Leitch rewarded with win after Muth penalised
New Zealand racer Brendon Leitch made it two from two for Kiwi drivers at home when he was declared the winner of the second Castrol Toyota Series race of the weekend at the Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell.
Belgian racer Esteban Muth won on the road in the interrupted 15 lap encounter, but was judged to have jumped the start and was given a five second penalty which dropped him to fourth in the final results.
With the grid for the race featuring a reverse top six from the Saturday race finishing order, it was Muth on pole position, with Brendon Leitch alongside him on the front row. Third and fourth were Raoul Hyman and Lucas Auer, with Marcus Armstrong and Saturday winner Liam Lawson on the third row. At the lights, it was Leitch who made the best getaway, out-dragging Muth into the first turn as the field hustled in behind them. It was all for nothing for Leitch however, as the race was red flagged when Artem Petrov hit the wall after contact with Thomas Smith.
Under New Zealand championship racing rules, the cars formed up line astern for a Safety Car restart in their original grid order and after a 13 minute delay, the race got underway in an orderly fashion with Muth making the best restart and taking Leitch with him.
The battle at the front quickly developed into two distinct races – the one for the lead and the one for third place. Muth and Leitch were never more than a couple of car lengths apart and try as he might, there was nothing Leitch could do about his Belgian rival, who drove a clean, quick and mature race free of mistakes to cruise to the race win half a second to the good. Closer investigation by the stewards of his original start, however, revealed he had moved off the line and a 5 second penalty was awarded, handing Leitch a popular win.
Behind them the battle for third was a hugely entertaining four way scrap, with Raoul Hyman spending most of the race fighting off the attention of Lucas Auer, who in turn had his mirrors full throughout with Marcus Armstrong and Saturday winner Lawson.
With two laps to go Auer – growing increasingly impatient trying to get by Hyman – oversteered on the ultra-fast last corner, corrected and hit the wall on the outside and hit it hard. At first glance it looked like he had got away with just a broken wheel from the impact, but later inspection left the M2 Competition mechanics with an engine and gearbox change to do on the car before the weekend’s feature race – for which Auer had secured pole position from morning qualifying.
It also brought out the race’s second red flag and that was it for Race 2. After the post-race investigations, Muth’s penalty pushed him down to fourth behind Leitch, Hyman and Armstrong. Lawson took fifth, Das sixth, Calan Williams seventh for Australia, Petr Ptacek eighth, Dev Gore ninth and Romanian Petru Florescu rounded out the top ten.
Race 2 Result – Highlands Motorsport Park Round 1
1. Brendon Leitch (New Zealand)
2. Raoul Hyman (United Kingdom)
3. Marcus Armstrong (New Zealand)
4. Esteban Muth (Belgium)
5. Liam Lawson (New Zealand)
6. Cameron Das (USA)
7. Calan Williams (Australia)
8. Petr Ptacek (Czech Republic)
9. Dev Gore (USA)
10. Petru Florescu (Romania)
11. Parker Locke (USA)
12. Thomas Smith (Australia)
DNF – Artem Petrov (Russia)
DNF – Kazuto Kotaka (Japan)
DNF – Lucas Auer (Austria)
Caption: Brendon Leitch inherited the second race victory at Highlands Park at the first round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series. Picture John Cowpland.
Release: Toyota Racing NZ