Arjun Maini has won the first race of round three in the 2015 Toyota Racing Series, fighting off a determined challenge from British driver Sam Macleod.
The win cuts Canadian driver Lance Stroll’s championship points lead to just 13 points, with Stroll starting off the rear of the next race.
in a race punctuated by three red flag/safety car restarts, Maini led home French driver Brandon Maisano with quick American Santino Ferrucci third.
Maini had qualified quickest in the morning session with British driver Sam MacLeod lining up alongside in P2. The second row held Brandon Maisano and Callum Ilott. James Munro had qualified fastest New Zealander in ninth place.
“It was a great run through qualifying, good lap times for all the top five,” said Maini.
At race start, Maini then held the lead through the first lap, defending against an aggressive challenge from Macleod but a four car tangle leading up to the hairpin brought out the red flag. Thomas Randle, Jamie Conroy, Matteo Ferrer and Alfonso Celis all crashed and brought the race to a halt. Randle got out onto the grass and spun, the following three tangling while trying to avoid Randle’s car, which was broadside across the track
None of these four were able to restart when the race was led away by the safety car.
Then at the restart, Maini was once again defending his lead from a charging MacLeod. The British driver went around the outside of Maini at turn one but was unable to complete the move. The race action was short lived - Lance Stroll dived under Charlie Eastwood at the same corner as the previous incident. The cars tangled and both went off, bringing the safety car back out for a second restart.
Maini held his ground over the ensuing laps under intense pressure from Sam MacLeod, extending a gap from .062 out to almost two seconds. Macleod’s bold attack came to nothing, the British driver going off under braking and breaking his rear suspension. This allowed Brandon Maisano through to second, while Ferrucci had charged up through the field to hold third.
Brendon Leitch then crashed, damaging the left side front and rear suspension of his car and tearing off the front and rear wings. His crash brought out the safety car again.
The race was declared at this point, leaving Maini the winner from Brandon Maisano and Santino Ferrucci. Callum Ilott was fourth. Lead New Zealand driver at the finish was Damon Leitch, who came through to fifth overall.
At the podium presentation after the race Maini drew marble number four to decide the length of the reverse grid for the second race on Sunday morning, putting Callum Ilott on pole with Ferrucci beside him.
Race two for TRS starts at 11.00 am Sunday morning; the feature race for the NZ Motor Cup is at 3.00 pm NZDST.