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Xie masters wet and dry qualifying for Hampton Downs pole

China’s Gerrard Xie showed impressive form in a challenging qualifying session at Hampton Downs to take pole position for the afternoon’s first race of the third round of the 2024 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship.

The session became a balancing act for the drivers as the track dried with the improving grip having to be offset by cooling the wet weather Pirellis in the remaining water as the track dried.

The 15-minute session allowed no time to change to slicks but M2 Competition’s Xie, put together the perfect compromise session to cross the line last of all and clock the session’s best time when the track was at its driest, but it wasn’t straightforward.

“Yes, the timing at the end was very good and it was important to cool the wet weather tyres as the track evolved and dried out,” he said afterwards.

“I let mine cool as long as I could and then pushed for the last lap. It was a very good lap – the tyres came back to the best temperature – and I was pleased with the time.

His 1 minute 40.447 laps bettered Liam Sceats by almost half a second. Alpine F1 Junior Nicola Lacorte was another to put in a late lap for third on the grid, with Michael Shin and Patrick Woods-Toth all quick but a little too early on their final efforts.

Kaleb Ngatoa looked like he had grabbed pole position and was fast throughout, but he was probably twenty to thirty seconds too early on his fastest lap and tumbled down to sixth. Fellow Kiwi and rookie Kaden Probst did well to be just behind in sixth with Tommy Smith, Elliott Cleary and Alex Crosbie rounding out the top ten.

Further back, Landon Matriano-Lim enjoyed his best qualifying effort with the 11th fastest time but championship leader Roman Bilinski has it all to do if he wants to win the first race of weekend, having only posted the 14th best time after a late spin ruined his best effort.

The session got underway moments after a significant downpour that left the whole of the 4.0km track soaked but with clear skies and warm wind the track was already starting to dry.

It was Woods-Toth for Kiwi Motorsport who was quickest into the groove, carving some impressive rooster tails through the standing water as he splashed his way around in 1 minute 48 seconds. M2 Competition’s Liam Sceats then beat that and as the dry line began to emerge the times started to tumble.

Xie, Woods-Toth, Sceats and Ngatoa all took turns at the top of the timesheets as the lap times dropped by one to two seconds per lap with three and a half minutes to go but it was Xie who timed his run to perfection.

He will start from pole position for the first time when this afternoon’s first race gets underway around the full 4.0km international layout at Hampton Downs. Fourth fastest Michael Shin will, however, have to start four places lower on the grid due to a Race 3 penalty for contact from the previous round at Manfeild.

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