Catch me if you can is Thomas Randle’s mantra as he prepares for this weekend’s New Zealand Grand Prix, the last round of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, at Circuit Chris Amon, Manfeild.
The Melbourne driver leads the series by 27 points from Richard Verschoor, with three races at the Manawatu circuit over the weekend.
“I am just going to treat it like any other weekend,” said Randle after setting the fastest time in practice. “I’d love to qualify on pole and winning the Grand Prix would be a special feeling.”
Verschoor lingered down in 15th place in the final practice session, although he had been fifth fastest earlier in the day.
A relaxed yet confident Randle is also tempering his goals with a touch of realism. “I’ve got to finish in front of Verschoor and Piquet, probably in two of the three races. That’s certainly easier said than done. And they won’t give up without a fight.”
Piquet is only four points behind Dutch teenager Verschoor and right in the title hunt as well. The Brazilian was third fastest in final practice when teams bolted new tyres onto the cars in an effort to establish the best setup for Saturday morning’s qualifying.
It did not work out that way for Verschoor who was slower than what he achieved in the first session of the day.
“We made some changes to the car and I think we went in the wrong direction,” said Verschoor, who was looking to return to the suspension and aerodynamic settings he had for that first session when he was fifth fastest.
“I would prefer to be one tenth of a second slower and be competitive, than trying to find the perfect set up,” said Verschoor.
His take on the championship battle is quite simple. “I have to go for the wins,” said Verschoor. “It’s the only thing to go for to make up the points.”
Grid positions will become all important for the trio of championship aspirants. Qualifying for Saturday afternoon’s race and Sunday afternoon’s Grand Prix is on Saturday morning, while the grid for Sunday morning’s race is decided on the results from Saturday afternoon.
Apart from the three championship contenders, Marcus Armstrong from Christchurch will be looking to add to his winning tally after winning the main race at Taupo last weekend, while India’s Jehan Daruvala will be wanting another victory like the opening round win in the Lady Wigram Trophy at Ruapuna. They were second and fourth fastest in final practice.
Final practice times.-
1, Thomas Randle (Australia) 62.416 seconds;
2, Marcus Armstrong (Christchurch) 62.517;
3, Pedro Piquet (Brazil) 62.690;
4, Jehan Daruvala (India) 62.778;
5, Keyvan Andres (USA) 62.785;
6, Thomas Neubauer (France) 62.929;
7, Christina Hahn (Brazil) 62.957;
8, Harry Hayek (Australia) 62.966;
9, Brendon Leitch (Invercargill) 62.987;
10, Ameya Vaidyanathan (India) 62.991;
13, Taylor Cockerton (Pukekohe) 63.030;
15, Richard Verschoor (Netherlands) 63.048.