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Aron wins race, but Bilinski takes FR Oceania title

Bryce Aron took his first win in the 2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship, but the big story was British-based Polish star Roman Bilinski’s drive to third place and the championship title.

After a challenging Saturday when he put himself and his mechanics under pressure, M2 Competition’s Bilinski showed his class with a fighting drive to the podium. His nearest title challenger Liam Sceats could only manage ninth. The title and the Chris Amon Trophy were in the bag for Bilinski with the 68th New Zealand Grand Prix still to come.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said on the podium afterwards. “What a crazy race and a crazy season. We have worked so hard. I really gave it everything in that race but these guys were so fast. I didn’t hold back. I really have to thank my parents and my team, I’m over the moon. This is a massive win for me, when you look at the drivers who have won this championship. It’s huge.”

Aron too, could be pleased with his morning’s work, becoming the eighth different winner in a highly competitive CTFROC season. “That was really satisfying, it wasn’t an easy race. I’m really happy with the result, I’ve had a great car since I got off the plane last week. Congratulations to Roman too on a fantastic five weeks,” he added. Woods-Toth secured the Rookie title for himself and Kiwi Motorsport in style with his drive to second, a great recovery from an unlucky first round over the course of the past month or so.

A reverse top eight grid based on Saturday’s results from the first race put Aron – an Andretti Global contracted rising star, alongside Woods-Toth – the F4 USA champion in 2023. Third on the grid would be yet another USA racer in Jacob Abel alongside Korea’s Michael Shin. In fifth and sixth on row three were Bilinski and Callum Hedge – in his only weekend in the 2024 championship. Behind them sat Saturday race winner Liam Sceats and China’s Gerrard Xie.

In championship terms, Sceats had to win regardless while Bilinski only needed a place in the top nine to take the title regardless. Aron got away best at the lights and Woods-Toth followed him through the bus stop. Sceats lost four or five places at the start however, and that left Bilinski in an initial third, though MTEC Motorsport’s Jacob Abel made a brave pass on him late on the opening lap. At the end of that it was Aron, Woods-Toth, Abel, Bilinski, Hedge, Shin, Xie, a fast starting Sebastian Manson, Elliot Cleary and Sceats.

Bilinski was obviously keen to get the job done at the front and repassed Abel on the second lap in a move that brought the two cars so close it had those watching take a sharp intake of breath. Further back Sceats was unable to make too much of an impression on those ahead, let alone Bilinski. He found a way past Cleary, but then got stuck behind Manson, perhaps conscious that his big opportunity lay ahead later in the day.

Bilinski had plenty of pace at the front and by lap six was big in Woods-Toth’s mirrors, with Aron only a couple of car lengths further up the road. He got alongside Woods-Toth on lap seven but wisely backed out on that occasion. Roman tried the same move at the hairpin a lap later, but Patrick was prepared and fought off the champion-to be easily. A lap later he tried again,, and it was third time lucky as he nipped cleanly down the Canadian’s inside to take second place.

With the rest of the field static in their positions – though there was a decent battle brewing between Abel, Xie and Hedge, all eyes were on Bilinski and his pursuit of Aron, who had pulled away a little from the two behind as they duelled for second.

By lap 11, Aron was under huge pressure. Roman tried to repeat his signature hairpin move on lap 12 on the leader after Bryce made a small mistake, but Aron held on, for the moment. That allowed Woods-Toth to close up and he made a cheeky repass on Bilinski to retake second on lap 14. That seemed to flick a switch in Bilinski that he couldn’t afford a DNF, and while the racer in him never gave up, the bigger prize was clearly in his mind too.

Aron duly took the flag relieved with his victory after a great battle at the front. Woods-Toth took second and the Rookie honours, with the championship secured by Bilinski’s third place. Abel held on for fourth ahead of Hedge and Xie, with Shin and Manson next up. Sceats finished ninth and Elliot Cleary tenth.

With Race 2 complete, the stage is now set for the biggest single seater race in the New Zealand motorsport year, the New Zealand Grand Prix. Alongside the Macau Grand Prix, it’s the only race officially endorsed by the FIA alongside its F1 calendar as an official Grand Prix. It’s trophy carries a long list of previous winners, all motorsport legends. Later today another world class driver will join the likes of Stirling Moss, John Surtees and Jack Brabham on the stunning Motor Cup Trophy.

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