The 2014 Toyota Racing Series has a new points leader. Jann Mardenborough has won the first of three races for the championship at Hampton Downs in the north Waikato and swept through to a handy lead of 513 points ahead of second-placed Andrew Tang on 489.
This pair were the pace-setters through qualifying this morning and started off the front row in this afternoon’s race.
Mardenborough – 2013 TRS Rookie of the Year and subsequently on the podium in LMP2 at the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race – showed his pedigree with a masterful drive through several safety car periods and restarts, holding off a charging Andrew Tang who shadowed his every move.
The pair were under attack from Russian driver Egor Orudzhev, and Steijn Schothorst had likewise made a strong start and was on a charge toward the sharp end of the field.
Though Egor Orudzhev chased the front runners hard from third place, he was judged to have gained advantage during one of the safety car/yellow flag restarts during the race, overtaking Invercargill’s Damon Leitch, and was relegated to 13th position with a ten second time penalty.
Martin Kodric also received a penalty after his car made contact with that of championship leader Martin Rump. The Croatian was assessed a 50 second penalty for the incident, which ended with Rump’s car beached at the edge of a gravel trap. The effect of the incident was worse for Martin Rump, who was forced to watch the field go past while his car was recovered, lost three laps in the process and tumbled from the championship lead to fourth on 450 points.
Levin Amweg spun (pictured) and had to pit with bodywork crimped onto a tyre. He returned to the track and finished 19th.
The amended finish order of the race brought Steijn Schothorst up to third place, the Netherlands racer on a long fightback after a nightmare weekend at Cromwell. Matt Rao also gains a fourth place, his best championship finish to date. Damon Leitch was fifth overall but jumps to third in the championship.
As race winner, Jann Mardenborough had the honour of drawing the marble to decide the extent of the partial reverse grid: four, six or eight places. To date the race winners have drawn the number eight marble. Mardenborough was visibly relieved to have pulled out the four.
Going into the second race of the weekend tomorrow morning, this puts Mardenborough on P4, second row of the grid, with Andrew Tang on P3. The front row is Steijn Schothorst (P2) and Matt Rao (P1).