Successful start to Toyota Racing Series Rnd 1, Timaru International Motor Raceway (Levels) Timaru, New Zealand Day Two Report Timaru Local Wins First-Ever Round of Toyota Racing Series With the first-ever round of the Toyota Racing Series...
Successful start to Toyota Racing Series
Rnd 1, Timaru International Motor Raceway (Levels)
Timaru, New Zealand
Day Two Report
Timaru Local Wins First-Ever Round of Toyota Racing Series
With the first-ever round of the Toyota Racing Series at the Timaru International Motor Raceway on the weekend of January 8 and 9, the new circuit racing series made its New Zealand and world debuts.
Adding an extra dimension for the numerous supportive South Canterbury racing fans, Timaru driver Brent Collins won the first round of three Toyota Racing Series races by securing two second places and a win.
Thirty-year-old Collins hadn't been in a single seater race car for nearly four years until he slotted himself into the cockpit of the Toyota Tatuus race car during the drivers' first test day with the new cars at Ruapuna on Tuesday 4 January 2005. The talented, but largely unknown, Collins demonstrated his ability to quickly learn the intricacies of the new Toyota-powered race car and set the fastest time during official qualifying on January 8 during wet conditions and then again during the first race on January 8 to establish the first-ever lap record for this class.
Collins is joined by some of New Zealand's most highly regarded single seater drivers in the Toyota Racing Series, which is designed to provide an important stepping stone for up-and-coming drivers as they pursue the possibility of professional racing careers.
The first round of the Toyota Racing Series incorporated three races -- one of 12 laps on January 8 won by talented Palmerston North teenager Brendon Hartley, then another of 12 laps and one of 16 laps on January 9.
Wet weather played an important role over the weekend, with both qualifying and the second race being held in extremely wet conditions.
Starting positions for the second race were determined by lap times in the first race, which put Brent Collins on pole for the second time with Brendon Hartley beside him. The drivers all made a clean start and Collins showed composure to hold the lead securely from Hartley as they carefully made their way around the slippery circuit. Collins had the obvious advantage of a clear track in front of him, while Hartley and the rest of the field had limited vision from the spray thrown up by the preceding cars. The field was well spread out when officials declared the race over on the tenth lap when Collins was firmly in the lead, followed home by Hartley, Matthew Hamilton, Ben Harford and James Cressey.
The rain had stopped but the track was not completely dry when the Toyota Tatuus field headed out for their third race of the weekend on Sunday afternoon. Team managers had made different judgement calls as to whether they thought the track would dry completely or not, so some cars were on 'dry' tyres and some on 'wets' -- both variants provided by official tyre supplier Michelin.
Once again Collins looked to have the edge as he led the 17-strong field for 15 of the 16 laps. With Chris Pither's off-track excursion, the safety car was deployed on lap three, allowing the leading bunch to close up behind Collins. Several drivers, including Ken Smith and James Cressey were able to pass others as the track dried and the effect of wet vs. dry tyres became more pronounced. On dry tyres, Cressey then started a well-executed series of passing maneourves to move from sixth to third behind Collins and Daniel Gaunt by lap 13. Cressey slipped past Gaunt on the next lap and chased hard to catch Collins, who then had to watch Cressey drive right past him on the last lap to take the chequered flag.
Three winners from three races -- a highly desirable outcome for the first-ever round of the Toyota Racing Series according to Toyota Racing Management's Barrie Thomlinson, responsible for this new race series.
"We're just delighted the first round has gone so well," said Thomlinson. "We set out to provide a field of evenly matched cars designed to test the drivers' talents and having three different winners for our first three races indicates that we're pretty much on the button with this."
Collins, who was declared the overall winner of the round with 214 points, said: "It was just 'game on'. The cars were brilliant and we're delighted to be able to show what we can do. My guys are from local Timaru farms and we've had some steep learning curves getting the car set up right, but it's great having the assistance of all the Toyota technical guys and the Tatuus factory guys who are here too."
Aucklander James Cressey was a relatively late entrant to the Toyota Racing Series, having been in Australia racing in their Porsche Carerra Cup series until recently. Cressey said that his team's decision to send him out on dry tyres for the last race was one that paid off. "Initially the racing line was quite greasy and it took a while to get some temperature in the tyres. But I could start to see the possibility of a top three finish with most of the cars on wet tyres and the track drying so well. It's great for my team to have a win so early in the season. The whole series is more professional than I was expecting, although it's just as tough and competitive as I thought it would be. The cars are more -- better -- than I thought they might be and it's great to be involved in this exciting new series."
