Martin Rump led off pole in a flawless drive today at the 2.63 km Hampton Downs circuit to control the 22-strong TRS field and win the 2014 NZ Motor Cup, beginning a fightback that aims to shrug off two nightmare weekend race results which took away his narrow championship lead and sent him tumbling down the points table to fifth.
Rump was the victim of an off-track excursion not of his making in the first race of the weekend (pictured), one that left him beached on the edge of a gravel trap for three safety car laps. He rejoined last and took minimal points for 22nd place, though this was revised to points for 21st when an inquiry handed a time penalty to the other driver, Martin Kodric of Croatia.
Starting off the last row of the grid for this morning’s first race over fifteen laps added another handful of points but when the start time for the feature race rolled around, Rump was making no mistakes.
He shot into the lead, Tang close behind and Mardenborough third ahead of Damon Leitch.
A bold move down the outside by Gustavo Lima returned a divided midfield as he overtook three cars down the outside heading for turn two – but then the young Brazilian was part of a chain of impacts that took him off track and out of the race. Also out were American drivers Ryan Tveter and Neil Alberico, the latter relegated after the chequered flag for his part in the incident.
The ensuing safety car period put the pressure on Rump to get the restart right, and after three laps under the yellow flag the Estonian did just that, rocketing away to extend a small lead over Tang. The pair cleared out on the field, but not before Tang fought off a determined charge from Mardenborough, who briefly overtook the Singaporean before being sent back to third . Orudzhev made the most of the confusion and slipped past the British driver into third. Mardenborough went through the rest of the lap fourth, unable to get back past the flying Russian.
Damon Leitch got a blinding start, up from P6 on the grid to fourth, only slipping back one place as the Orudzhev-Mardenborough battle developed.
Malaysian driver Alif Hamdan climbed off the back row of the grid to 19th; Matteo Ferrer was beside him at the start and eventually rose to 12th in a gritty drive through the field.
Rump’s win keeps his championship hopes alive, though the young rookie still insists he is here to learn and gain experience and refuses to entertain questions of thoughts of the title itself.
It was a dream result for Rump, who becomes the second Estonian driver to scribe his name on one of the oldest and most respected trophies in New Zealand motorsport. Sten Pentus won the trophy in 2010 and is back this year as driver coach to Rump. Estonia, a country of just 1.2 million people, is home to a passionate community of motorsport enthusiasts and has produced both race drivers and rally drivers, the latter up to WRC level.
But the biggest winner of the weekend must be Andrew Tang, who raced to second behind Rump in the feature race and in doing so took the championship lead heading into the final round.
Tang and Rump also set a new lap record with identical lap times, 1:00.816, which will be recorded as Rump’s since he set the time a split second before Tang did on the final lap of the race.
Going into the final three races of the championship at Manfeild this weekend, Singaporean Andrew Tang leads UK driver Jann Mardenborough by just seven points, 610 to 603. The leading two are graduates of the 2012 championship, giving them some familiarity with the intense competition they will encounter in the three races of the coming weekend.
Both have majored on consistency, making sure of points at every opportunity. Tang has two wins and has stood on the podium seven times in 12 races. Mardenborough has three wins and has stood on the podium a total of five times.
Russian Egor Orudzhev, who has won three races and been on the podium seven times is third for the series on 586. Many are tipping the young Russian for a stellar career, pointing to his spectacularly fast form and daring style behind the wheel through the four rounds to date.
The New Zealander in the midst of the championship battle is Damon Leitch, currently fourth on 581 points. He has four podium finishes so far.
Former championship leader Martin Rump recovered from nightmare results in the first two races of the NZ Motor Cup weekend and won the NZ Motor Cup feature race, becoming the second Estonian racer to do so – the first being his driver coach this year, Sten Pentus. Rump is fifth in the standings on 551 and has won two races, racking up five podiums in total. He is also the leading rookie, and reset the lap record for TRS at Hampton Downs.