Sceats takes dream debut win in Lady Wigram Trophy
Liam Sceats led from lights to flag to record a famous victory in the Lady Wigram Trophy race in Christchurch today, taking his first ever win in the Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship.
A race of pressure from championship leader Roman Bilinski could not stop the young Kiwi star taking the big win at the Euromarque Motorsport Park. It was arguably the biggest win of his career and his name now joins many of motor racing’s royalty on the Canterbury Car Club’s iconic trophy.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to win in this championship. A lot of work has gone into this,” he said on the podium before receiving the trophy from Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger. “Roman put the pressure on but winning is a feeling I can’t describe and one I will hang on to for as long as I can.
“I was confident the win would eventually come. I remember looking at the trophy before the weekend and seeing the names on the trophy. I cannot describe how it feels knowing my name will be on there too.”
A great start by Sceats from the outside of the front row saw him finally get ahead of Bilinski as a clean start left those two ahead of Patrick Woods-Toth and Bryce Aron, with Jacob Abel in fifth ahead of a tidy line behind. Kaleb Ngatoa had a nightmare start dropping from tenth on the grid to 13th at the end of the first lap. It got worse for Kaleb a few laps later when he was warned for exceeding track limits too.
Sceats had waited for this moment and in a race as big as the Lady Wigram Trophy – it was the best opportunity so far to try and beat the championship leader and keep the pressure on.
Positions remained the same as they made it through the early laps with Sceats ahead of Bilinski, Woods-Toth, an American duel of Aron and Abel, Gerrard Xie, race two winner Michael Shin, Alex Crosbie, Jett Bowling and a charging Ngatoa who had recovered to tenth.
The race settled down as the first half wore on, with Sceats and Bilinski within a second of each other and trading fastest laps as they built a three second lead over Woods-Toth. Tyre management seemed secondary to being the fastest out there as the two battled it out, Bilinski holding back enough to be able to save his tyres perhaps a fraction more than the leader.
Further back Shin, Crosbie and Jett Bowling were in close quarters in their battle for seventh and apart from Lucas Fecury briefly spinning on lap 12, all attention was on this battle as the best in the race at the halfway mark.
With ten to go Sceats and Bilinski were still locked in combat at the front and had built up a five second lead over Woods-Toth, who couldn’t match the pace of championship contenders. If anything, Sceats was a fraction quicker in his quest for that elusive debut win in the championship.
Sceats built up a lead of almost a second, but Bilinski responded and over the next two laps pegged Sceats’ advantage back to less than half a second. Sceats responded and with five laps to go had halted his rival’s progress.
Hunting for the win he may have been, but Bilinski wasn’t making the inroads he needed to be to pressurize Sceats into any kind of mistake. A blistering lap with two to go stretched Sceats advantage to just over a second and that was enough to hold off Bilinski and take an emotional, and famous win.
Woods-Toth came home third to extend his lead in the Rookie points and close on Ngatoa for third overall in the championship, while Aron won his race long battle with Abel to take fourth. Xie was sixth, Shin seventh after a fine drive on old tyres to hold off Crosbie, Bowling, Ngatoa and the rest. Sebastian Manson finished a commendable 12thon his debut after a solid race.
The championship now heads to Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell for its fifth and final weekend and it’s all set to be the biggest yet. Bilinski isn’t across the championship finish line just yet, and there’s the 68th New Zealand Grand Prix to wrap everything up. Just 56 points separate the top two heading into the last round.