Brendon Hartley (Palmerston North) was second overall with 187 points, James Cressey third with 178 points, Daniel Gaunt (Auckland) fourth with 165 points and Matthew Hamilton (Christchurch) fifth with 148 points.
Motor racing veteran Ken Smith was an early supported of the new Toyota Racing Series and had one sixth, one tenth and a DNF to finish the weekend 13th overall with 78 points. He commented that the Toyota Tatuus is not a hard car to drive in terms of physical demands. "We've done times of 58 or 59 seconds around the Timaru circuit in our Formula Atlantic cars and it won't be long before we're achieving times like that in these Toyotas too."
The 17 Toyota Tatuus cars performed nearly faultlessly for the entire weekend, to the delight of series organisers and major sponsor, Toyota New Zealand. Company spokesman John Fowke said there was a comprehensive strategy behind the company's decision to introduce the Toyota Racing Series.
"It's a fantastic series in terms of our image with customers and our identity. For the competitors themselves, it's offered them a way to demonstrate their driving skills in a technically advanced single seater race car -- the fact they've all had to race in wet, dry and wet/dry conditions over the weekend and we've had three different winners is just fantastic. It really highlights the drivers' skills and the evenly-matched cars. This series appears to be a great platform for drivers to really show their skills and, all in all, we're very pleased with how the first round of this world-class single seater racing series has run over the weekend in Timaru. We're looking forward to the next round of the Toyota Racing Series in Invercargill in a week's time," said Fowke.
2005 Toyota Racing Series, Round 1
Sunday 9 January 2005
Race Two (12 laps shortened to 8 laps, rolling start) Pos Driver Hometown Fastest Lap 1, Brent Collins Timaru 1:08.743 2, Brendon Hartley Palmerston North 1:09.608 3, Matthew Hamilton Christchurch 1:10.403 4, Ben Harford Lower Hutt 1:10.447 5, James Cressey Auckland 1:10.971 6, Daniel Gaunt Auckland 1:10.710 7, Wade Cunningham Auckland 1:11.278 8, Chris Pither Palmerston North 1:10.726 9, Tim Edgell Auckland 1:11.204 10, Andy Knight Christchurch 1:11.304 11, Ben Crighton Auckland 1:12.258 12, Walter Grubmuller Monaco 1:13.258 13, Duane Spurdle Auckland 1:14.270 14, Kim Crocker Tauranga 1:13.342 15, Fiona Hamilton Christchurch 1:17.135 DNF Ken Smith Auckland 1:13.252 DNF Mark Munro Christchurch 1:11.762
Race Three (16 laps, grid start Pos Driver Hometown Fastest Lap 1, James Cressey Auckland 1:02.432 2, Brent Collins Timaru 1:03.692 3, Daniel Gaunt Auckland 1:03.668 4, Wade Cunningham Auckland 1:02.585 5, Andy Knight Christchurch 1:02.272 6, Brendon Hartley Palmerston North 1:03.559 7, Ben Harford Lower Hutt 1:03.044 8, Matthew Hamilton Christchurch 1:03.996 9, Tim Edgell Auckland 1:03.716 10, Ken Smith Auckland 1:04.742 11, Walter Grubmuller Monaco 1:05.564 12, Ben Crighton Auckland 1:05.063 13, Duane Spurdle Auckland 1:05.850 14, Kim Crocker Tauranga 1:06.020 15, Fiona Hamilton Christchurch 1:07.151 DNF Mark Munro Christchurch 1:04.152 DNF Chris Pither Palmerston North 1:09.333
2005 Toyota Racing Series Points after Round One 1 Brent Collins 209 points 2 Brendon Hartley 187 3 James Cressey 178 4 Daniel Gaunt 165 5 Matthew Hamilton 148 6 Ben Harford 138 7 Wade Cunningham 132 8 Tim Edgell 98 9 Ben Crighton 91 10 Walter Grubmuller 88 11 Andy Knight 82 12 Ken Smith 78 13 Chris Pither 78 14 Kim Crocker 72 15 Duane Spurdle 72 16 Fiona Hamilton 66 17 Mark Munro 28