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Bilinksi’s iron grip on Castrol Toyota FR Oceania series continues

Roman Bilinski’s season in New Zealand in the 2024 Castrol Toyota FR Oceania continued to go from strength to strength this morning as he claimed a last minute pole position for the feature race of the third round of the championship at Hampton Downs.

Bilinski stole pole off M2 Competition team mate Gerrard Xie at the very end of the session and will start first in the Dorothy Smith Memorial Trophy race this afternoon at the North Waikato track. His best lap was seven tenths faster than the new category race lap record set by Liam Sceats on Saturday.

After the wild weather and unpredictability of Saturday, Sunday morning was dry and much more settled as the cars headed out for their 15 minute qualifying session.

Michael Shin was first into the 1 minute 31 second bracket but that was quickly eclipsed by Kiwi Kaden Probst, championship leader Roman Bilinski, Kaleb Ngatoa and Alex Crosbie as the fastest time changed every few seconds.

Nicola Lacorte was first under the magic 1 minute 30 second mark at the halfway point of the session with a 1 minute 29.982 before Michael Shin shaved a further half second off the benchmark.

Shin sat at the top of the timesheets ahead of Bilinski until Gerrard Xie, pole sitter on Saturday, went two tenths quicker with just over five minutes to go.

Landan Matriano-Lim spun out and stalled with just under three minutes to go, forcing a red flag for the session. At that point it was Xie on pole position ahead of Shin while Kaleb Ngatoa had popped in an impressive third fastest time.

A short recovery period allowed the drivers to sit at the end of pit lane as their tyres cooled down back into the ideal operating window, and they would all be able to get around the 4km lap with time to start one more flying lap.

The red flag period meant a fast and furious last couple of minutes. It wasn’t a shock to those watching his progress in the championship to see the man who made the most of it was Roman Bilinski as he put in his best lap of the weekend to take pole position by three hundredths of a second.

Xie couldn’t better his time and remained second and on the front row, while Ngatoa also saved his best to last to leap frog Shin and take third on the grid. Lacorte and Aussie Tommy Smith locked out the third row.

Kiwis Liam Sceats and Probst took seventh and eighth with Alex Crosbie and Patrick Woods-Toth lining up in ninth and tenth.

“I definitely left that way too late from my side and I was worried,” said a relieved Bilinksi afterwards.

“I pushed hard on the out lap and gave it everything on the last lap. Well done to my team mate Gerrard too he was very, very fast.

“It was really tricky but the car was great.”

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