04 815 8015

102A Kapiti Road, Paraparaumu, 5032

Follow us on Social media
+64 (0)4 815 8015
Mon - Fri, 08:30AM-5:00PM

Sceats emerges from qualifying drama for Grand Prix pole position

A remarkable performance by Liam Sceats has secured pole position start for the 68th New Zealand Grand Prix.

He will start alongside Callum Hedge in an all Kiwi-front row at the Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell after a session packed with drama and incident. It was Sceats who then inherited pole position for the first race on Saturday afternoon by being second fastest, great news for his championship challenge. Hedge will join him on the front row for Race 1 too.

“It’s great to be in the best seat in the house for the Grand Prix but the job’s not done and there’s plenty more work to do,” said M2 Competition’s young gun afterwards. “I hate to see accidents but it’s a great surprise to have two pole positions.”

It was a bitter sweet session for championship leader Roman Bilinski, who secured pole position for the first race but then crashed to leave himself with a seventh row start in the New Zealand Grand Prix and a grid penalty for the first race.

Qualifying over the Grand Prix weekend has a unique format for the championship, with qualifying divided into three key segments.

The first segment – a standard 15 minute qualifying session – defined the grid for Race 1 on Saturday afternoon, but also eliminated the bottom five from the rest of the qualifying process for the Grand Prix – meaning the bottom five will be bottom five for Race 1 and for the Grand Prix.

The second period reduced the qualifying field to 13 and again, the slowest five would start the Grand Prix from positions 9-13. The final segment should have been an eight car shoot out with fastest taking pole position for the Grand Prix and the rest forming up behind 2-8 on the grid.

Championship leader Bilinski was first to drop into the 1 minute 29 second bracket as the dramatic session got underway with Kaleb Ngatoa just behind, impressive by the Kiwi after a decent off the day before in the final moments of testing.

Roman backed that up with the best lap of the weekend thus far, a blistering 1 minute 28.011 second effort that was six tenths faster than the rest. Callum Hedge – back for this weekend only – and Ngatoa responded with laps just a few tenths behind as the almost the entire field clocked laps in the 1 minute 29 second bracket.

At that point, Titus Sherlock hit the wall at turn two, bringing an end to his qualifying effort and a pause to the session as his damaged Kiwi Motorsport car was retrieved.

That left five minutes of the first segment to go and drama struck again when Bilinski also lost control at turn two, hitting the wall and ending his qualifying session. It would mean pole position for the first race was his, but for the Grand Prix he would be 13th on the grid. It was his first mistake in an otherwise flawless season. Fastest he may have been but he would face a three place grid penalty for the first race for causing a red flag, as would Sherlock.

When the dust settled the remainder of the field had just one flying lap left in the session, Liam Sceats put in his most important lap of the season with second fastest behind Bilinski’s best. Hedge took third, Michael Shin fourth, Jacob Abel fifth, Ngatoa sixth, Gerrard Xie seventh and Bryce Aron eighth. A great last lap effort pushed Alex Crosbie from the back to ninth on the grid for Race 1 and progression to stage two of Grand Prix qualifying.

Out after the first session were Sherlock in fourteenth, Sebastian Manson in fifteenth, Lucas Fecury in sixteen, Landan Matriano Lim in seventeenth and Jake Bonilla in eighteenth. That meant they would start race 1 and the Grand Prix in those positions.

With Bilinski out for the remainder of the session just 12 cars took to the track for phase two of Grand Prix qualifying and Xie and Shin went quickest before Hedge pipped Gerrard’s time just after the halfway mark in the ten minute do or die session.

The real interest was at the back of the pack and with Bilinski unable to record a time, there were four more to be eliminated and it was close enough – six tenths covering the entire group from first to last – that nobody could afford to be off their game.

The flag ended the session but as it dropped there was more drama as both Shin and Ngatoa hit the wall at the final turn – and hit it hard. Shin was first and moments later the unfortunate Ngatoa lost it a little earlier in the flat right hander but went in equally as hard.

It was a disastrous end to the session for both, who at that stage had made it through to the final eight with their previous times but would take no more part in qualifying. They would, however, not receive penalties for the GP grid as their crashes came after the chequered flag had fallen for the session.

Also out but ninth through to 12th on the GP grid respectively were Elliot Cleary, Ryder Quinn, Patrick Woods-Toth and Jett Bowling.

That left the remarkable Hedge, Xie, Sceats, Abel, Aron and Crosbie as the only runners for a 12 minute six car shoot-out in what was fast becoming a battle of survival as well as speed.

Jacob Abel was first of the weekend under the 1 minute 28 second lap with a. remarkable 1 minute 27.913 lap. Hedge responded with a lap just two hundredths of a second slower. Sceats then put his marker down with a 1 minute 27.805, but Hedge fought back with a 1 minute 27.756. Sceats bounced back to lower the mark to 1 minute 27.720 and that would prove enough as the dramatic session came to an end.

Behind those two on the Grand Prix grid it would be Abel and Xie on row two, Crosbie and Bryce Aron on row three, Shin and Ngatoa on row four leaving their mechanics with plenty to do. Elliot Cleary and Ryder Quinn completed row five and the top ten.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.