Young Indian driver Arjun Maini made the early running in initial test sessions over the first two days of the 2015 Toyota Racing Series, but it was Russian Time GP2 driver Artem Markelov who slipped ahead on a warm and humid third day of running.
Maini, 17, was second in the first session, topped the timesheets in the second test session but dropped away in the third.
Markelov improved steadily across all three days and in the third session today posted a sensational 1:16.960, the only driver to dip into the 16s in the blustery conditions. His time is almost three seconds inside the existing TRS track lap record of 1:19.429 set by Australian Scott Pye in 2008.
Second fastest for the day was Christchurch driver James Munro, the only New Zealand to feature in the top five all day.
Scot Sam MacLeod was third with a 1:17.303. He is a British Racing Drivers Club Rising Stars group member and like Artem markelov is contesting the 2015 TRS with Giles Motorsport.
The strong northwester wind caught out several drivers, resulting in brake lock-ups and off-track excursions for some.
The drivers now enter the ‘business’ part of the weekend, with qualifying sessions at 11 am Saturday NZDST and the first race of the weekend over 15 laps at 3.07 pm this afternoon.