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Bilinski remains the man to beat with Manfeild pole position

Poland’s Roman Bilinski maintained his frontrunning form in the Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship with an impressive pole position in first qualifying at the second round of the 2024 championship at Manfeild – Circuit Chris Amon.

It was the M2 Competition driver’s first in the championship and ended Giles Motorsport domination of qualifying at the first round.

A decent breeze and cloudy conditions greeted the 17 drivers as they headed out onto the 3.03km circuit. The conditions remained consistent even with a late session stoppage for several minutes while Kiwi Kaden Probst’s car was rescued after an off on the exit of the notorious Higgins corner.

That meant one flying lap for the vast majority of the field right at the end of the session but nobody was able to improve their time and it meant pole position for M2 Competition’s Bilinski.

“That was a great qualifying for me,” he said afterwards. “It was really difficult with the winds affecting the braking points. The car was definitely tricky but the team have done a great job with its basic speed.

“The braking points have to come a bit earlier, which is never nice but in the end it was all good.”

First to show at the start of the session with a 1 minute 3 second lap was Canadian Patrick Woods-Toth but that was quickly eclipsed by series leader Roman Bilinski, Christian Mansell and local favourite Kaleb Ngatoa.

All three put in impressive laps in the 1 minute 2 second bracket. Liam Sceats moved himself into contention with third fastest time as the session hit the half way mark. Nico Lacorte proved his testing pace was accurate when he jumped up to fourth to push Ngatoa down one place further.

With four minutes to go Bilinski went even faster putting a decent gap of two and a half tenths of a second between himself and Mansell, a huge gap by category standards where the whole field was covered in testing by under a second.

His 1.02. 458 lap would remain unbeaten for the rest of the 15 minute session. Mansell joined him on the front row of the grid for the afternoon’s race – confident of the pace to match the series leader – while Sceats and Lacorte fill the second row.

Ngatoa ended the session in fifth with Gerrard Xie sixth, Tommy Smith seventh, Titus Sherlock eighth, Michael Shin ninth and Woods-Toth completing the top ten.

The drivers now prepare for the afternoon’s first race of the weekend, which is an historic 300th for the championship.

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