Lando Norris confirmed his position as the Toyota Racing Series champion by winning the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild this afternoon.
The 16 year old English teenager led from start to finish of the 35 lap race. “It’s the longest race I’ve ever done,” said Norris. “I didn’t have anything to lose.”
He had to fend off the attentions of Artem Markelov who had been third initially, but managed to overtake Pedro Piquet when the one re-start of the race occurred.
Piquet tracked Markelov until the last lap when he got back in front at the last corner in an effort to grab third place overall in the series. But he was penalised 30 seconds for passing under waved yellow flags because the car of Theo Bean was parked on the side of the track.
That gave Brendon Leitch of Invercargill enough buffer to maintain his third position.
Norris was almost bashfully nonchalant about his success, having wrapped up the title in the morning’s preliminary race where he came fourth. “I’m surprised I did as well as I did,” he said. “It’s been a great five weeks.”
Norris is returning to the northern hemisphere, where he will contest no less than three championships, two Formula Renault competitions in Europe and the BRDC Formula 4 title in Britain.
In contrast Piquet will only be doing the European Formula 3 championship over 30 races, the Toyota Racing Series providing the ideal warm-up for the international drivers returning to their confirmed campaigns for the rest of the year.
“I think we have been racing with the best at this level,” said Piquet, who would have finished third in the series, if he had of held onto second place in the Grand Prix.
Christchurch’s James Munro was the top Kiwi for the round, finishing fourth in the Grand Prix, although his poor start to the series at the first two rounds in the South Island has left him in 8th overall.
After winning the morning’s preliminary race, Brendon Leitch had his worst race of the whole Toyota Racing Series only finishing tenth in the Grand Prix after a poor qualifying performance on Saturday left him well back on the grid.
But his consistency had its reward as he became the only Kiwi to win a race this year.
Norris won 6 of the 15 races to deservedly take the title and had another five podium places to back up his consistency.
Toyota Racing Series, New Zealand Grand Prix, 35 laps.-
1, L Norris (England; 2, A Markelov (Russia); 3, F Habsburg (Austria); 4, James Munro (Christchurch); 5, T Randle (Australia); 6, T Cockerton (Pukekohe); 7, J Daruvala (India); 8, K LaLiberte (Canada); 9, B Baptista (Brazil); 10, B Leitch (Invercargill).