Ferdinand Habsburg came from fifth on the grid to claim a thrilling win in the first of three Toyota Racing Series races at Manfeild this afternoon.
He led home Christchurch’s James Munro who was equally impressive in claiming another second, with championship leader Lando Norris finishing third.
“Those safety cars were great,” said Habsburg in reference to the two occasions the field was bunched up behind the safety car while stopped cars were removed from dangerous positions.
“It gave me the opportunity to rise.” On the second restart when he was holding third the Austrian drove around the outside of race leader Norris and Munro through turns one and two as the three of them had gone into the first corner three wide.
The first safety car was called after Artem Markelov and Pedro Piquet tangled in the first corner with the Brazilian on the outside of the Russian and sliding off into the gravel trap. Markelov was given a drive through the pits penalty for his part in the incident.
The second safety car was called after back markers Theo Bean (USA) and Nicholas Dapero (Argentina) tangled coming onto the front straight.
At that restart Munro and Habsburg pulled up alongside Norris and Habsburg pulled the bravest move around the outside.
A couple of laps later Munro forced Norris into a mistake running a little wide out of the first corner and the Christchurch man was through in a flash.
“I got on the power a bit too early” said Norris, “and got the rear wheel over the kerb and that just dragged me off.”
Munro said he was a bit disappointed with the restart. “But after I got past Lando I was able to pull away.”
Fourth place went to Jehan Daruvala, the Indian being out dragged by Norris into the first corner at the start of the race, while Invercargill’s Brendon Leitch who started 13th carved his way through the field in the early laps to finish fifth and Pukekohe’s Taylor Cockerton completed the top six.
With Piquet failing to finish and falling to third on the point’s standings, Norris is in an even more comfortable as the series leader with just Sunday’s two races, a reverse grid preliminary and the Grand Prix left to decide the outcome.
He has a 115 points lead over Daruvala and 146 over Piquet, while Leitch goes into Sunday’s two races just three points behind Piquet and a chance to finish on the podium in the series.
Leitch will start fourth for the reverse grid race, while Piquet will be at the back of the field, giving him a great opportunity to press his claims for a final top three position.
Toyota Racing Series, Dan Higgins Memorial Trophy, 20 laps.-
1, F Habsburg (Austria); 2, J Munro (Christchurch); 3, L Norris (England); 4, J Daruvala (India); 5, B Leitch (Invercargill); 6, T Cockerton (Pukekohe).
Progress points. - 1, Norris, 795; 2, Daruvala, 680; 3, Piquet, 649; 4, Leitch, 646; 5, Guanyu Zhou, 634; 6, Habsburg, 625.