morning’s 15-lap race at 11.35 am followed by the feature event, the 20-lap New Zealand Motor Cup race at 3.30 pm. The morning’s race features a grid based on finish positions in the first race though the top six grid positions are reversed; the Motor Cup grid is decided across the average of each competitor’s fastest and second fastest laps in qualifying.
In addition to the valuable International Series points and the championship points race, there are bragging rights up for grabs: with the category making its Hampton Downs debut, a new TRS race lap record will be set this weekend. The racer who beats Richie Stanaway’s race one time and is quickest in the category may also set an outright record for the circuit in the process.
Toyota Racing Series Race One
Mitch Evans, Auckland, 1
Lucas Foresti, Brazil, 2
Earl Bamber, Wanganui, 3
Richie Stanaway, Tauranga, 4
Sten Pentus, Estonia, 5
Andrew Waite, Auckland, 6
Stefan Webling, Oakura, 7
Alastair Wootten, Auckland, 8
Ken Smith, Auckland, 9
Mitch Evans 449
Sten Pentus 428
Earl Bamber 412
Lucas Foresti 377
Andrew Waite 346
Daniel Jileson 333
Alistair Wootten 293
Stefan Webling 279
Nathan Morcom 219
Jamie McNee 169
Chris Wootton 66
Richie Stanaway 54
Ken Smith 36
Sam MacNeill 0
Andy Knight 0