Christchurch teenager James Munro has won his first Toyota race at Levels Raceway, Timaru. He is making his transition from ‘non-aero’ single-seaters and this was only his fourth race in a wongs-and-slicks single seater.
The first race of the weekend was interrupted by a spectacular crash in the first corner which took six cars out of contention, but Munro’s first victory came in emphatic form, the 16 year old carving out a lead of almost four seconds over the 15 lap race distance.
He had qualified on pole in the first session of the day, with Steijn Schothorst behind him and lining up alongside on the grid; Egor Orudzhev was third and Damon Leitch started fourth.
Munro’s start was a perfectly judged balance of throttle and the grip despite pole being off the racing line and thus offering less grip than was available to Schothorst alongside him.
The pair surged ahead of third-placed Orudzhev and Damon Leitch and were into the fourth turn by the time the field tangled in turn 1.
A multiple-car crash there took out Matteo Ferrer, Macauley Jones, Andrew Tang, Michael Scott, Martin Kodric and Denis Korneev, none of whom were able to restart. Levin Amweg was also involved and lost his car’s nose cone, but was able to continue for another two laps.
The race was red-flagged and restarted under a safety car, negating Munro’s initial advantage, but he was able to extend a lead again over Schothorst.
“The car was really good today in qualifying and the race, I was really happy with it. I did feel a lot of nerves before the start because I had so little experience in these cars, but I was really pleased to get this first win,” he said.
Munro said going into the weekend he could not have imagined being on the podium, much less winning.
“I wasn’t sure how I’d go against the internationals, they are very quick. But I do really like this track, it’s very fast and very narrow, great for a driver,” he said.
The order at the chequered flag was Munro, Schothorst, Orudzhev, Damon Leitch and Neil Alberico. The result propels Munro from 16th in the championship to sixth, while Orudzhev takes a narrow points lead with 210 over Estonian Martin Rump on 208. Schothorst is handily placed in third with 197 points.
The Toyota Racing Series, New Zealand’s premier motor racing category, is back on track at Timaru tomorrow with a 15 lap race at 11.00 am and the 20-lap feature race for the Timaru Herald Trophy at 3.00 pm. The first race tomorrow has a partial reverse grid dictated by a marble draw after today’s race. James Munro drew the marble, and was somewhat disappointed to pull an eight out of the hat, meaning he lines up on the fourth row of the grid.