Russian driver Egor Orudzhev won the first major trophy of the 2014 Toyota Racing Series at Teretonga on Sunday, sprinting from pole position to the race win in dominant style. It was his second win of the weekend, the 18 year old having won the first race of the championship on Saturday, and he had also briefly led Sunday morning’s rain-affected race before sliding off the track.
The three races of the championship’s opening weekend were challenging for the 23-strong field, with two races held in hot dry conditions and one in chill, sleeting rain.
Orudzhev had pressured Steijn Schothorst throughout the first race and took the lead when Schothorst’s car developed a misfire, winning in style. He then, drew a nightmare eighth place grid start for the second race and powered through the field to lead before sliding off in the rain.
Then his weekend finished in fine style with a flag to flag victory in the feature race.
“It was a difficult race, this one. Our pace was not so good and I had a lot of pressure from Damon and Steijn. Lucky there are not so many places to pass and I was able to stay in front,” he said.
Orudzhev said he is enjoying his first visit to New Zealand.
“The weather, not so much. But the standard of competition here was very strong. Being consistent will be important now – I have had two and a half good races, I could have got more,” he said.
Close behind him in the final race was Invercargill driver Damon Leitch, who recovered from a harrowing start to the weekend when the wing came off his car in the first race on Saturday, sending him spinning into the gravel trap. Steijn Schothorst was third overall. Singaporean Andrew Tang had won the morning’s wet race and was in the thick of the battle for the feature race but went out with a left rear tyre puncture.
Te Puke racer Michael Scott was seventh overall and second Kiwi home in the Spirit of the Nation feature race and is top New Zealander for the weekend in his Zespri-backed car. Scott was forced to pit in the wet race on Sunday morning to repair a faulty rain light. he says if not for that issue he could well have amassed more points toward his championship challenge.
Scott set fastest lap in the feature race, a 55.102 in lap 12 of 20.
With fifteen races at five circuits over consecutive weekends, the Toyota Racing Series attracts rising drivers from around the world, drawn by the prospect of up to 3000 km of practice, qualifying and racing in the northern hemisphere winter season.
It offers aspiring local racers the chance to compete in modern ‘wings-and-slicks’ open-wheel race cars before heading offshore to the next step in their careers.
For the international drivers, the series offers five weeks of intense racing action that propels them back into their northern hemisphere seasons ready to win races and championships.
The championship is also among New Zealand’s most significant sports television ‘exports’, with the racing screened in up to 40 countries around the world. New Zealand coverage is on Prime and SKY TV.