BREAKTHROUGH WIN FOR KNIGHT Christchurch driver Andy Knight was the (young) man to beat on the first day of competition at the penultimate round of the 2005 Toyota Racing Series at Feilding's Manfeild Autocourse this afternoon. Knight, 18, set...
BREAKTHROUGH WIN FOR KNIGHT
Christchurch driver Andy Knight was the (young) man to beat on the first day of competition at the penultimate round of the 2005 Toyota Racing Series at Feilding's Manfeild Autocourse this afternoon.
Knight, 18, set his first pole position of the season in the 20 minute qualifying session this morning and won his first series race this afternoon, leading from start to finish and taking the chequered flag almost two seconds ahead of local driver Chris Pither and Aucklander Daniel Gaunt.
It was an impressive performance from the talented former karter and one which augers well for the second and third races tomorrow.
Though the race had to be red flagged and re-started after an accident on the first lap, Knight won both starts from fellow front row starter Ben Harford and was never seriously challenged, something the young Christchurch driver attributed to putting his head down and going for it in the first half of the race.
"I tried really hard for the first five or six laps then just tried to hold the gap to the end (of the race), " he said. "I didn't think the other guys were going to be able to catch me, but if they had, they were still going to have to get past me!"
In stark contrast, long-time series leader Brent Collins had a horror start to his penultimate series round weekend, after tangling with fellow series race winners James Cressey and Matthew Hamilton just after the start.
It took track workers more than 15 minutes to clear the track and re-start the race without the three drivers.
Though they weren't injured their cars sustained heavy damage. All three will start tomorrow's second race but the loss of points really hurt Hamilton, who went into this weekend's meeting in third place behind Collins and young Palmerston North driver Brendon Hartley but now lies fifth.
Hartley started and finished today's race in fifth, though he was lucky to get to the line after blowing a rear tyre on the final lap.
Second place this afternoon was just reward for Chris Pither who had one of his most competitive showings to date, dispatching Ben Harford and Daniel Gaunt on the first lap then setting off after Knight. While he didn't catch the young Christchurch driver he slowly pulled away from Gaunt who had his hands full keeping ahead of Harford.
The latter tried everything he could to catch and pass Gaunt.
Ultimately his mission was unsuccessful but he did gain some satisfaction by setting a new class lap record, at 1.05.51.
Knight's early lap charge saw him set a new benchmark - 1.05.56 - on the fourth lap but Harford went even fastest on the seventh lap!
That will pay dividends tomorrow because pole position for the second race is awarded to the driver who set the fastest laptime in the first!
<pre> 2005 Toyota Racing Series Rnd 5 Manfeild Autocourse Feilding Sat April 2
Qualifying 1. Andy Knight Christchurch 1.05.331 2. Ben Harford Wellington 1.05.390 3. Daniel Gaunt Auckland 1.05.447 4. Chris Pither Palmerston North 1.05.660 5. Brendon Hartley Palmerston North 1.05.765 6. Tim Edgell Auckland 1.05.853 7. James Cressey Australia 1.05.894 8. Matthew Hamilton Christchurch 1.05.990 9. Brent Collins Timaru 1.06.231 10. Ben Crighton Auckland 1.06.318 11. Ken Smith Auckland 1.06.630 12. Mark Munro Christchurch 1.06.640 13. Duane Spurdle Auckland 1.06.873 14. Andrew Higgins Auckland 1.07.631 15. Kim Crocker Tauranga 1.07.631 16. Fiona Hamilton Christchurch 1.07.779
Race 1: 1. Andy Knight 12 laps 2. Chris Pither +1.913 3. Daniel Gaunt +2.504 4. Ben Harford +3.364 5. Brendon Hartley +9.582 6. Tim Edgell +13.263 7. Mark Munro +16.279 8. Ben Crighton +19.868 9. Kim Crocker +20.852 10. Ken Smith +21.293 11. Andrew Higgins +25.065 12. Duane Spurdle +30.416 13. Fiona Hamilton +32.317
**New Lap record: Harford 1.05.51
Points after Race 1 1. Brent Collins 758 2. Brendon Hartley 659 3. Andy Knight 627 4. Daniel Gaunt 616 5. Matthew Hamilton 602 6. Chris Pither 569