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Mansell sails to victory in Manfeild rain

Australian Christian Mansell put wet conditions behind him at Manfeild – Circuit Chris Amon to splash his way home to a win in the second race of the weekend at round two of the 2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship.

It was a sweet moment for the 18-year-old Australian driver, who had been on the pace but unlucky in the previous races of the championship. His win and Kaleb Ngatoa’s second spot made it a 1-2 for Giles Motorsport. The win pushed Mansell to the top of the Trans Tasman Cup – a new competition run over the first two rounds of the championship between old rivals Australia and New Zealand.

“Life is great, no I’m very happy,” said Christian afterwards. “I had a great car in the race and didn’t want to overwork the tyres as we may need them later in the day. I tried to pull away from Kaleb but I think I had him covered even though he was quick. The car was mega. I like it when it rains.”

The grid was formed from a reverse of the top eight finishers from Sunday’s first race and that put highly rated F4 US champion Patrick Woods-Toth on the pole position, with another F4 champion China’s Gerrard Xie alongside. Lurking in third on the grid was Christian Mansell, one of the pacesetters of the championship so far.

It was Xie who made the best getaway as the field disappeared in a wall of spray to the first turn and he held on for two more corners before spinning off in the soaking conditions.

Mansell had exited the first turn in second after passing Woods-Toth and avoided Xie to take the lead. He was quick to build a lead of over a second ahead of the Canadian, who was passed by a fast Kaleb Ngatoa into turn one as the Kiwi got his head down on a circuit he knows like the back of his hand.

Ngatoa then began to make inroads on Mansell and continued to nibble away at his lead until lap five when Brazil’s Lucas Fecury spun. He recovered but his delay on a dangerous part of the track was enough to bring out a brief Safety Car and that bunched the field back up after a hectic five laps.

Mansell nailed his restart and led Ngatoa into the first corner, before a small mistake let Kaleb get even closer. That, however, was as close as he got as Christian controlled the race and the gap to Ngatoa behind in impressive style.

The soaking conditions limited the drivers to a very narrow line and made passing extremely challenging and spinning much more likely and several drivers fell victim to the conditions, but all were able to recover and make it to the flag.

Behind the top two, Tommy Smith had a fantastic race to finish third and take his first series podium, passing Woods-Toth before the restart then pulling away to an impressive four second margin at the flag. Patrick brough his car home fourth for his best result so far while Nicola Lacorte impressed yet again, the 16-year-old Alpine Junior taking a solid fifth place.

Liam Sceats finished sixth, making up one place from his grid starting position, while Alex Crosbie made the most of the challenging conditions to have a relatively clean run through to seventh. Titus Sherlock was in the top ten again, the American this time taking eighth, with Elliott Cleary in ninth and a recovering Xie in tenth.

It was a disastrous race for series leader Roman Bilinski whose rain light was not working and forced a trip to the pit lane for repairs. He rejoined but could only manage 17th place, three laps behind the leaders.

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