Juan Manuel Correa has taken his second win in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series with a lights to flag domination of this afternoon’s preliminary race at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo.
English teenager James Pull was second, with Richard Verschoor (Netherlands) completing the podium and slightly closing the gap on series rivals Marcus Armstrong (Christchurch) and Russian Robert Shwartzman, who finished fifth and fourth respectively.
“I pushed hard all the way,” said Correa. “The team told me I was under investigation for jumping the start and needed to get as big a gap as possible in case I was penalised five seconds.”
After viewing footage from on-board cameras, the race result stood. The Florida based Ecuadorian had the race’s fastest lap in the windy conditions and has moved himself up to fourth in the series.
Correa’s first win had come in the reverse grid Sunday morning race at Teretonga a fortnight ago.
Verschoor, who started alongside Correa on the front row of the grid was kicking himself after the race. “I thought James was alongside me going into the first corner and left some racing room.” At that point the Londoner dived into the hole left and grabbed second to score his best result of the series.
“Richard made a little mistake and I managed to get through,” said Pull, who then had to fend off a series of attacks from the Dutch teenager, who himself was coming under pressure from Robert Shwartzman.
Armstrong had an unflustered race to fifth after starting from that position on the grid, while further back Ryan Yardley (Christchurch) had his best race of the series in defending repeated attacks from Brendon Leitch (Invercargill).
Albany’s Reid Harker had another good race to finish sixth and move into the same position on the points table.
Qualifying set the scene
The lights-to-flag victory was set up in the morning's qualifying sessions, where Juan Manuel Correa took the first pole of the weekend with a strong set of mid-seassion laps that culminated in a 1:24.507, edging out Richard Verschoor (1:24.611). The session ended early when a localised rainshower wet-down the southern end of the circuit and Ryan Yardley and Clement Novalak fell foul of the slippery surface at the sweeper.
In the second session, times stayed well into the 1:26 bracket until Marcus Armstrong, Richard Verschoor and Robert Shwartzman launched an all-out assault for pole. In the closing laps of qualifying this seemed to have gone the way of Armstrng until a blindingly fast 1:22.786 from Robert Shwarzman set pole. Armstrong came in on P2 with Verschoor and Correa filling the second row.
The first session set the grid for this afternoon's race; the second sets the grid for the feature race tomorrow afternoon. That race is the 20 lap Denny Hulme Memorial Trophy - Marcus Armstrong being the defending champion of the trophy from 2017. Race winner Correa drew the marble to decide the partial reverse grid for the morning's race, picking an 'eight' which puts Brendon Leitch on pole.
Toyota Racing Series, Round 4, Taupo, Saturday preliminary race:
1, Juan-Manuel Correa (USA);
2, James Pull (England);
3, Richard Verschoor (Netherlands);
4, Robert Shwartzman (Russia);
5, Marcus Armstrong (Christchurch);
6, Reid Harker (Albany);
7, Ryan Yardley (Christchurch);
8, Brendon Leitch (Invercargill);
9, Taylor Cockerton (Pukekohe);
10, Clement Novalak (England).
Progress points after ten of 15 races:
1, Armstrong, 640;
2, Shwartzman, 604;
3, Verschoor, 581;
4, Correa, 522;
5, Novalak, 503;
6, Pull, 500;
7, Harker, 372;
8, Cockerton, 367;
9, Leitch, 332;
10, Charles Milesi (France) 319.