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Sceats tops Hampton Downs testing

Kiwi Liam Sceats produced a blistering best time of the day in official testing ahead of the third round of the 2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship at Hampton Downs today.

Sceats’ lap of 1.29.150 was almost three quarters of a second inside Laurens van Hoepen’s 1 minute 29.819 benchmark for the 3.8km international circuit. And he backed up his performance with fastest time again in the third rain affected session aboard his M2 Competition car.

It was well inside the category’s official lap record for the circuit which was a 1.30.061 – again by van Hoepen during the Grand Prix weekend last year.

In the first session it was impressive Australian Tommy Smith who topped the times with a 1 minute 29.491 lap just ahead of his mtec Motorsport’s teammate and countryman Elliott Cleary.

Both Aussies have shown good form thus far in the 2024 championship but this was a notable performance. Smith and Cleary are now the only representation in the series from across the Tasman after Christian Mansell’s departure for FIA F3 testing duties. It’s Smith’s last weekend before he heads off to Bahrain for FIA F3 testing too.

Behind them it was championship leader Roman Bilinski showing his class once again near the front of the timesheets with Thursday pace setter Canadian Patrick-Woods Toth just a whisker behind in fourth. Liam Sceats was the top Kiwi in fifth.

Things got better for the local drivers in the second quicker session with Sceats, Kaleb Ngatoa, Alex Crosbie and Kaden Probst all in the top six at one stage of the session. That one ended with Sceats topping the times with a scintillating 1 minute 29.150.

It was one of the fastest ever laps for the NZ Toyota-based championship around the full circuit and indicated – if the weather holds – that qualifying pace on Saturday morning will be fast.

Weather affected the third and final session – as did two red flags for Nicola Lacorte and Alex Crosbie respectively – but the track dried any dampness off quickly and in the dying moments the quick times started to pop up. Drivers went quicker on their final laps and it was Sceats again who timed his run the best to go quickest, albeit off his earlier pace.

The action gets underway on Saturday morning with qualifying for the afternoon’s first race. Sunday brings a second race with a partially reversed grid based on Saturday results as well as qualifying and the main race of the weekend for the Dorothy Smith Memorial Trophy, named after motorsport icon Ken Smith’s mum, who accompanied him at race meetings throughout his unbelievably long and illustrious career.

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