Russian driver Egor Orudzhev is the first winner of the 2014 Toyota Racing Series, taking victory today after pole man Steijn Schothorst went out in the closing laps with a misfire.
The race start had Schothorst on pole with Invercargill’s Damon Leitch alongside – but neither would stay the distance.
Leitch’s car shed its rear wing after two laps, sending him on a wild ride off the track and then forcing him into the pits for a replacement.
Schothorst led right through to a late race safety car period. When the circuit went back to ‘green’, his car developed a misfire and he was quickly overtaken by almost the whole field.
Orudzhev forged through to lead with six laps to go, then held off Martin Rump through the remaining laps until the race was red flagged two laps from full distance when Martin Kodric went off.
Damon Leitch had gone back out with a new wing and finished 14th. Fast American Ryan Tveter survived a lurid spin across the track, through a gravel trap and back onto the track and finished 19th.
Malaysian driver Alif Hamdan went off in the closing laps and was towed back to the pits.
Orudzhev, winner of the first race in the tenth year of the championship, received his trophy from Brendon Hartley, winner of the first ever TRS race ten years ago.
The cold winds and rain squalls of the past few days had cleared completely, in time for the race start and the first race was held in brilliant sunshine.
Schothorst had the consolation of setting fastest lap of the race, a 54.725 on lap six.
Reflecting on his win afterward, the young Russian driver was humble about the result.
“I think I was super lucky. We had no problems and I kept the car out of the way of people around me at the start. I dropped one place, then got it back. As the race went on other people had problems and I was able to start moving up. It’s very good to have this first win, but it is a long championship,” he said afterward.
The Toyota Racing Series cars return to the track tomorrow for a further two races: a 15 lap semi-reverse grid at 11.00 and the 20-lap Spirit of the Nation feature race at 3:00 pm. Egor Orudzhev drew the reverse grid marble, selecting number eight to set the first eight grid placings. He will thus start from eighth place with Martin Rump alongside him.
Singaporean driver Andrew Tang has pole for this second race, with Levin Amweg alongside him. Orudzhev has pole for the feature race.
With fifteen races at five circuits over consecutive weekends, the series regularly attracts rising drivers from around the world, drawn by the prospect of up to 3000 km of practice, qualifying and racing in the northern hemisphere winter season.
It offers aspiring local racers the chance to compete in modern ‘wings-and-slicks’ open-wheel race cars before heading offshore to the next step in their careers.
For the international drivers, the series offers five weeks of intense racing action that propels them back into their northern hemisphere seasons ready to win races and championships.
The championship is also among New Zealand’s most significant sports television ‘exports’, with the racing screened in up to 40 countries around the world. New Zealand coverage is on Prime and SKY TV.